"My Clothes are Dirty and my Friend Are Getting Worried."
Be it players, staff, supporters or volunteers, last season was a difficult one for everyone associated with Millwall Football Club. After the ups and downs and finally securing Championship football for the 2019-20 season, Neil Harris knew that he needed a strong and competitive pre-season to show the fans that he means business and would lead the Lions in the right direction. We may have been busted up from the last campaign, yet seeing the early return to form of a player that had so much promise when he signed, had us loving every minute of it.
Millwall entered the field in their new yellow away trim and a strong starting eleven including Alex Pearce, Jake Cooper, Mahlon Romeo, Ryan Leonard and Matt Smith started the game for the visitors. It was Gillingham who started the game brighter and in the opening five minutes linked up nicely and were flying fast like a wanted man. Some nice one-twos was followed by a shot at the edge of the Millwall penalty area, but Fielding in the Millwall goal did well to keep out.
A minute later, the Lions were let off the hook when a cross came into the Gillingham trialist who was stood alone in the middle of the box, but he failed to connect and the ball was cleared. The fans groaned as this seemed like it would be a tough afternoon and we would not be feeling a serotonin overflow in the Medway area.
After some back and forward action, it was Millwall who took the lead in the 17th minute when a lovely ball was played over the top to Jiri Skalak who did superbly well to beat his man and unless and a rocket at the first time of asking. The ball looked destined from the back of the net from the moment it left the wide man’s boot and the strike had the fans in the makeshift stand coming up and loving every minute of it.
After more toing-and-froing which saw both sides come close, Millwall had another great chance to double their lead just after the half an hour mark when Smith’s header from a Shane Ferguson cross was saved well by the Gillingham ‘keeper. The follow up inside the six-yard box from Millwall was again blocked and Shaun Williams’ close range effort was again superbly kept out in the 31st minute. This was the type of football the fans had been missing and we were dreamin’ of the next time we can go and watch our boys play.
Millwall had a huge let off in the 34th minute after an attack they failed to deal with saw the ball be crossed back into the penalty area, beating Matt Smith who could only stand and watch the ball sail over this head. Luckily for the Lions, a second Gillingham free header was put wide and the message in the bottle we were drinking from was telling us that today could be our day.
Although the Lions were arguably the better side for the first half and beginning of the second period, a moment of madness in the 54th minute saw Mahlon Romeo shove a Gillingham player in the eighteen-yard box and concede a penalty. The experienced and veteran A. Trialist stepped up, expertly sent Fielding the wrong way from twelve yards and it was all square at Priestfield.
Responding well, it was only 120 seconds later in the 56th minute when the Lions went back in front. A perfectly weighted cross came in from the left-hand side and Jake Cooper rose well to power his header past the helpless goalkeeper in front of the Millwall fans. The travelling Millwall fans were looking for a little love, oh yeah and the tall centre-half had provided it for them.
A high tempo opening period saw Gillingham again nearly equalise only five minutes later in the 61st minute. The Gills had broken through the Millwall defence worryingly too easily, but Fielding in the Millwall goal showed just why Neil Harris had signed him in the summer with an excellent save down low and pushed wide for a corner.
This proved to be the last real clear-cut chance of the game and the whistle on the 90th minute indicated the end of the game and a Millwall win. The second half may have been a slight dampener compared to the first, but watching the Lions go back to winning ways was something we love on the weekend.