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Millwall preview and pub guide: Lions starting to roar in the Championship

Millwall preview and pub guide: Lions starting to roar in the Championship

Millwall have made a solid start to life back in the Championship and went into the international break with 13 points from 11 games.

Despite failing to win any of their first four matches, a 4-0 thumping of Norwich at the end of August sparked an upturn in their fortunes.

Their six Championship fixtures in September produced two wins, two draws and two defeats – pulling them clear of the relegation zone.

All their victories so far have come at The Den with Leeds (1-0) and Reading (2-1) following Norwich in leaving south-east London with nothing to show from their trip.

Bolton escaped with a point (1-1) while Ipswich (4-3) and Barnsley (3-1), in Millwall’s last match, earned victories.

On the road, the Lions have drawn at Bristol City (0-0), QPR (2-2) and Reading (0-0) but were beaten at Nottingham Forest (1-0), on the opening night of the season, and Wolves (1-0).

Their Carabao Cup run ended in the second round when, after a 2-0 win over Stevenage, they lost 3-1 at Reading after extra-time.

This is Millwall’s first season in the Championship for three years. A five-season spell ended with relegation in 2015 but they then enjoyed two good years in League One – reaching the play-off final in both seasons.

In 2016, they lost 3-1 to Barnsley but were back at Wembley 12 months later where a 1-0 win over Bradford clinched promotion.

The Lions have two ex-Brentford players in their squad in captain Tony Craig and George Saville.

Both played a key role in helping us to win promotion to the Championship in 2013/14, with Tony also a regular in the side which reached the play-off final the previous campaign as well as in the first half of our first season at this level.

Tony captained the team and made more than 100 appearances in our colours and the Bees provided the opposition for his testimonial before the start of last season.

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George spent the promotion season on loan to us from Chelsea, before leaving Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2014 to make a permanent move to Wolves.

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WHO’S IN CHARGE

Former Millwall striker Neil Harris took over as manager following the 2015 relegation.

He had been caretaker manager for the closing weeks of the previous season and nearly saved them from the drop with two wins and four draws in his nine matches in charge.

That was his second temporary spell at the helm following one at the end of 2013.

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Harris is Millwall’s all-time record goalscorer – finding the net 138 times for the club in two spells as a player lasting 10 years in total.

He also played for Nottingham Forest and finished his career at Southend, while he had loan spells at Cardiff and Gillingham.

LAST MEETINGS

Brentford had the better of the two games with Millwall when we last met in the 2014/15 season.

An Andre Gray double at The Den gave us a 3-2 victory in a thriller in early November that campaign. He gave us the lead just before half-time and doubled the lead in the 56th minute but Millwall hit back immediately with two goals in three minutes. The first was a Danny Shittu header which hit Lee Gregory on its way in and then Alan Dunne equalised.

But Gray was involved in the winner when his cross was turned into his own net by Shittu.

In the return at Griffin Park the following March, Brentford scored two late goals to snatch a dramatic 2-2 draw which dented Millwall’s survival hopes.

Goals midway through each half from Lee Gregory and Aiden O’Brien, his first senior strike, had put the Lions in control but Alex Pritchard converted an 85th minute penalty before Moses Odubajo fired home an equaliser from inside the penalty area.

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC London commentator and presenter Phil Parry assesses the Lions’ season so far and names the players for Bees fans to watch out for on Saturday.

Q – What were the general expectations from Millwall fans at the start of the season?

A – I think that the expectations were twofold, one a general approach and the other the hopes for the season.

Millwall supporters have a fundamental demand that anyone who pulls on the shirt provides full commitment to the cause whether it’s a good or a bad day. That ethos runs through the club and the management team and senior players such as Steve Morison and Tony Craig will ensure that the message is heard loud and clear.

On an overall League return I believe that, following two years in the third tier, being back in the Championship was something to be relished but the Lions were not at this level to make up the numbers and solid consolidation would be the minimum outcome required.

Q – After a slow start, the side seems to have adapted quite well to the Championship. What has been the key to their solid start?

A – It did take five games to get that first league win but in the preceding games Millwall were close to getting a greater return, a little like the Bees. Two defeats by a single goal margin and two draws yielding two points when it could have been more. Home form has been very important with impressive wins over Leeds, Reading and Norwich, all of which which made the defeat in last game at the Den more disappointing.

Defensive solidity has also been an important factor which a couple of clean sheets already away from home. And having been so close at the likes of QPR, a victory on the road is not too far off.

Q – How would you assess their summer transfer dealings?

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A – Neil Harris wanted to add depth and experience to some areas of his squad and fill a couple of holes in certain positions. Conor McLaughlin has slotted straight in and his positive experiences with Northern Ireland can only help his confidence while, on the other side of the defence, James Meredith has tied down the left-back berth proving his worth as a signing, which will surprise no one who saw some fine performances from him at Bradford.

Jed Wallace knows the club well and was an important cog in the play-off push last season. George Saville offers experience of the Championship and a bit of style in the middle of the park and having been with the Lions in the past is aware of the requirements of what makes a Millwall player. There have been one or two players who’ve gone out on loan but they seem logical too. Players who either want to be playing regularly such as Jimmy Abdou and Sid Nelson or those who need a bit of development such as striker Harry Smith.

Q – How do you think the season will eventually pan out for Millwall?

A – In the 11 games so far this season Neil’s team have proven to themselves that they should have no fear of going toe-to-toe with anyone in the division. But the other lesson learned is that the second tier is unpredictable, probably why we all like it so much, so nothing should be taken for granted.

I fully expect Millwall to have a solid campaign with the obvious highs and blips thrown in. A full throttle, full volume Den will make for great atmospheres for home games and there are some great trips to look forward to for the fans. It is also a great season for Neil Harris, Dave Livermore and the coaching staff to increase their credentials and knowledge.

Q – How much of a part is Tony Craig likely to play – if any – on Saturday?

A – Tony has been a bench player this season apart from in the League Cup , although Byron Webster’s unfortunate knee injury means that Tony’s adaptability either in the centre of defence or at left back may see him called into action more often.

If not on the pitch, Tony still has an influential role within the squad as player who imbues the essence of what it means to play for Millwall. His mere presence among the group is important. Whenever I talk to him about his time with the Bees he talks very fondly about life at Griffin Park and I am sure he will enjoy this trip back.

Q – Which Millwall players should we watch out for?

A – I think most people will be aware of the workrate and potential threat of the likes of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory and I expect the pair to get amongst the Bees defenders.

There is an old footballing maxim or is it a cliché about players scoring against former clubs so I suppose George Saville will be an interesting one to watch. He’s already netted four times this season and after his spell here at Griffin Park I would be interested to know how people feel that he has developed as a player. Of the emerging talent which has come through the ranks at the Den, Fred Onyedinma can provide excitement running at opponents and offering an attacking threat.

SQUAD NEWS

Millwall are likely to play in a 4-4-2 formation on Saturday.

Their line-up has changed little so far this campaign with seven ever-presents, two players who have only missed one game and only 17 men used in total in the Championship.

Goalkeeper Jordan Archer (ex-Spurs) is one of the seven yet to miss a match.

Three of the back four have played in all league games and the fourth – Byron Webster –  has only missed one, but he could now sadly be out for the rest of the season after rupturing a cruciate ligament.

He is likely to be replaced by on loan Reading defender Jake Cooper, who will slot in alongside Shaun Hutchinson (ex-Motherwell) with two summer signings at full-back – Conor McLaughlin (ex-Fleetwood) on the right and James Meredith (ex-Bradford) on the left.

Another close season arrival Jed Wallace (ex-Wolves) has not missed a match on the right and nor has ex-Bee George Saville (ex-Wolves) in the middle. Former trainee Aiden O’Brien, on the left, has played nine matches but summer signing Ryan Tunnicliffe (ex-Fulham) has only occasionally featured. However he is set to replace another long-term injury casualty in Shaun Williams, who will be out until January with a knee injury.

Ever-present Steve Morison (ex-Leeds), in his second Millwall spell, is likely to partner Lee Gregory (ex-Halifax) up front, although summer signing Tom Elliott (ex-AFC Wimbledon) could be pushing for a place.

Ex-Bee Tony Craig, yet to see any Championship action this season, will be among the substitutes along with midfielders Ben Thompson and Fred Onyedinma – who have both come through the Lions youth set-up – Shane Ferguson (ex-Rangers), defender Mahlon Romeo (ex-Gillingham) and goalkeeper David Martin (ex-MK Dons), who signed right at the end of the transfer window.

IAN WESTBROOK
@ianwestbrook

PUBS IN BRENTFORD

For Millwall fans coming across town, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.

Last season, there were now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option.

But at July’s friendly with  Celta Vigo, a pop-up version of the Royal Oak was set up outside the now closed boozer to bring back the “four corners” feature again.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other .. frequented by “away fans in the know”.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).

There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Road (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.

You can check out details of how the tube is running on Transport for London’s website here.

 

 

 

 

 

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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