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2017/18 Season Review: August - December

May 16, 2018

Written by:

 

August

 

Nottm Forest (a) L 1-0

Stevenage (h) League Cup W 2-0

Bolton Wanderers (h) D 1-1

Ipswich Town (h) L 3-4

Bristol City (a) D 0-0

Reading (a) League Cup L 3-1

Norwich City (h) W 4-0

 

The Championship is a brutal league, and although the Lions had spent only two years outside the English second tier, it felt like we had been away for an eternity and instantly playing catch up.  Nottingham Forest had been hot and cold for years, but with Mark Warburton in charge, some were earmarking the Tricky Trees for a top six place.  Neil Harris’ side made the trip to the City Ground and even though Millwall were the better side for the majority of the game, a Barrie MacKay goal ensured the South London’s side’s first game back was an unsuccessful one.

 

Millwall’s first home game in the 2017-18 season was a Carabao Cup fixture against League Two Stevenage, where two goals from summer signing Tom Elliott saw the Lions progress to the next round.  Bolton Wanderers were one of the other sides promoted from League One the season before, and they were the first opponents that Millwall faced in the Championship in South Bermondsey.  Millwall dominated the game and looked on course for the three points against a side that featured a handful of ex-Lions, but a free-kick from Filipe Morais cancelled out George Saville’s opener and again Millwall were denied the win.

 

The Lions didn’t have time to feel sorry for themselves, as the Tractor boys were the next visitors to The Den only three days later.  This was a back and forward affair which saw Millwall take the lead from a Jed Wallace goal in the first minute, before strikes backwards and forwards from Joe Garner, Aiden O’Brien, a Martyn Waghorn double and Tom Elliott saw the game heading towards a 3-3 finish.  That was until a late, late strike from Jordan Spence saw Ipswich Town travel back to Suffolk with the three points.

 

A well-earned away point at Ashton Gate was the Lion’s reward after a goalless draw, before another away defeat in the Carabao Cup against Reading had Millwall fans wondering when the next victory would come.  Luckily for the supporters in the Cold Blow Lane, Dockers and Barry Kitchener Stands didn’t have long to wait….

 

Norwich City were the unfortunate visitors who felt the wrath of weeks of perceived mis-justice and bad luck.  The Lions were a coiled spring, a greyhound shut in his traps before a race and ready to be unleashed.  Like every Apollo mission, everyone waited in anticipation for the engines to fire and fire they did!  Millwall were 3-0 up in the opening 45 minutes with goals from Lee Gregory, George Saville and Jed Wallace, before Shaun Hutchinson put the final nail in the Canaries coffin with Millwall’s fourth.  The Lions had their first victory in the league and had done it in style!

 

 

September

 

Wolverhampton Wanderers (a) L 1-0

QPR (a) D 2-2

Leeds United (h) W 1-0

Preston North End (a) D 0-0

Reading (h) W 2-1

Barnsley (h) L 3-1

 

Millwall would have to wait until their third fixture in September before they experienced another victory, as they were defeated away at high-flying Wolves and let a two-goal lead controversially slip against Queens Park Rangers.  The Lions were the better side at Loftus Road and had took the lead with a sublime finish from Conor McLaughlin, before Lee Gregory controversially saw a straight red before half-time.  Millwall’s second goal from Jed Wallace had Rangers on the back foot, but two later strikes from Massimo Luongo and Matt Smith saw the West London side steal the points and also saw Ian Holloway do a pathetic touchline celebration.

 

One of the fixtures that all Lions fans had been waiting for was against Leeds United.  The Yorkshire club were top of the table and absolutely flying, but the Lions soon clipped their wings and brought them down to Earth.  Leeds were confident that they could get the job done but did not anticipate what South London had in store for them.  A hostile atmosphere, a never-say-die attitude from our boys in navy and a wonderful second half goal from Aiden O’Brien saw Millwall victorious and the three points remain in South London.  Leeds United ran back with their tails between their legs, whilst the Lions were roaring with pride.

 

The unbeaten spell continued with another goalless draw away at Deepdale and this was followed by a midweek victory against Reading.  The Biscuitmen came to The Den to try and stifle the Lions, and their second half goal was as lucky as the jammie dodgers they associate with, but unfortunately for them, the team based near Peek Freans showed Reading that wasn’t the way their cookie would crumble.  George Saville was a man possessed, and two goals in five minutes from our ginger nut saw Millwall victorious and sent the fans into a Viennese whirl.

 

All good things come to an end and in typical Millwall fashion, we performed against the big boys and taken points we did not expect to get, but fell short against sides where we should be getting the win.  Another Yorkshire side travelled to South Bermondsey, but unlike Leeds who had visited London only ten days before, Barnsley took the game by the scruff of the neck and deserved the victory. Millwall never really got out of second gear and a Tom Bradshaw inspired performance saw the Tykes take the three points back to Oakwell.

 

 

October

 

Brentford (a) L 1-0

Birmingham (h) W 2-0

Cardiff City (a) D 0-0

Sheffield Wednesday (a) L 2-1

 

October was a tough month for the Lions, who only managed to secure four points from twelve.  The Lions were playing well on the road and were unlucky not to pick up a victory in previous games, so having three of your four fixtures away from home only increased the weight of the away albatross wrapped around their necks.

 

An even affair at Brentford saw the Lions go down to a Romaine Sawyers finish, but the game was shrouded in controversy.  A Millwall effort had found the back of the net, but the referee decided not to play the advantage and pointed to the spot for a Millwall penalty.  Lee Gregory stepped up, but his effort was saved, and the Lions ended the game defeated.

 

Neil Harris’ men recovered well with a home victory over bogey side Birmingham.  The Blues were a side that always seemed to get one over on the South London side, but the Lions rose to the occasion and swept them aside with a 2-0 win.  Ryan Tunnicliffe was the stand out player in this fixture and was rewarded with a composed finish after the goalkeeper parried a Tom Elliott effort.

 

Millwall were on the road again to the South of Wales and to the home of another side looking for promotion in Cardiff City.  The game was another tight affair between Millwall and Neil Warnock’s men, and although the Bluebirds found the back of the net late on, this was ruled out after a foul on Jordan Archer.  The game finished goalless and secured a well-deserved point for the South London side.

 

Unfortunately, the Lions could not repeat this feat when they travelled to Yorkshire when they faced Sheffield Wednesday. Tom Elliott’s goal cancelled out Adam Reach’s early strike, however Jordan Rhodes found the back of the net for the Owls just before half-time to put Wednesday ahead.  The second half remained a stalemate and unfortunately for Millwall, Jake Cooper was dismissed in the 90th minute and would miss the home fixture against Burton Albion.

 

 

November

 

Burton Albion (h) L 1-0

Sunderland (a) D 2-2

Hull City (h) 0-0

Fulham (a) L 1-0

 

There were no victories for the Lions in November and although Millwall only conceded four goals in the whole month, the fact we only scored three goals meant that there weren’t many fireworks around the Bonfire night fixtures.

 

What was arguably the worse performance of the season saw Nigel Clough’s strugglers come to The Den and win.  Millwall never got out of first gear against the Brewers, and the red card shown to Jed Wallace just put the exclamation mark on this prison sentence. Marvin Sordell found the back of the net for Burton Albion and condemned the Lions to a second consecutive league defeat.

 

Millwall needed to bounce back from two consecutive defeats and quick, so an away game at recently relegated Sunderland at the Stadium of Light was the perfect tonic. Unfortunately, and again what has always been the case when the Lions were favourites for the three points, Neil Harris’ men just could not get the job done and had to settle for a point. A back and forward game saw the Millwall go into the break 2-1 up, before a second goalkeeping error from Jordan Archer saw Lewis Grabban equalise and the Black Cats claw the victory away from the South London side.

 

The Tigers were the visitors into the Lion’s Den in a game where both sides were desperate not to lose.  Luckily for both, the two sides cancelled each other out and shared the spoils before the Lions made the short journey to West London to face Fulham at Craven Cottage.

 

Not to be done by their West London neighbours, Brentford, Fulham also condemned the Lions to a 1-0 defeat when a first half penalty from Oliver Norwood just before half-time.  Millwall had plenty of chances to equalise and came agonisingly close when a George Saville effort crashed into the Fulham post, but the Lily Whites held on for the win and Neil Harris was left thinking what more could his side do to win away.

 

 

December

 

Sheffield United (h) W 3-1

Aston Villa (a) D 0-0

Middlesbrough (h) W 2-1

Derby County (a) L 3-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers (h) D 2-2

QPR (h) W 1-0

 

The festive season was upon us and along with the usual busy shopping centres, Santa’s Grottos and depressing EastEnders specials, a packed December saw the Lions finally pick up the positive results their efforts deserved.

 

The Blades were in razor sharp form when they travelled down to South Bermondsey to face the Lions, but Neil Harris’ men were more than a match for the Yorkshire club.  Lee Gregory scored the opening goal of the game, before David Brooks’ equaliser just before half-time brought the scores level.  Normally this late goal would deflate the early leaders, but Gregory continued to inspire his team mates and in a moment of sheer brilliance tracked back after losing the ball, made a superb tackle before laying the ball off to Mahlon Romeo who scored his first goal of the season.  There was no way back for United and Jake Cooper put the icing on the cake when he found the back of the net in the 87th minute.  The Blades were blunted and travelled back up to Sheffield while Millwall roared with pride.

 

Villa Park was the next stop on Millwall’s away travels and David Martin made his first start of the season between the sticks in the absence of Jordan Archer.  It was an inspired performance from the Lions’ ‘keeper and back-line who managed to keep the ball out of the net.  Millwall could’ve nicked the three points when Lee Gregory had a shot late in the game, but his shot just nipped over the crossbar and Neil Harris’ men left the Midlands with a well-deserved point.

 

Millwall were riding the crest of the wave and weren’t going to fall off their surfboards when Middlesbrough arrived at Zampa Road.  Garry Monk’s men were another in a long line of recent opponents who had one eye on promotion, but after coming toe-to-toe with Millwall only nine days before Christmas, you would’ve thought the home side were the ones who were aiming for the Premier League.  Two goals in six minutes from Jed Wallace and George Saville before half-time shocked ‘Boro, and although a long-range effort from Stewart Downing sailed past Jordan Archer midway through the second half, the northern side could not match the Lions for commitment, class and determination.  The final whistle went, and The Den was starting to become a fortress again.

 

After picking up seven points from their last nine against teams many tipped for promotion, the Lions travelled to Pride Park confident that the fixture against Derby County would be their first away victory of the season.  Unfortunately for Millwall, they were the side who gave the Rams gifts with three goals in a mad six minutes from David Nugent and Matt Vydra.  It would be these moments that cost the Lions, as they never recovered and the final game before Christmas Day ended in defeat.

 

The relentless nature of the Championship continued with Wolverhampton Wanderers visiting The Den on Boxing Day, and Neil Harris was desperate for his side to bounce back from the recent away defeat.  The league leaders were white-hot favourites to win this tie, but they under estimated a packed stadium full of loyal fans who had braved festive hangovers to cheer their side on.  It was Millwall that took the lead early on with Lee Gregory finding the back of the net in the opening quarter of an hour, before Diogo Jota and Romain Saiss replied for Wolves.  Conceding two with only half an hour left to go would have defeated most sides, but not this Millwall side.  Jake Cooper was the man who stepped up to the occasion and equalised for the South London side and left the Midland side shocked.  The final whistle sounded, and a draw was a fair result for both sides, and Millwall were believing they belonged in this division.

 

The final game of the panto season ironically had Millwall’s Wicked Stepmother in the opposition dugout.  Ian Holloway arrived at The Den to a warm Millwall welcome and did his upmost to get under the skin of the fans, Neil Harris and the Millwall team.  This proved to be the clown’s undoing.  QPR were horrendous and the animated Holloway that neutrals love was nowhere to be seen.  Neil Harris on the other hand was calm, dignified and showed his class.  Steve Morison found the back of the net for Millwall and the sold-out crowd in Zampa Road absolutely erupted.  If Steve McClaren was the Wally with a Brolly, then Holloway was the Prat in the Hat as his tactics were all over the place and the Hoops did not threat the Lions at all.  The final whistle sounded, and Holloway ran down the tunnel away from the jubilant Millwall faithful.  The man who had blamed everyone but himself for Millwall’s recent relegation was vanquished on a cold December night, and what a way to finish 2017.

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