The 2018/19 campaign is now well under way and with the end of August comes the shutting of the transfer window, six league games played and two Carabao Cup games played, and this is my take on the Lions first month of this season.
Starting at home against one of the promotion favourites was never going to be easy but after Middlesbrough pipped Millwall to a play-off position when the two sides had last met in April I think everyone felt there was some kind of retribution needed.
It looked very much like that would be the case with goals from Aiden O’Brien and Lee Gregory meant that Millwall had a two-goal cushion going into the half-time interval. However, when Martin Braithwaite pulled one back on 87 minutes I’m sure many of the Millwall faithful would have thought they’d had enough to keep out the Teessiders for the remaining time. But it wasn’t to be as George Friend scrambled in an equaliser in the 97th minute.
It was a case of not killing the game for Millwall who could have had more goals in the first half. A theme that has been relentless throughout the opening month.
Following the dramatic opening day drama was a trip to Lancashire to face Blackburn Rovers and a home cup tie against League One side Gillingham. Both of which finished 0-0 over the course of 90 minutes.
Blackburn proved to be a stern test for Neil Harris and his men as they had ‘Keeper Jordan Archer to thank for keeping the hosts at bay whilst at the other end of the pitch the Lions struck the woodwork twice. A game of many chances but a lack of a cutting edge once again for Millwall.
The first round of the Carabao Cup was a fairly uneventful game with Fred Onyedinma coming closest to giving the Lions a path through to the second round. Penalties it was though and Millwall triumphed 3-1, both sides missed their first penalty, misses from Josh Parker and Brandon Hanlon was enough to send the Bermondsey side into the next round where they faced Plymouth Argyle at the end of the month.
Next up was the visit of Frank Lampard’s Derby County side who the previous week were demolished 4-1 at home to Leeds and yet again as was the case against Middlesbrough, the Lions raced into a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes. Come the second half and a David Nugent goal brought the Rams back into the game. Many supporters may have thought “here we go again” but this time it wasn’t the case as Millwall held out for a 2-1 victory at the Den, and Neil Harris’ men had gone unbeaten after three games against tough opposition with more favourable games upcoming, every reason for fans to be optimistic.
After the impressive win against Derby on home turf came back-to-back away trips up to Yorkshire in the form of Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United. Both performances were under par and left the South Londoners travelling back to the capital empty handed.
It was almost role reversal in the game against the Owls as Barry Bannan’s ferocious volley and Tom Lees cool finish left Millwall with it all to do late in the second-half. A late Ryan Tunnicliffe’s goal gave the travelling support hope before Wednesday ‘Keeper Cameron Dawson kept out Millwall new boy Jiri Skalak’s effort meaning the South Yorkshire side had ended Millwall’s unbeaten run that had lasted since April last season.
The trip to Rotherham was just as fruitless as Sean Raggett’s header on 20 minutes condemned the Lions to their second defeat in a row and a lack of cutting edge yet again as Jed Wallace, Jake Cooper and new signing Tom Bradshaw all saw chances go begging.
The last game of the month comes in the shape of the second round tie in the Carabao Cup at home to Plymouth Argyle, who had overcome Championship opposition in the last round in the form of Bristol City. Plymouth were in front two times during the contest as goals from Jamie Ness and Freddie Ladapo either side of Shane Williams’ penalty gave the visitors a 2-1 lead. Lee Gregory equalised in the 83rd minute before substitute Aiden O’Brien popped up with the winner on 89 minutes, breaking Argyle hearts and ensuring it wasn’t going to be another penalty shootout.
The Lions will host Premier League side Fulham in the third round in an all London affair.
It’s been a turbulent month for transfers for the vast majority of clubs, but none more-so than Millwall, who have smashed their longstanding transfer record not once, but twice. Firstly securing the services of Welsh International Tom Bradshaw on an initial loan deal that will become permanent in January for a fee of £1m, and then in another loan-to-buy deal, acquiring Ryan Leonard from Sheffield United for just over £1m.
Other notable incomings include Czech International winger Jiri Skalak from Brighton and Hove Albion, all three of these players bring added depth and quality to the side and in the long term I believe all three will be good investments. Skalak has looked impressive thus far and when fully fit should be a regular starter, I also think Bradshaw is the kind of player that Lee Gregory will thrive off with his link-up play with the wingers and Gregory could be instrumental to our goals this season.
In terms of outgoings, Millwall have received a record fee for midfielder George Saville which is a reported £7m, he goes to Middlesbrough again on an initial loan deal, becoming permanent in January,. This is an excellent piece of business for the club as they’ve made around a £6m profit in a year. The Lions have also loaned out Fred Onyedinma to League One side Wycombe Wanderers as he goes in search of regular first-team football.
Player Of The Month:
My player of the month for August is Shaun Williams, the Irish central midfielder has played in four of the five League games in August, and put in a Man of The Match performance against Derby County where he grabbed a goal from the penalty spot as well as an assist. He has also been one of the most consistent passers in the team, with a 74% pass accuracy. It’s these kind of performances the rest of the team need to be putting in if they want to progress this year and the 31-year-old is certainly leading the way.