The international break comes at the perfect time for a struggling Millwall side. Without a win in eight games and only one solitary goal in that run, Kenny Jackett’s men are sitting second bottom of the Championship. Poor refereeing decisions, bad luck and injuries have all played their part but the performances have been lacking.
A lack of goals has been the main problem in tandem with not being able to keep them out. Last season Millwall had the third best defensive record in the whole league, behind champions QPR and play-off winners Swansea City. However so far this season the Lions have shipped goals for fun. In their last six games they have conceded nine goals and scored only one; something that must be put right and fast.
A handful of striker combinations have been tried to get the much-needed goals but as of yet, none have worked. Bringing back former loanee Jay Simpson from Hull was a move that excited Lions fans. Despite this we are still to see the Jay Simpson that won Player of the Year in League One during the 2007/08 campaign. His performances have epitomised how the team has been as of late.
In my eyes there seems to be a lack of fight and ‘Millwall spirit’ amongst the players, as if the changing room isn’t at ease like last season. This could be having an effect on the team, as with each defeat and flat performance confidence and morale get shattered.
Inevitably this season was going to be compared to the previous campaign, the benchmark was set and fully expected to be equalled or bettered this time around. Sadly so far it has been more of a stagnant and slow start with just one win against fellow early season strugglers Nottingham Forest. Since then it has been three draws and five defeats for Jackett’s side, including three losses on the bounce, the latest a 1-0 home defeat to Eddie Howe’s Burnley side.
In the first half Millwall were playing with a high tempo for the opening 20 minutes, then the pace dropped, and so did the performance. A lull in the Lions’ concentration was pounced upon at a Burnley corner. The ball played in to Jay Rodriguez whose effort on target was, to be fair, a pea roller but it beat everyone in the box and even David Forde who only got a hand to what would be the only goal of the game.
Millwall’s second half performance was a lot more positive, putting much more pressure on the visitors. However a contentious offside decision ruled out a goal and a penalty appeal was turned down to sum up Millwall’s afternoon. Simply put, they lack goals and the defence is vunerable.
The second half against Burnley was one of the better performances seen recently, besides the goal the visitors did not cause Millwall many problems and the pressure the home side built up during the second 45 should have culminated in a goal but untimely, it didn’t.
Darius Henderson, the experienced front man was out again and he was sorely missed. A player that can stick up top and stay there, which will bring others into play will be a great addition to the team after the international break, which resumes away to Middlesbrough.
In light of recent form, the gloom and doom merchants have risen up and are making their voices heard. Some are blaming the board for not investing enough, others the players’ attitude and even for Kenny Jackett to be sacked – which in my eyes would be ludicrous and potentially suicidal.
Removing the Championship’s longest serving manager is a non-starter. There are not many managers Millwall could get to replace him, in terms of the success he has had, or even on the club’s financial budgets. Mr Jackett is undoubtedly the best man and only man for the Millwall hot seat.
I feel is a complete lack of confidence running throughout the side and they are not doing things instinctively. Collectively they are thinking about things too much and not wanting to over commit. These are simple things that with confidence will become easier to pull off and lead to more free-flowing football rather than rigid, protective play and hopefully results too.
The acquisition of Brian Howard on loan from Reading is a good move. Coolness personified when on the ball, his experience will be vital when things get rowdy in the middle of the park. Looking to the possible grim future, his experience will be needed should Millwall face a relegation battle. Howard’s no-frills approach, coupled with incisive runs off the ball give the team more control in midfield. He will hopefully turn out to be an integral part of the squad beyond his initial three-month loan.
The international break provides a good opportunity for Millwall to go back to the drawing board and spend time on the training ground to sort out the faults and bring back winning form which is desperately needed.
Sooner or later, they have to break their duck and pick up three vital points.
All good things come to those who wait. Millwall, we are all waiting.
In KJ we trust!
Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger
Jay tweets at @jay_taylor18