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2018/19 Season Review: August - December

May 20, 2019

Written by:

 

 

August

 

Middlesbrough (h) D 2-2

Blackburn Rovers (a) D 0-0

Gillingham (h) League Cup D 0-0 (W 3-1 on penalties)

Derby (h) W 2-1

Sheffield Wednesday (a) L 1-2

Rotherham United (a) L 0-1

Plymouth Argyle (h) League Cup W 3-2

 

After a memorable 2017/18 campaign which saw the Lions finish just outside the play-off places and a pre-season which saw three victories against Dartford FC, Cambridge United and VFL Bochum, expectation was perhaps slightly higher than the playing and transfer budget suggested.  There was action in the summer transfer window to build on the solid foundations that Neil Harris had already put in place and the arrivals of Murray Wallace, Ben Amos and Jiri Skalak before the season had started had the Lions' fans quietly confident we would have a successful second season back in the Championship.

 

Middlesbrough were the visitors on the opening day of the league campaign and after Tony Pulis' men ended Millwall's play-off dreams on the penultimate game of the season only a few months before, the home fans were salivating at the thought of revenge.  Millwall were the first out of the blocks and going in at half-time 2-0 up, there seemed like that there would only winner.  Unfortunately for Neil Harris' side, Aiden O'Brien and Lee Gregory's goals were cancelled out by two late, late goals from Martin Braithwaite and George Friend.  There were some in the home stands who questioned the amount of injury time added on by Kevin Friend, but ultimately this was certainly two points that slipped away.

 

A visit to Ewood Park to visit the newly promoted Blackburn Rovers could've been a potential banana skin for the South London side, but a goalless draw was a score that many would have taken before an identical result followed a few days later in the Carabao Cup against third-tier side Gillingham.  The League Cup game was a disappointment and went to penalties, but it was on-loan 'keeper Ben Amos who provided crucial saves in the shootout and helped the Lions progress to the next round.

 

The third home game in four matches saw Frank Lampard's Derby County become the first side to fall to Millwall's sword.  The blazing sunshine that day brought out the best in Neil Harris' side and two goals in the opening twenty minutes from Jake Cooper and Shaun Williams saw Millwall head towards their first league win of the season.  A late fight back and a goal from David Nugent had the supporters in Zampa Road biting their fingernails, but the Lions held out to record a victory.

 

Millwall's unbeaten start to the season ended after a lacklustre midweek trip to Hillsborough ended in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday.  Neil Harris' side were never really in the game and although Ryan Tunnicliffe's second half strike halved the deficit, the two earlier goals from Barry Bannan and Tom Lees was enough for the Owls to swoop down and claim their prey.

 

Sensing the need to add to his squad who had started the season with a whimper, Neil Harris brought Tom Bradshaw to the ranks from Barnsley after letting Ben Thompson leave The Den to begin a successful loan period at Portsmouth, but the rumoured unrest behind the scenes continued and the month ended with a second successive away defeat, this time at the hands of Rotherham United and another poor home League Cup performance against Plymouth Argyle.  The final day of the transfer window saw Ryan Leonard become Millwall's new record signing and one of last season's most influential players, George Saville, leaving SE16 for Middlesbrough.

 

 

September

 

Swansea City (h) L 1-2

Leeds United (h) D 1-1

Queens Park Rangers (a) L 0-2

West Bromwich Albion (a) L 0-2

Fulham (h) League Cup L 1-3

Sheffield United (h) L 2-3

 

There were many fans in the home stands who were happy to see the back of August, however as the saying goes of hindsight being a wonderful thing, the first month of the season was a lot better than the month that followed it.  Desperate for a win to get the campaign back on track, the odds were in Millwall's favour when Courtney Baker-Richardson was sent off in the opening five minutes against recently-relegated Swansea City and when Murray Wallace found the back of the net just after an hour, the three points seemed a certainty.  Graham Potter's men had not read the script, however, and goals from Kyle Naughton and Oli McBurnie in the last fifteen minutes meant that Neil Harris' side would again end the game without a win.

 

Leeds United were the next team to visit The Den two weeks later and the newly discovered art of conceding late goals continued to haunt Millwall.  Another home victory against the Yorkshire side looked a certainty when Jed Wallace's 55th minute goal looked to end the game, but a late strike just before the 90th minute from Jack Harrison meant that Marco Bielsa's men shared the spoils and left Millwall still searching for their second league win of the season.

 

The month ended with four consecutive defeats in all competitions and only three goals scored in these fixtures.  A disappointing 2-0 away defeat at Loftus Road against QPR was followed by a better performance in the 2-0 away defeat against West Brom, but another uninspiring League Cup game saw Premier League side Fulham run out 3-1 victors before Chris Wilder's side dominated in a 3-2 home loss.  The month was over and the Millwall faithful were praying for better in October.

 

 

October

 

Nottingham Forest (a) D 2-2

Aston Villa (h) W 2-1

Reading (a) L 3-1

Wigan Athletic (h) W 2-1

Ipswich Town (h) W 3-0

 

October proved to be a better month for Neil Harris and Millwall who only suffered the one defeat in the five games played.  The long trip to the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest would have been a task that would have left many clubs daunted and when the Lions were 2-0 down with twenty minutes to play, the travelling fans were thinking this would be another game to forget.  On the contrary to how the season had panned out so far, it was Millwall's turn to play party poopers and goals from Shaun Williams and Lee Gregory in the last fifteen minutes saw Chopper leave his former club with a well earned point.

 

Although on a poor run of form, the crowd were still behind Neil Harris and his side and when a poor Aston Villa side arrived at The Den at the beginning of the month, the fans were quietly confident that Millwall could get a result.  It did not go to plan for the Lions in the opening of the game when Tammy Abraham's strike in the 7th minute found the back of the net, but this proved to be a catalyst for Millwall and goals from Shane Ferguson and Tom Elliott saw the home side record a 2-1 win.

 

Even though Millwall had seemed to turn a corner, this all came crashing down when a visit to the Madejski Stadium resulted in a humbling 3-1 defeat at the hands of Reading.  Fortunately for Millwall, this was the only negative blot in the calendar as two home victories against Wigan Athletic and Ipswich Town, and five goals scored over both games, saw the Lions end the month with ten points from a possible fifteen and Neil Harris receive a nomination for Manager of the Month. 

 

 

November

 

Brentford (a) L 0-2

Norwich (a) L 3-4

Bolton Wanderers (h) D 1-1

Birmingham City (h) L 0-2

 

There were only four games in the month of November and although at least two of these games were against sides who Millwall should have taken maximum points from, the Lions struggled terribly and only managed to gain one point from a possible twelve available.  The short trip to Griffin Park for the last time resulted in a 2-0 away defeat due to two second half goals from Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins in a game many would love to forget.

 

The second consecutive away fixture was five days after Bonfire Night at Carrow Road and this game turned into a fixture that was more explosive than the firework display that you would see on Blackheath Common.  A Tom Elliott strike in the 24th minute saw Millwall go in at half-time 1-0 up, but a second half goal-fest and a late, late winner from Norwich striker Jordan Rhodes saw the Canaries nick the points with a 4-3 win.

 

It was fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers who were next to arrive at South Bermondsey and with all the off-field issues the Trotters were facing, they were desperate for the win to take them away from danger.  This game turned into the Tale of the Towering Centre-Halves, as former Lions' favourite Mark Beevers' header in the 12th minute saw the away side finish the opening forty-five minutes 1-0 to the better.  Bolton looked to have the win in what was a disappointing fixture, but a Jake Cooper goal eight minutes from time saw the game end 1-1, but neither side took any major strides towards survival.

 

The final game of November saw Garry Monk bring his Birmingham side to The Den and put in an effective, professional performance to see his side run out 2-0 winners.  A James Meredith own goal in the 11th minute was followed by even more imploding as Ryan Leonard saw red in the 30th minute, but the icing on the cake for the visitors was Michael Morrison's 76th minute which saw the Blues return to the Midlands with the three points.

 

 

December

 

Bristol City (a) D 1-1

Hull City (h) D 2-2

Preston North End (a) L 2-3

Stoke City (a) L 0-1

Reading (h) W 1-0

Nottingham Forest (h) W 1-0

 

December is arguably the busiest month in the calendar year for many people.  Whether you are a parent who has to buy presents for more than half of their children's school class, the office worker who has been tasked with finding the most cost effective venue for a Christmas do or a football manager who thinks that four games in fourteen days is too much for your playing staff, the end of the festive period can't come soon enough and you feel as busy as Father Christmas who has just set off to start his rounds on Christmas Eve.

 

Compared with previous months, Millwall started the month relatively well with an away 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate courtesy of a Shaun Williams goal closely followed by a home 2-2 draw with Hull City which saw Lee Gregory and Aiden O'Brien hit the back of the Tigers' net.

 

Millwall's troubles on the road continued and the pieces of coal in the bottom of our stockings were the reward after consecutive away defeats at the hands of Preston North End and Stoke City.  The game at Deepdale saw Neil Harris' men trying repeatedly to get back into a game that kept slipping away from them, but goals from Jake Cooper and Lee Gregory were not enough as the Lions fell to a 3-2 away defeat.  This was followed by a Saido Berahino strike for the Potters at the bet365 stadium as Stoke City were the victors in a close 1-0 loss.

 

The end to a woeful 2018 was approaching and the arrival of the Royals at The Den on Boxing Day had Millwall fans hoping for a festive miracle that would get our season back on track.  The game started with a bang that would make a Christmas cracker blush and within the opening nine minutes the fans had witnessed a goal from Jed Wallace and red card to Reading's Tyler Blackett.  Unfortunately the game did not have much magic after that and ended in a damp squib which made a Christmas in Albert Square look enjoyable.  The Lions may have secured the three points with a 1-0 win, but considering the away side ended the game against nine men, Reading arguably deserved something from the fixture.

 

The final game of December was against Nottingham Forest and not many gave Millwall much chance of a second successive home win.  Forest were struggling for form and there were rumours surrounding the future of Tricky Tree's manager, Aitor Karanka, but it was Ryan Tunnicliffe who stole the headlines with an acrobatic overhead kick in the 9th minute of the game.  The ball nestled into the back of the net and the home side managed to hold on well to secure the win and go three points clear of the Championship bottom three.

 

A calendar year of highs and lows was over, but the emotion and hard work was only just beginning...

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