After FA Cup progression last weekend against Newport County and a Premier League opponent confirmed in the oldest cup competition in the world, it's a return to Championship action as Gary Rowett takes his men on the road to face his old club, Stoke City.
It is a great time to be a Millwall fan at the moment, as the Rowett revolution has continued and the Lions find themselves in 7th place, only one point behind 6th place Swansea City. The South London side have only lost once in their last twelve games in all competitions and with three wins and one draw in their last four games, Millwall will be keen to record the win against a stuttering Stoke side and keep the pressure on the top six. It was only a few weeks ago that Stoke City were dead and buried at the bottom of the league, but with the recent appointment of Michael O'Neill in place of former boss Nathan Jones, The Potters have turned some of these results around and managed to pull themselves out of the relegation zone.
The league head-to-heads between the two over the years do swing in the home side's favour with 18 wins to Millwall's 15 and ten draws shared. Although Stoke have recently been the team who have graced the top level of English football and the Europa League, their recent troubles will see The Lions go into this game feeling confident of the win.
Haven't we met before?...
Stoke City 0-1 Millwall, Saturday 23rd February 2002 – An early goal in the opening two minutes by Millwall midfielder Steven Reid was enough for Millwall to secure the win in this Nationwide Division One game and extend Stoke's winless run to eight straight defeats. Millwall striker, Neil Harris, was brought down in the opening 40 seconds of the game and it was the resulting free-kick from Dennis Wise which found Reid, who headed well past Neil Cutler. Both sides had chances to put more goals on the board, but in the end, it was the South London side who grabbed hold of the three points and take them back to Zampa Road.
Aside from central defender Ryan Shawcross, Michael O'Neill has a fully fit squad to choose from and one player who will be desperate to feature is former Millwall player Lee Gregory, who has found himself in and out the side since O'Neill's appointment.
Frank Fielding has returned to training and could feature in the match day squad, but it will be Bartosz Bialkowski who will retain his place between the sticks. Aiden O'Brien may require a late fitness test due to an ankle injury he has picked up and Ryan Leonard remains out injured.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
A player who was quickly being seen as a forgotten member of the Lions squad, Mahoney came right back into Gary Rowett's plans with a bang. A glorious goal to help Millwall take the lead against Luton Town was followed by a world class cross to set up Matt Smith, and the winger will be keen to continue this good run in the league. With a precise left foot and bags of potential, it will be a long afternoon for the side from Staffordshire if the wide man is on his day.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week's 'Who Are Ya?', we sit back down with Simon Lowe, the author who loves sport, music, film, comedy and more importantly, Stoke City! This week we ask Simon how The Potters play since Michael O'Neill's appointment, will Lee Gregory be on his way in this transfer window, who Millwall need to look out for and what he thinks the score will be.
1. It’s been a tough start for the season for the Potters, and you are currently just outside the relegation zone. How has the season been for a Stoke fan?
Its been an absolutely dreadful season so far, but we have picked up a lot since the arrival of new manager Michael O'Neill. He is battling manfully with an unwieldy and unfit for purpose squad which is a hotch potch of previous managers' signings and producing some great results. Notably away from home where we've won 4-2 at Barnsley and 5-2 at Huddersfield. You'll notice we conceded two goals in both those wins. Were still doing that all too often as we did at the New Den earlier this season. We're just capable of scoring a lot more. The defence remains to be fixed.
2. Nathan Jones was brought in to replace Gary Rowett, but he has since been replaced himself by Michael O’Neill. Why did it not work out for Jones?
Nathan Jones proved to be the wrong man at the wrong time, a coach with a philosophy and tactical approach wholly unsuited to the Champipnship and who then bought players that weren't even suited for his plan and then annoyed so many players they downed tools. He may do a good job elsewhere and prove me wrong, but he did very little good at Stoke and a whole lot of bad.
3. An alternatively, how has it been since the Northern Ireland manager’s appointment?
O'Neill has done well this far. Momentum is building and we are out of the relegation zone, having been bottom at Christmas. He is formulating a core team and pattern of play and it's working. We could do with drawing a few games that at the moment we end up losing.
4. It looks to be an interesting January in Stoke, and although he was a fans favourite at Millwall, one player who’s rumoured to be on his way is Lee Gregory. What truth is there in this and if he is on the move, why has this not worked out for him?
I was very surprised that Gregory is rumoured to be looking to move on, or that Stoke are prepared to move him on. He is a very hard working player, although doesn't score as much as you would ideally want from a front man. He scored a lovely finish at Huddersfield after coming on as a sub and is certainly one of the squad who is very much core to the few good performances Stoke have produced this season. I would prefer to hang on to.him as we will need players like him who will play a lone striker role and run the hard yards.
5. The last time the two sides met, Millwall were 2-0 victors. How do you see this game going against an in form Lions side?
Gary Rowett has undoubtedly done a good job in his short time in charge of Millwall. That in itself is enough to irk Stoke fans. And this is of course his first return to stoke since his sacking 12 months ago. He wasn't popular so expect vocal suggestions as to what he should do with himself... this will be a tight game with few goals. It will depend on who takes their chances.
6. Who do Millwall need to look out for?
If Tyrese Campbell is selected watch out for.him cutting in from the right onto his lethal left foot. He is a young and exciting player, which also means he can be marked, kicked or just drift out of games. On the other flank expect James McClean to put in his usual industrious shift. He has a hamstring problem but somehow still gets through games!
7. What do you think the score will be?
Score prediction 1-1.
PREDICTION: STOKE CITY 0-1 MILLWALL
Millwall may have historically struggled on the road and teams near the bottom tend to be a bit of a banana skin for the South London side, but as was the case with the Derby game, I can see Gary Rowett getting a positive result against a former side. There may not be many goals in this game as Millwall still do not have that real killer instinct in front of goal, but a goal from the away side will be enough to guarantee a win here.
Come on you Lions.