It's the terror of knowing what this world is about. Watching some good friends screaming, "let me out".
Much was made of Derby County’s visit to The Den for Frank Lampard’s third league game of his managerial career. The former West Ham and Chelsea man was coming off the back of a humbling 4-1 home loss to Leeds United and was eager to record a victory over his old school friend, Neil Harris. Unfortunately for the former England midfielder, it would be the Millwall boss who put the Rams under pressure that burns a building down, splits a family in two and ultimately results in defeat.
Millwall were unmatchable in the first half and showed the type of football that had inspired their unbeaten run in the second half of last season. Derby may’ve had the first real moment of the first half when Tom Lawrence’s long-range free-kick in the 3rd minute was palmed over by Jordan Archer, but it was Jake Cooper who opened the scoring and left Lampard thinking these are the days when it never rains but it pours. In the 8th minute, Shaun Williams’ free-kick was flicked on by Lee Gregory at the near post and it was the giant centre-half who placed the ball to Scott Carson’s right. The back of the net rippled, and the home crowd roared with approval.
The home side continued to press and in the 14th minute the Lions came close again. A Millwall corner was met by Shaun Hutchinson and after some desperate defending, the Rams somehow managed to get the ball clear. The pressure was not being relented by the South London side, a lovely link up between James Meredith and Steve Morison saw the veteran skipper lay off the ball to George Saville who unfortunately got too much on it and blazed it over the bar. Derby were panicking, were sloppy and clumsy on the ball and were chippin’ around with their brains on the floor. Six minutes later, Lampard’s headache only got worse…
After doing very little and easily conceding possession, Lee Gregory picked up the ball after a misplaced pass from the Derby back-line in the 20th minute and had a shot from distance blocked. The ball ricocheted and eventually found it’s way to Shaun Williams who unleashed a thunderbolt towards the Derby goal. The Millwall midfielder’s long-range strike took a deflection on it’s way towards target and flew past Carson into the top corner. 2-0 to Millwall and Lampard’s side looked defeated with 70 minutes still to play.
Lampard had said that he prefers his side to play nice and attractive football rather than a possession-based game, but in the first half an hour of this fixture, Derby were doing neither. Martyn Waghorn was trying to make things happen up front and won a free-kick in the 31st minute, but the resulting set piece could only bounce off the Millwall wall and the follow-up effort was blocked bravely by George Saville.
The Rams just could not cope with the pressure pushing down on them and could’ve been 3-0 down just before half time. Jake Cooper’s header from Shaun Williams’ corner in first-half injury time saw the ball flash back across goal, but Aiden O’Brien could only put the ball over the bar from close range. The half-time whistle sounded, and the Lions walked off the pitch to a well-deserved standing ovation.
Derby’s team talk at the break must’ve give themselves one more chance, as a different Rams side took to the field than the ones who left it. In the 47th minute Martyn Waghorn felt he was fouled in the Millwall penalty area, but his penalty appeals fell on deaf ears and play was waved on. A minute later, Mahlon Romeo unconvincingly cleared the ball as far as the edge of the Millwall penalty area, however the Derby effort from just outside the box flew over Jordan Archer’s crossbar.
Lee Gregory was in superb form in this fixture and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the 53rd minute. He knew he could’ve sat on the fence but knew it don’t work, so the Millwall striker decided to pick up the ball and ran over 30 yards at blistering pace to try and alleviate the Derby attack.
Derby did have the ball in the back of the net in the 54th minute and the away fans cheered that their team were back in the game. Fortunately for Millwall, the tight offside decision was awarded in their favour, but this felt like a let-off for the Lions as Derby continued to get into the game.
In the 71st minute, the Rams had a superb effort to claw the Lions back, but luckily Mason Mount had left his shooting boots at home. Making his way into the Millwall box, Mount raced towards Archer’s near post and just when he looked destined to score, bizarrely dragged the ball wide when he looked destined to hit the target. Insanity was laughing and the home team’s earlier pressure was breaking.
Two minutes later in the 73rd minute, Derby got the goal that their relentless second half attacking deserved. A quick break of play and two touch football saw the ball played up to substitute David Nugent. Nugent glided to the edge of the Millwall penalty area and the moment it left his right-foot it was destined for the back of Jordan Archer’s net. The young Millwall ‘keeper had very little to do up until this strike, but was helpless as the outstretched hand he got to it just wasn’t enough. This was to be a nervous final third of the game for the South London side, and there was a nasty feeling that the events against Middlesbrough a few weeks before would come back to haunt them.
George Saville had the chance to put the game to bed for Millwall in the 76th minute. A high ball was floated over to Shaun Hutchinson who headed it down on a plate to Saville, but somehow the Millwall midfielder placed the ball wide from within the six-yard box.
Millwall had to spend the rest of the game defending wave after wave of Derby attacks, but a huge sigh of relief was exhaled as the referee blew the final whistle and the game ended 2-1 to the home side. Status Quo blared from the speakers for the first time this season and although Derby had a better second half than the first, it was Neil Harris’ men who rightfully deserved the three points. Millwall seemed to have learned from mistakes in previous fixtures, and we proudly know what to do when other teams launch attack after attack. This is ourselves, under pressure and it will fill our fans with belief.
Millwall: Archer, Meredith, Hutchinson, Cooper, Williams, J. Wallace (Ferguson 84'), Gregory (Tunnicliffe 84'), Romeo, Morison, O'Brien, Saville.
Subs not used: Amos, McLaughlin, Elliott, M. Wallace, Skalak.
Derby County: Carson, Bryson, Tomori, Keogh, Mount, Waghorn (Nugent 67'), Lawrence, Jozefzoon (Bennett 67'), Johnson, Bogle, Malone (Forsyth 46').
Subs not used: Roos, Widsom, Marriott, Evans.