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2017/18 Season Review: January - May

May 28, 2018

Written by:

 

January

 

Norwich City (a) L 2-1

Barnsley (h) FA Cup W 4-1

Preston North End (h) D 1-1

Leeds United (a) W 4-3

Rochdale (h) FA Cup D 2-2

Millwall (h) D 0-0

 

Just like in the classic Jurassic Park when the jeep drives away from the deadly Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Lions were just out of the jaws of the Championship relegation zone but needed to put their foot on the gas and escape.  Although the Lions had a relatively impressive December, the T-Rex was in our rear-view mirror and looking to strike.  Steve Morison scored Millwall’s first goal of 2018 with a top-class finish at Carrow Road, but Neil Harris couldn’t hide his disappointment as the Canaries scored two second half goals to secure the win.

 

Millwall’s next opponents at The Den was Barnsley in an FA Cup Third Round tie that if being honest, neither team particularly wanted.  There were a handful of changes to the usual Championship line-up for the Lions and the squad players excelled where the first team didn’t and got one over on the Tykes.  Ben Thompson was the stand out player in the 4-1 victory against the side who were victorious at The Den only a few months before, with goals from Aiden O’Brien and Fred Onyedinma securing a place in the Fourth Round draw.

 

After the success in the most famous domestic cup competition in the world, Alex Neil’s Preston North End were next to try and take the three points from South Bermondsey.  In a backwards and forwards affair, both sides ended up cancelling each other out and a late close-range Callum Robinson finish was the equaliser to Aiden O’Brien’s first half strike.

 

Millwall were still awaiting their first away win of the season and nobody expected the Isla Sorna gates of Elland Road to open and be the place where the Lions would pick up their first victory on the road.  The Lions snuck into the kitchen at half-time in the lead, with two goals from Aiden O’Brien and Lee Gregory and a red card for Liam Cooper before the break gave the impression there would only be one winner.  Unfortunately for Millwall, the raptors from Yorkshire managed to work their way into the cooking area and re-took the lead with three goals in sixteen second half minutes.  Our young Lions managed to escape their certain doom with a late equaliser from Tom Elliott, before a last-minute strike from Jed Wallace caused the away fans to roar like a herd of Indominus Rex and secure Millwall’s first three away points of the season.

 

Rochdale came to The Den and brought Millwall back down to Earth with a thud and a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup fixture.  The Lions were second best to the League One strugglers and if it wasn’t thanks to a sublime finish from Ben Thompson in the dying moments, Ian Henderson and Matt Done’s two goals for the Dale would’ve been enough to secure passage to the further stages of the competition.

 

The last game of January was a home draw against Derby County.  Like the poor goat trapped in the T-Rex paddock waiting to be eaten, those in the stands could only watch as the King of the Dinosaurs toyed with the horned farm animal.  Derby sank their teeth in and found the back of the net with only six minutes to play, but the effort was disallowed for offside and the Lions ended the month with only one defeat.

 

 

February

 

Reading (a) W 2-0

Rochdale (a) FA Cup L 1-0

Cardiff (h) D 1-1

Birmingham (a) W 1-0

Sheffield Wednesday (h) W 2-1

Burton (a) W 1-0

 

February is the month of romance and Millwall’s league form made the fan’s hearts race.  After waiting months for an away win, a second followed straight after the victory at Elland Road with a 2-0 win at the Madejski Stadium.  A deflected Mahlon Romeo effort snuck in the back of the Royal’s net, before Lee Gregory put the game beyond Reading’s reach only three minutes later.  The Biscuit Men had crumbled and just like the reverse fixture at The Den a few months previously, the Lions had the three points in the bag.

 

The FA Cup Replay against Rochdale proved to be a controversial affair, with a pitch that had more sand than grass proving to be too much for Millwall.  A team made predominately of squad players could not adapt to the conditions and the side who had vanquished a number of Premier League sides the season before went out of the cup in the Fourth Round to a team in the third tier.

 

Looking to bounce back quickly, Millwall hosted Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City before the Sky cameras on a cold Friday evening.  The Lions got off to the worst possible start, as Junior Hoillett took advantage of a Mahlon Romeo mistake in the fourth minute and coolly slotted a long-range effort past Jordan Archer.  Millwall grew into the game as it went on and an equaliser just before half time had our boys in blue confident they could get a result against the BluebirdsThe game continued to be a tight affair, but it was the Welsh side who found the back of the net in the 82nd minute.  Sol Bamba acrobatically connected with the ball and put Cardiff 2-1, but the referee blew up for a foul in the build-up and much to Neil Warnock's annoyance, gave a free-kick to the visitors outside the box.  This action packed game finished in a home draw and Millwall's recent unbeaten run continued.

 

St Andrews' was a stadium that the Lions historically always troubled to get a result at, but nothing was stopping our boys who were playing some of the best football of the season so far.  Could Millwall make it three away wins on the bounce?  Well Fred Onyedinma thought so and his second half strike won the three points for Neil Harris' men in a tight game which saw both sides have a handful of near chances.  Jordan Archer was the key player who managed to help secure the victory for the Lions, when he tipped a Craig Gardner free-kick away from his goal late into the game.

 

After clipping the wings of the Bluebirds at home, it was time for the Owls to leave their nest and try to stalk their prey at The Den.  It was the Yorkshire side who took the lead in the first half, when a great strike from Joey Pelupessy was too much for Jordan Archer, and Millwall went into half-time with the unfamiliar feeling that their undefeated streak would end at six.  However, cometh the hour, cometh the men and Millwall's front two of Lee Gregory and Steve Morison stepped up to the plate and delivered when it mattered.  Two second half goals from our deadly duo turned the game on it's head and Millwall had another three points in the bag.

 

The final game of February ended with another victory at league strugglers Burton Albion.  Both sides struggled to get going in this game and the quality lacked at the Pirelli Stadium, but signs of a good side are those that can go away and get a result.  Ben Marshall's goal in a scruffy affair was enough to get the win for the Lions and had the fans thinking that the play-off places weren't too far out of reach...

 

 

March

 

Sunderland (h) W 1-1

Hull City (a) W 2-1

Brentford (h) W 1-0

Barnsley (a) W 2-0

Nottingham Forest (h) W 2-0

 

Sunderland were in a dire situation at the foot of the Championship table when they visited The Den and with the form that Millwall were in, there would only be one winner.  The Lions hadn’t tasted defeat since New Year’s Day and were a force to be reckoned with, unfortunately the Black Cats from up north proved to be a bad luck charm in South Bermondsey.  Chris Coleman set his side up well and Millwall struggled to find any kind of rhythm, but even the bookies could not foresee Sunderland taking the lead.  Bryan Oviedo’s superb finish put the strugglers in the lead at half-time, but luckily for the Lions Shaun Hutchinson equalised halfway through the second half after a scramble in the six-yard box.  The game ended in a stalemate which was probably a fair result for both sides.

 

Our next trip on the road saw our Lions face the Tigers, as Millwall travelled to the KCOM Stadium to face Hull City.  Neil Harris’ side were looking for their fifth away win on the bounce and took the lead in the first minute when George Saville finished a great Millwall attack.  The Millwall fans were purring as the Lions roared and when Jake Cooper found the back of the net before half time, there was only one winner.  The Yorkshire side did show some fight when Abel Hernandez pulled one back for Hull, but the Tigers could only whimper and like Shere Khan towards the end of the Jungle Book, ran away with their tails between their legs when the final whistle blew.  The Lions were still the King of the Beasts and travelled back to their Bermondsey Pride Land with the three points.

 

Possibly inspired by his recent goal against Hull City, George Saville continued the early goal scoring antics when he again found the back of the Millwall net in the opening sixty seconds.  Pouncing on an earlier defensive mix-up, Jed Wallace battled well and played through the Millwall midfielder who put the ball passed the helpless David Bentley in front of the travelling fans.  The Bees fans were stunned, and the home supporters were in jubilation.  Yoann Barbet thought he had equalised for Brentford and appeared to goad the Millwall faithful as he celebrated, but his effort was ruled out for offside and Steve Morison returned the favour by poking fun at the Brentford attacker.  In an inspired defensive display, the Bees were swarming around the Millwall back-line and tried to take the honey between Jordan Archer’s posts, but the Lions defended for their lives and finished the game with the three points.

 

The talks of the play-offs were starting to get louder around the streets of South Bermondsey and these were deafening after another successful away trip to Yorkshire.  Visiting the side who Millwall beat so comprehensively in January, Lee Gregory’s and Ben Marshall’s goals were enough to warm the hearts of the away fans on a bitterly cold day at Oakwell.  Marshall’s second half goal in particular was a phenomenal strike and another excellent performance from Jordan Archer in goal contributed to yet another Millwall away win.

 

 

April

 

Ipswich Town (a) D 2-2

Bristol City (h) W 2-0

Bolton Wanderers (a) W 2-0

Sheffield United (a) D 1-1

Fulham (h) L 3-0

Middlesbrough (a) L 2-0

 

The Tractor Boys were Millwall’s next opponents at Portman Road on Easter Monday, and the Lions were looking for another gift-wrapped treat of three points from the Easter Bunny.  Taking the lead in a scrappy first half, Neil Harris’ side looked like they were on course for another away win, but two goals in two minutes from Martyn Waghorn steered the game in Ipswich’s direction.  George Saville’s superb finish on the hour mark made it all square again, but this was a game where two points were dropped.  The Lions could not find the back of the net although they had many late chances, but the unbeaten away run continued.

 

The top six were in Millwall’s sights, but they were also the target for the next visitors to The Den, Bristol City.  The game had a winner-takes-all feel to it and it was the Lions who rose to the occasion and all but ended City’s play-off hopes.  A wonderful curling effort from Jed Wallace early in the opening forty-five minutes was followed by a Steve Morison goal in the 52nd minute and effectively ended the Robins’ season.  Millwall’s defence stood strong again, kept another home clean sheet and extended the unbeaten run to fifteen games.

 

Bolton Wanderers were promoted with Millwall last season, but their two seasons could not be more opposite.  The Trotters were looking over their shoulders and in real danger of an instant return back down to League One, whereas the Lions were being seen as serious contenders for promotion to the Premier League.  The trend was not bucked in this away fixture and Neil Harris’ side were once again victorious on the road.  Tom Elliott had struggled for consistency this season, but the striker was back on the score sheet with a great header in the first half, before Ben Marshall showed his parent club Wolves what they were missing when he again found the back of the net.  The victory saw the Lions go into the top six and had the fans dreaming…

 

It seemed as if fate and Lady Luck had joined forces to collate the fixture list at the start of the season, as the final four games of the 2017-2018 season for Millwall were against those who would be fighting for the South London side for the play-offs.  The first of these four was against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane and a tight affair ended in a 1-1 draw.  Steve Morison’s excellent equaliser cancelled out Leon Clarke’s finish, but the Lions felt aggrieved that a penalty was not awarded when Jed Wallace was brought down in the box.  The game ended in a draw and Millwall’s fate was in their own hands.

 

Millwall’s penultimate visitors to The Den were high-flying Fulham, who were looking not just for a play-off, but potentially the chance to sneak into the automatic places.  In the classic game of two halves, Fulham weathered the storm and withstood everything that the Lions threw at them, before turning the game completely on it’s head and showing the hosts how to finish.  The impressive Sessegnon, McDonald and Mitrovic were all on target for the visitors on a warm Friday night and Millwall’s impressive unbeaten run was over.

 

Neil Harris and his side could ill afford to feel sorry for themselves when they travelled to the Riverside to face promotion rivals Middlesbrough, but unfortunately this seemed like one game too many for the Lions.  Millwall never got going in this away tie and Tony Pulis’ team dominated from the opening whistle with goals from Britt Assombalonga and Jonny Howson condemning Millwall to a second successive defeat and all but ending Millwall’s promotion dream.  An eight goal swing and a handful of results going our way was what was required for any hope of a play-off place, but the Millwall fans could be immensely proud to be in with the slightest sniff of promotion with only one game left.

 

 

May

 

Aston Villa (h) W 1-0

 

Aston Villa were the final visitors to South Bermondsey for Millwall’s Championship return campaign and although a number of first team regulars were rested by the Villains for this fixture, Steve Bruce still fielded a strong side and bench to match.  This game had the classic ‘final game of the season’ feel to it and no matter how much we hoped and dreamed, the fans knew that we would be playing Championship football in the 2018-19 season.  Shaun Williams’ penalty was enough to break the deadlock in this Sunday lunchtime fixture and although Lee Gregory had the chance to double the lead with a penalty of his own, his effort was saved as well as Steve Morison’s follow-ups.

 

The final whistle sounded on another home victory and also a fantastic Championship season from Neil Harris’ side.  Chopper and his team had restored the faith and what it means to play for the Lions and the fans were in total admiration for what was achieved.  To get a side who finished sixth in the third tier only the season before into a top ten finish, and within a whisper of a Championship play-off place, is something that our fans will never forget and the brand of football and team spirit on display was clear for all to see.  It may be difficult to follow this up next season, but after what we have seen in the 2017-18 season, I wouldn’t put it past Millwall Football Club.

 

 

Come on you Lions.

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