"Raindrops keep falling on my head..."
The British summer time so far has been fabulous, with blazing hot conditions and a World Cup that has made the country fall back in love with the national side. The Lions' pre-season form has mirrored this feel good factor, with two convincing wins against both Dartford and Cambridge United without conceding a goal. But unfortunately for Neil Harris' men, grey skies were forming over the Colchester Community Stadium and these foreshadowed that this friendly would not feature many rays of sunshine...
A strong starting line-up from Neil Harris started the game brightly, with some slick passing across the Millwall back-line and every time the U's countered and entered the Millwall half, their attempts were quickly nullified. Colchester had a couple of half chances in the opening ten minutes with blocked efforts in the Millwall penalty area, but these chances didn't threaten the centre-half partnership of Byron Webster and Murray Wallace. The Lions seemed the more dominant when a lovely Shane Ferguson free-kick was just tipped over the Colchester bar, but just as it seemed it would be inevitable that we would find the back of the net, the home side had their own ray of light that shone through the storm clouds.
The impressive Courtney Senior decided to make the away team's visit as miserable as the downpour we had experienced before the game and was a constant thorn in the Lions' side. After showing flashes of brilliance and pace, the young winger picked the ball up in the midfield in the 20th minute and played an inch perfect pass through to Sammie Szmodics. The striker was one-on-one with Ben Amos and coolly slotted it into the back of the Millwall net. The bellowing from Neil Harris on the touchline was louder than thunder and this game was quickly turning into a wet, miserable evening.
The Lions were startled by their managers booming on the sidelines and were quick to respond. Aiden O'Brien picked up a loose ball in the 24th minute and after successfully tussling with the Colchester defence, released a thunderbolt of his own. However, his curling effort from outside the box was just pushed wide for a corner by Barnes in the United goal.
After a few glimpses of sunlight from the Lions, Colchester decided to put a dampener on the day in the 31st minute. Vincent-Young picked the ball up on the left wing and like a warm knife through butter, he elegantly danced through Millwall's defence and beat the helpless Amos from six yards. Neil Harris was furious on the side line at another defensive lapse of concentration and no matter how hard our side tried, we could not get into a rhythm and went in at half time 2-0 down.
It wasn't until the 54th minute of the second half that the clouds started to clear and Millwall were playing more positive, however every time we tried to play on the front foot and go forward, our boys in navy would inevitably and cheaply give the ball away to the opposition. By the hour mark, Colchester were well on top and Millwall were only getting the ball back when the U's made mistakes.
The introduction of Jed Wallace late into the second half was the catalyst the Lions needed and there were signs that Mr. Blue Sky would be back on the horizon. Jed linked up well with Lee Gregory, who also came on as a late substitute, and the attacking combination started to be a handful for Colchester. A lovely cross from Jed Wallace in the 80th minute found Fred Onyedinma, who cushioned the ball down perfectly to Steve Morison. The veteran striker's effort was well hit, but unfortunately just flew over the bar. Although our game had improved slightly, our evening would remain overcast and there would only be one winner.
As the game was wrapping up, Gregory and Jed Wallace linked up beautifully and the latter's long range, curling effort was too much for the Colchester 'keeper. Just as we looked to be weathering the storm and kicking on, this was unfortunately the last kick of the game and we were defeated 2-1.
The home fans cheered and the away fans groaned. Last season Mr Blue, you did it right, but at the Community Stadium came Mr Night, creeping over and his hand was on our shoulder. Millwall's season will not be judged on a pre-season away defeat to Colchester United, but it has shown that there is still some work to do before the Middlesbrough game next weekend.
Colchester United: Barnes, Jackson, Lapslie, Prosser, Kent, Senior, Pell, Szmodics, Dickenson, Vincent-Young, Nouble. Subs: Gilmartin, Norris, Comley, Wright, Kensdale, Eastman, Mandron, Collins, Clampin.
Millwall: Amos, McLaughlin, Meredith (Gregory 62'), Onyedinma, Ferguson (Romeo 62'), Webster (Cooper 75'), Tunnicliffe, Morison, O'Brien (J. Wallace 75'), Saville, M. Wallace. Subs: Martin, Hutchinson, Williams, Thompson, Elliott, Brown