"In truth, and as much as Dartford put in a great effort, they simply were no match for Millwall in what was a very professional and controlled display."
The local forecasts were looking at a heatwave this week, as temperatures are predicted to hit record highs and could cause many feeling lethargic and a lack of energy in the roaring sun. The Lions, however, showed that the hot weather training from their recent training camp in the tropic location of Fota Island paid dividends, and they ran out comfortable winners over National League South outfit, Dartford FC.
The sun was as bright as Gary Rowett's luminous yellow training top, the fans slowly made their way into Princes Park a few minutes before kick-off, and the Darts' Mr-Bye-For-Now was trying his hardest to advertise the 50/50 prize draw that was on sale to fans the second they walked through the turnstiles.
Some fans aren't huge fans of Princes Park, and say that the combination of sustainability and concrete makes the DA1 stadium somewhat soulless, but Dartford vs. Millwall is a game that is now a semi-regular event in The Lions' pre-season calendars and always seems to get a good turnout from the South London side. 3,952 fans were in attendance for the game, and the atmosphere throughout added a bit of flavour to the occasion. The bar queues may have been long, the team sheets may have been dog-eared ever so slightly and the songs being played through the PA system may not have been the London Callings and Fatboy Slims that we are used to when we watch our team play, but it was good to see Millwall back on the field, and being given the chance to see a number of new signings in this season's hummel kit.
It was our new number seven of the evening, and recent permanent signing, Benik Afobe who helped Millwall take an early lead after some early signs of dominance from the away side. Quickly taking advantage from a late challenge on attacker, Tyler Burey, Afobe pounced on the loose ball and ran into the penalty area before finding the back of the Dartford net from close range. Afobe may have had a slice of luck with the deflection that came off of the goalkeeper at the near post, but they all count, and Princes Park erupted with noise that suggested that there were plenty more than just under 4,000 people in the ground. Although it was early in the game, it was what Millwall deserved after a very good opening ten minutes.
Burey, Afobe and Tom Bradshaw caused all kinds of problems for the home side throughout the first half, but they weren't the only players in blue that stood out for Millwall. Danny McNamara and Besart Topalloj at wing-back were exceptional all night and a real handful, and new signings Charlie Cresswell and George Honeyman showed why they should be very shrewd signings for the upcoming 2022/23 Championship season.
In truth, and as much as Dartford put in a great effort, they simply were no match for Millwall in what was a very professional and controlled display. On another day, Bradshaw could have had a few after his chances were somehow kept out, McNamara's effort which went over the bar in the first half was the unfortunate end result of lovely build up play, and some fluid movement from Benik Afobe on the left hand side which saw him beat his marker with a well worked dummy should have seen the striker double his tally, but his shot went wide of the far post.
The second goal of the game, which sealed the win for Millwall, came from a delightful effort from Tyler Burey. Gaining possession far out from goal, Burey's long-range curled effort found it's way into the back of the net and left the Dartford goalkeeper helpless. The final whistle sounded and Millwall ended the game 2-0 winners.
A good win for Gary Rowett, next up - Colchester United away...
MORE GOALS - There was a grumbling outside the ground that the score line should have been a few more, but I felt the game would have had more goals if Millwall would have wanted to really punish Dartford for their mistakes. It was a performance based on ball retention, getting a few goals to be comfortable throughout, and much needed minutes in the legs. Do you as fans think this was a wasted opportunity to record a bigger score line?
ZIAN FLEMMING - The front three of Afobe, Bradshaw and Burey linked up very nicely and were a constant handful all game. Yes, it may have been against a team a few divisions below, but Dartford are a very well respected and organised side. On that display, who misses out when Flemming comes in?
DEFENSIVE LINE - Similar to the above; Wallace, Cresswell and Cooper were a brick wall at the back, and also offered an option in attack at corners and dead balls. With Hutchinson looking to also feature this season, who would miss out if Gary Rowett persisted with a back three with wing-backs?
HONEYMAN - George Honeyman was another player who shone last night and was all over the pitch being the catalyst in a lot of the link up play for Millwall, just how important will he be this season if we are looking at cracking into that top six?