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2018/19 Season Review: January - May

June 1, 2019

Written by:

 

January

 

Ipswich Town (a) W 3-2

Hull City (h) FA Cup W 2-1

Blackburn Rovers (h) L 0-2

Middlesbrough (a) D 1-1

Everton (h) FA Cup W 3-2

 

 

It was the start of a new year and both fans and staff alike were desperate to kick on from what was a disappointing opening period to the 2018/19 campaign.  Many would have thought that with this new year came a new desire from the Lions, as 2019 started with a 3-2 away league win at Portman Road and this was followed by the FA Third Round 2-1 victory at home against Hull City.

 

The three goals in sixteen minutes from Shane Ferguson, Jake Cooper and Tom Elliott against Ipswich and the two from Shane Ferguson against the Tigers seemed to get Millwall back on their feet, but unfortunately any momentum built was quickly halted by the visiting Blackburn Rovers live on Sky TV.  Two goals in the 86th and 87th minute from Joe Nuttall and Adam Armstrong were the result of what seemed another disappointing and lacklustre performance from Neil Harris' side.  The visit to the Riverside to face Tony Pulis' Middlesbrough saw a battling display nearly secure three vital points, but a last minute penalty from Jordan Hugill cancelled out Jed Wallace's first half opener.

 

The one shining light of the month, and arguably the entire season, was when Premier League Everton were the Lions' next opponents in the FA Cup Fourth Round.  The Toffees were heavy favourites to win the game and put out a side which on paper were more than capable of defeating the South London side, but once again the magic of the cup prevailed and Millwall twice came from a goal behind to win the game 3-2 and progress to the next round.

 

The new year started with plenty of highs and lows, but unfortunately for the fans in Zampa Road, it would not get any easier in February.

 

February

 

Rotherham (h) D 0-0

Swansea City (a) L 0-1

Sheffield Wednesday (h) D 0-0

AFC Wimbledon (a) FA Cup W 0-1

Derby County (a) W 0-1

Preston North End (h) L 1-3

Hull City (a) L 1-2

 

There were some people who were arguably falling out of love with what they had seen on the pitch by February, so the season of romance and rekindling old flames could not have come soon enough.  It was just a shame that the action on the pitch matched that of the high school nerd who gave his playground crush a huge bouquet of flowers, only for them to be thrown back in his face.

 

The must win game with Rotherham United at home ended in a drab goalless draw and there were many who left The Den that day wondering just how Lee Gregory had managed to miss the target from only a yard out in the dying seconds of the match.  The bad form continued in the away trip to the Liberty Stadium when a first half goal from George Byers saw Swansea record a league double over the Lions and this was followed by another disappointing bore and goalless draw with Sheffield Wednesday.

 

Eager to use the cup run as a distraction, Neil Harris and his team made the short trip over to South West London to face AFC Wimbledon in the Fifth Round of the cup and a single goal from Murray Wallace was the difference and saw Millwall go through to the Quarter Finals.  The game had all the makings of the traditional banana skin which many were worried that the Bermondsey side may slip on and although there were moments when the Dons were the better side, the Lions showed a ruthlessness that had been missing all season when they recorded the victory.

 

With a very slight wind in their sail, Millwall were able to pull off an upset when Jed Wallace's solo goal saw three vital points be gained against Derby County, but the arrival of a very impressive Preston North End halted any progress made and showed the quality and skill that we had been up against all season.  Still licking our wounds and feeling embarrassed by the North End result did not help when the Lions faced the Tigers up at the KCOM Stadium and Shaun Hutchinson's first half goal only proved to be a consolation in a 2-1 away defeat.

 

 

March

 

Norwich City (h) L 1-3

Bolton Wanderers (a) L 1-2

Birmingham City (a) W 0-2

Brighton & Hove Albion (h) D 2-2 (L 5-4 on penalties)

Leeds United (a) L 2-3

 

Spring was in the air and what a difference twelve months make!  By this time only the season before, the Lions were comfortably clear of the Championship relegation zone, had one eye on the top six places and had bloodied a lot of noses on the way.  In the 2018/19 season, Millwall were in the mire of a battle to stay in the division and needed to desperately pick up some points to put some breathing space between them and the bottom three.  Unfortunately, this was not to happen in March...

 

Top of the table Norwich City were on a great run of form and the Canaries were absolutely flying.  Sticking to the script and condemning Millwall to another home defeat, goals from Marco Stiepermann, Christophe Zimmermann and goal machine Teemu Pukki saw the Norfolk side collect the three points, although a goal from Shaun Williams just on the forty-five minute mark did give the home fans the slightest glimmer of hope.

 

This defeat was followed by a real Jekyll and Hyde outing for Millwall in their next two fixtures and the visit away to cash strapped and anarchy filled Bolton Wanderers could not come soon enough.  Three points were urgently needed and a trip to a team who we could all but guarantee victory against was the perfect tonic to a poor run of results.  How wrong were we?  Although the scoreline suggests there was only one goal in it, Millwall were outplayed by their northern opponents in an awful display which lacked fight, hunger and the desire to get out of relegation trouble.  Luckily for the Lions, Ben Thompson in the heart of the Millwall midfield knew what was required and his two goals against Birmingham City away at St. Andrews in the next game managed to get our rudderless ship back on course.

 

The month ended with heartache and the cruelest elimination from the FA Cup.  Leading 2-0 after goals from Alex Pearce and Aiden O'Brien, the Lions looked like they were on their way to Wembley and into the last four.  The celebrations had to be put back on ice though as two late goals from Brighton and Hove Albion, including a goalkeeping error that will go down in infamy, saw the game go to penalties and Millwall eliminated after Jake Cooper's effort in sudden death blazed over the bar.

 

Unfortunately for Neil Harris' side, there would be no repeat of the heroics at Elland Road the season before, as a 3-2 away defeat at the hands of Leeds United left us again having sleepless nights and worrying about a potential return to the third tier of English football.  The two goals from Ben Thompson and Ben Marshall were not enough and Millwall continued to be in trouble...

 

April

 

West Bromwich Albion (h) W 2-0

Queens Park Rangers (h) D 0-0

Sheffield United (a) D 1-1

Brentford (h) D 1-1

Aston Villa (a) L 0-1

Stoke City (h) D 0-0

Bristol City (h) L 1-2

 

The season was starting to come to a conclusion and with only five goals conceded in seven games, the defence was starting to look right just when we needed it to.  The issue was at the other end of the pitch, as the five goals in that same time were not enough to convincingly pull ourselves away from danger.

 

Tearing up the form book early in the month, the Lions were in dominant and deadly form against top-six West Bromwich Albion and a Ryan Tunnicliffe goal was followed by an Ahmed Hegazy OG which secured the points for the home side.  Although the Lions were seemingly on the up and were unbeaten in their next three games, the disappointment that came from three consecutive draws against QPR, Sheffield United and Brentford was evident with the fans in South London and the victory against the Baggies proved to be the last time Millwall would get a win for the remainder of the 2018/19 campaign.  A trip to the Midlands to face high-flying Aston Villa was next on the cards and although Millwall put in a more spirited performance, Jonathan Kodjia's goal on the half hour mark without reply saw Neil Harris' side fall to another defeat on the road.

 

Luckily for the Bermondsey side, results for the teams around them were in their favour and on they went into the penultimate home game of the season knowing that a victory would guarantee Championship safety for another year.  Facing off against Stoke City, who were already safe after a disappointing season back in the old second division, the Millwall fans were urging their side to get the victory they needed and try to finish the season on a high.  The fact that the two sides only had a combined three shots on target in the whole game only emphasised the poor form they had displayed for the majority of the season.  Luckily for Millwall, Rotherham's defeat at the hands of West Brom made sure that the boys in blue were confirmed in the Championship for at least one more season.

 

The final home game at The Den was a lacklustre affair and even though Lee Gregory's first half goal looked to put Millwall on the way to a win, two second half goals in five minutes from Jamies Paterson and Famara Diedhiou for the Robins saw the Lions' last game at home end in defeat.

 

May

 

Wigan Athletic (a) L 0-1

 

Both teams were safe going into this game and with nothing to play for, many were thinking if this was going to be a game which the two would give their all in to end the season well, or treat like nothing more than a dead rubber and run through the motions as the season ended.  Unfortunately for the fans in attendance, it proved to be the latter and the team promoted from League One the season before ran out 1-0 winners.

 

The final whistle sounded and the Millwall fans were delighted that the season was over, but more importantly that we had stayed up.  After the highs from the campaign before, this was a tough one to take and will be one that the management, staff, players and fans will not want to experience again...

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