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MATCH REPORT: Millwall 0-1 Crystal Palace




Millwall concluded their condensed pre-season campaign in front of an empty Den, and were defeated 1-0 by South London neighbours Crystal Palace.


If current plans are unaltered, there will be just two league games before fans can return to SE16 and this was a performance that, at times, lacked the impetus that would have been provided had a crowd been present.


Nonetheless, the Lions performed well enough against a Premier League side for the opening half an hour, with some bright passages of play only coming to an end through a poor final ball.


Millwall have worked hard on retaining the ball a lot more this season and did exactly that in spells, with some positive signs coming from their build-up play.


Having said that, there were occasions where Gary Rowett's side looked hesitant to play the early ball despite it being the best option - and finding that balance will be crucial.


Scott Malone and Hayden Muller advanced well as the wing backs and the ever-loud Alex Pearce was consistently telling other players to switch it early on, but the Lions all too often failed to take advantage of those situations with them in acres of space.


The first half an hour - despite some bright play - was littered with very few half chances, let alone any of a clear cut nature.


Palace took the lead after thirty minutes, after a long ball forward released Wilfred Zaha.


Zaha's pace meant that Alex Pearce was in trouble up against the former Manchester United man and he eventually squared the ball which Jake Cooper failed to clear, allowing Max Meyer to turn the ball home from close range.


The Eagles livened up and won themselves a corner straight after taking the lead but nothing came of it, with neither side then creating any chances before the break.


There was just the one half-time change with Martin Kelly replacing Scott Dann, though the former Liverpool man didn't have much to do for the early part of the second half, until Millwall began to chase an equaliser more desperately.


First, came chances for Roy Hodgson's side to extend their lead through Jordan Ayew, Jeffrey Schlupp and then Zaha.


Ayew saw a close range effort cleared off the line from Shaun Hutchinson having seen Cooper force him wide, before Schlupp was played through on goal only to force Bialkowski into a more comfortable save than he would have expected.


Zaha's chance was perhaps the hardest of the three, and he only managed to fire an effort across the Polish shot stopper's goal without testing him.


Millwall began to push forward after that, with Scott Malone's volleyed effort forcing a save from Vicente Guaita, albeit a comfortable one.


Jed Wallace tried an ambitious effort on his left foot from inside the box and fired wide, before a switch to 4-4-2 saw the introduction of target man Matt Smith, providing the Lions with a focal point.


Young right back James Brown provided a superb cross for Tom Bradshaw - not Smith - to head wide in the closing exchanges, before Bradshaw latterly flicked a scuffed Smith effort narrowly wide as the Lions piled forward.


In the end, Millwall couldn't create anything too clear cut but will be pleased with certain elements of their play against a superior top tier side.


The Lions looked strongest when they moved the ball quickly and played the early passes, particularly when the midfield looked to receive the ball on the half turn a lot more.


There are certainly things to work on for Millwall but this was a stern test for them and one that will stand them in good stead.


It also provided a more realistic test in that, despite work on controlling the play more this pre-season, the Lions are unlikely to dominate the ball in too many matches and will often look to use their pace on the counter.


Millwall can be pleased with the way they performed in their defensive structure for the most part against some game-changing players in the likes of Zaha and Ayew, and just know they need to move the ball slightly faster at times to create more opportunities for themselves.


All in all, their pre-season has gone well with regards to getting minutes in the legs of players and they will now look to progress against Crawley before the Championship starts, where the Lions will harbour ambitions of again challenging for the top six.


It's hard to judge a team too much in these games - particularly with the likes of key men Mahlon Romeo, Ryan Woods and Troy Parrott not fully fit.


Line-ups:


Millwall (5-2-3): Bialkowski; Muller (Brown, 75), Hutchinson, Pearce (M. Wallace, 62), Cooper (Smith, 75), Malone (Tiensia, 75); Leonard (Thompson, 75), Williams (Woods, 62); J. Wallace (Burey, 75), Bradshaw, Bennett (Mahoney, 62)


Subs not used: Sandford, Wright


Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Guaita; Ward (Inniss, 75), Dann (Kelly, 46), Kouyate (Jach, 75), Mitchell (Woods, 75); McArthur (Boateng, 75), Riedewald (Gordon, 86), Meyer; Ayew, Zaha (Pierrick, 75), Schlupp (Kirby, 75)


Subs not used: Henderson

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