"When you're gone, though I try, how do I carry on?"
Millwall's season so far in the Championship could be compared to the ABBA musical, Mamma Mia. At times a hit with the fans with wonderful choreography and excitement, stand out performances from the lead cast and a supporting cast who ensure that the show doesn't lose it's shape or composure. At other times, it has also has been a monstrosity that can only be measured next to Pierce Brosnan's awful version of S.O.S in the 2008 film: tone deaf, unorganised, flat and panned by the critics. Alex Neil brought his Preston side to The Den, looking for a win over the Lions after being unsuccessful in the past four attempts. Unfortunately for Alex, as with the reverse fixture at the beginning of the season, the history book on the shelf is always repeating itself.
Neil Harris had made many changes to the side who had started the FA Cup game against Barnsley. Asking those who had been rested why, why did he ever let them go, he returned the starting line up back to a side who were more experienced at Championship level. The game started lively enough, with some high tempo movement, and Lee Gregory was the first to have a half chance in the 9th minute. Seeing his shot be deflected for a corner, this looked like a promising start for Millwall, and Preston would once again be facing their Waterloo.
The high tempo started to slow early on, but Millwall passed the ball nicely with some lovely link-up play down the left wing in the 12th minute and Lee Gregory was again looking dangerous in the 13th minute. Playing like a super trouper, he was causing the defence problems and threatened on the shoulder of the last defender throughout the opening quarter of an hour, and tracked back with a late lunge in the 17th minute.
Preston may've done their homework on Jordan Archer and his apparent vulnerability with high, long range shots meant that Preston would be trying shots from distance. There was something in the air tonight, when a long range effort was unleashed which Archer spilled in the 21st minute. Luckily for Millwall, the back line weren't going to take a chance on Archer and cleared the ball away.
The rest of the half was poor, and not worth the money, money, money that the fans had paid. Preston were offering very little in the final third and the game had turned into a game of tennis, with the ball constantly going backwards and forwards due to poor passing and long balls over the top. Preston had a great chance in the 33rd minute, just putting the ball wide from distance and for a split second the Lilywhites fans had a dream that their bad luck streak had been vanquished.
The half was leading to a goalless draw when Aiden O'Brien got in low and put the ball in the back of the Preston net in the 43rd minute. The winger takes it all, and O'Brien was at the end of a lovely cross from Jed Wallace, beating the Preston defender to the ball and putting it to Maxwell's left.
Millwall started the second half eagerly looking for the second goal. Steve Morison attempted an effort that honey, honey would've thrilled me in the 46th minute, but his ambitious long range shot from the right hand side flew wide of the target.
The game continued to be a scrappy affair and it was Preston who were screaming Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! for a penalty when there was a ball to hand in Millwall's penalty area in the 54th minute. A spot kick was rightly not awarded and the ball was cleared by the Lions' back line.
Millwall thought they had the game wrapped up in the 68th minute, when Steve Morison's gorgeous ball found Lee Gregory in space and through on goal. Gregory coolly slotted the ball into the back of the net, but someone way down here loses someone dear as the linesman's flag incorrectly flagged for offside.
The game standard continued to wane, with more passes not meeting their target, but Millwall were punished for some poor defending in the 80th minute. A ball out wide from Johnson was crossed in and Preston's standout player in Callum Robinson chested the ball in from close range. Anybody could be that guy that secured a point for the Lilywhites, and the equaliser was deserved after a long period of time with Preston camped in the Millwall half.
After a late lunge to block a shot in the 84th minute from James Meredith and a late shot from the full back in the 87th minute, the final whistle went and the game ended in a draw.
The fans know what's the name of the game and there were no boos or cheers from the home fans. Did two sides cancel each other out or were both sides not in top form? Either way, this was a Brosnan performance today from Millwall. This game had a draw written all over it, and we couldn't escape if we wanted to.
🏆 Man of the Match 🏆
A second consecutive man of the match for Aiden O'Brien. Was energetic and a handful on left wing. He can dance, he can jive and he was having the time of his life. A good performance.
💬 Fans after thought 💬
This week, I have the pleasure of interviewing two Millwall fans for my fan's afterthought. Omer Ronayne (millwallfanblog.com) and the East Upper's Hannah Nebbitt.
Name: Omer Ronayne
Favourite player this season: George Saville. He's come back a different player this season and is a proper Millwall midfielder, to use a cliché.
All time favourite player: Neil Harris - Personally not old enough to recite the likes of Hurlock, Rae and Sheringham. However, no doubting how much of a legend Neil Harris is to the club, without even considering his achievements as manager too.
Greatest Millwall moment: Robbo's goal at Wembley is special but Morison's in the summer again at Wembley edges it for me. The timing, the finish, the celebrations when it went into the net, it will be memories I'll never forgot following the club.
What did you think of today's game?: It wasn't a game that will be remembered at the end of the season would it? Preston were super fortunate with Gregory's effort getting ruled out for offside, the game was there to be won but I feel a draw was a fair result. I believe we will look back at the end of the season and comment how well we've done to not lose to Preston this season. Other clubs in the division have a larger reputation but it wouldn't surprise me if they end up in the play-offs when May arrives.
What do you think of the season so far?: Everyone would've taken this position in the standings at this state of the season. Albeit where we've dominated and lacked the quality in the final third to win a few more games, we have fate in our own hands, and we're not one of the three worst teams in the division. With what seems like a window where we might strengthen with a couple more players too, looking forward to the rest of the season with real optimism.
Name: Hannah Nebbitt
Favourite player this season: Jed Wallace
All time favourite player: Neil Harris
Greatest Millwall moment: Leicester at home last year or the play off final last year.
What did you think of today's game: Boring, should have played for the win not for the draw, subs were too late to make an impact.
What do you think of the season so far: We’ve played well at home and any team knows we are hard to beat at The Den.