Welcome to Part 2 of my Millwall FC save. The season is underway after a good Pre-Season that included a training camp in Ireland which you can read about in Part 1 of the series here
Millwall FC 2021-2022
Saturday 7th August 2021
We took the short trip to The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium (Loftus Road) for the opening game of the season against Queens Park Rangers. Mark Warburton the QPR manager was a little bit disrespectful about our chances of avoiding relegation this season so I was more determined to get a result and fire the team up. Ex Millwall old boy Teddy Sheringham pointed out the danger of Andre Gray to us in the build up to the game. Warburton picked a 3412 formation with Andre Gray and Lyndon Dykes starting up front for Rangers.
I picked the team in a 433 system with Luke Freeman playing in central midfield being the only one of our loan players starting the game. Ryan Leonard started at right full back alongside Hutchinson, Cooper and Wallace in the backline. Evans, Mitchell and Freeman started in midfield with Jed Wallace, Mason Bennett and Tom Bradshaw making up the front 3.
The game started with both sides going close with a number of efforts with the best seeing Rangers Andre Gray rattling the crossbar. Rangers right back Rob limped off in the 18th minute following a challenge on Jed Wallace. With both sides looking to gain an advantage we caught the Rangers defence with a counter attack Billy Mitchell found Murray Wallace on the left flank with a first time pass, Wallace took a touch and came inside before delivering a cross field pass to the on running Jed Wallace who took two touches to get in behind the Rangers backline before firing past the helpless Senny Dieng in the Rangers goal to put us 1-0 up after 33 minutes.
The goal sempt to give us a confidence with Luke Freeman dictating the game for us we got through to half time after a spell of possession which saw us go close to a second when Tom Bradshaw hit a first time strike wide of the upright.
Half Time QPR 0-1 Millwall FC
The second half saw our hosts come out fighting and in the 57th minute they were back in the game when Lyndon Dykes set up Andre Gray to level the scores and set up a blockbuster finish. Warburtons men now had the momentum but couldn’t break down our backline with Hutchinson and Cooper cleaning everything up that QPR threw at us. At the other end substitutes Sheyi Ojo and Oliver Burke gave us fresh legs replacing Jed Wallace and Mason Bennett who had both put a shift in. The referee blew for full time with both clubs taking a share of the points.
Full Time QPR 1-1 Millwall FC
Tuesday 10th August 2021
Next up was the midweek visit of Wycombe Wanderers to The Den for the Carabao Cup 1st round tie. Gareth Ainsworth was a gentleman that he is in the press conference ahead of the game under lights at The Den. I made 7 changes to our starting XI with Ballard, Malone, Kieftenbeld, Evans, Burke, Ojo and Afobe all coming in to the side.
Wycombe came to The Den to get a result and to be honest they proved a tough nut to crack despite them being limited to long shots of which 3 were on target without troubling Bialkowski in our goal. Sheyi Ojo got the only goal of the game just before half time giving us a narrow 1-0 win to take us in to the next round.
Saturday 14th August 2021
I made 6 changes to the side that had played Wycombe on Tuesday evening for the visit of Blackburn Rovers to The Den on matchday 2 of the EFL Championship. Jed Wallace was sidelined from an injury picked up at QPR on the opening day so loanee Oliver Burke gets the start on the right flank.
Very much like our previous two games we dominated the ball from start to finish but struggled to find the net in the first half despite Ryan Leonard and Billy Mitchell both wasting clear cut chances to break the deadlock. At the other end Rovers Joe Rothwell went close with two chances being foiled by Hutchinson and Cooper making last gasp tackles.
Tony Mowbray has got Rovers playing well and just before half time Ben Brereton Diaz put the visitors in front after that man again Joe Rothwell split our defence to send the forward clear.
Half Time Millwall FC 0-1 Blackburn Rovers.
I gave the lads a good kick up the arse at the interval to try and get them back in the game in the second half. My half time rant seemed to do the trick after the restart with Freeman, Bennett and Bradshaw all going close. We looked to have the momentum and when Rovers Daniel Ayala fouled Tom Bradshaw to give away a penalty we had the chance to get back in to the game and it was Bradshaw himself who dusted himself off to cooly dispatch the resulting penalty in the 71st minute. Game on we went close again when Oliver Burke fires wide. Blackburn also miss a chance with Gallagher testing Bialkowski. Then just when we think the game is going to finish in a draw Rovers number 7 Reda Khadra threads a beautiful ball through to forward Sam Gallagher who drills the ball past the diving Bialkowski to give the visitors all 3 points.
Full Time Millwall FC 1-2 Blackburn Rovers
Its a tough result to take after we dug deep to get back in the game but its a lesson learnt.
Tuesday 17th August 2021
We stay at The Den for the visit of one of the favourites to win the league when we entertain Fulham on matchday 3 of the EFL Championship. We go invto the game on the back of that defeat late on to Blackburn looking for our first win in the League after a draw and defeat in our opening two games.
Fulham gaffer Marco Silva named a strong starting XI and I make 7 changes to the side that started against Blackburn at the weekend with Jed Wallace still unavailable through injury. Daniel Ballard comes in to cover at right back whilst Scott Malone replaces Murray Wallace at left back. The midfield 3 sees Luke Freeman retain his place alongside the incoming George Evans and George Saville whilst a front three of Tyler Burey on the right Sheyi Ojo on the left and Benik Afobe through the centre all come in to the side.
We kicked the game off as underdogs but start well having the better of the first half looking sharp against a very good Fulham side. Cooper and Hutchinson both look commanding against a powerful Mitrovic who sees little of the ball in a first half that we dominate the ball but for all our possession we go in at the break level.
Half Time Millwall FC 0-0 Fulham
The second half gets underway with Fulham looking a different proposition to the first half taking the initiative and we have Bialkowski to thank for keeping us in the game after making saves from Harry Wilson and Aleksandar Mitrovic. We then have the upright to thank when Nathaniel Chalobah crashes a shot against the post.
After riding our luck Tyler Burey squares a ball for opposite wideman Sheyi Ojo to pass the ball past Gazzaniga in the Fulham goal in the 63rd minute to give us a 1-0 lead. The goal seems to have given Fulham rather than us the momentum again and Mitrovic heads wide from a corner. Bialkowski is called up on again this time an Harry Wilson shot is blocked and then cleared by Scott Malone who is having a good game.
With the clock ticking down we are holding on but a misplaced pass from Harry Wilson gives George Saville the chance to get us on the counter and that is what he does with a ball over the top of the high line held by Fulham to get Afobe away down the right he cuts inside and lays the ball off to Sheyi Ojo……..Gooooooaaaaal its 2-0 with 4 minutes left Ojo grabs his second of the game and its enough to give us our first win and all 3 points.
Full Time Millwall FC 2-0 Fulham
Saturday 21st August 2021
It’s a tea time kick off at the Cardiff City Stadium for matchday 4 of the EFL Championship for our game against Cardiff City who have had a good start to the season. We had some tired legs from the game against Fulham in midweek so I made 7 changes to fhe line up including match winner Sheyi Ojo who starts on the bench.
We got off to the best of starts when Ryan Leonard combined with Oliver Burke who beat the Cardiff keeper with a delicate chip to put us 1-0 up after just 8 minutes of the game. It was Burke again who played in Bradshaw for what looked liked number 2 but Bradshaw pulled his shot wide, it was a miss that we would live to regret.
The aerial presence of Cardiff defender Aiden Flint was causing us trouble from set pieces and in the 37th minute Cardiff were level when Flint headed home from a Tommy Doyle corner.
in the 40th minute our goalscorer Oliver Burke was to play no further part in the game limping off to be replaced by Connor Mahoney after a challenge from Curtis Nelson.
Half Time Cardiff City 1-1 Millwall FC
Despite the scoreline we was very much the team playing the better football and we nearly took the lead again when Kieftenbeld found Mason Bennett with a sublime pass to put the winger in on goal but Bennett was foiled by the Cardiff keeper Alex Smithies. The Cardiff stopper came to the Welsh sides rescue again tipping over a Luke Freeman effort.
The game got a little scrappy and both defenders Murray Wallace and Shaun Hutchinson found there way in to the referee Darren England’s notebook. Billy Mitchell limped off after a robust challenge from Flint and Ryan Leonard talked his way in to Mr England’s notebook shortly after.
Cardiff forward the Swansea born Mark Harris fashioned a late winner for the hosts in the 88th minute after a Cardiff counter attack caught our defence napping Harris was sent clear and cooly placed his shot past the helpless Bialkowski, it was a cruel blow late on in the game, a game which we had the stronger momentum but this is the Championship and if you don’t take your chances you get punished more often than not.
Full Time Cardiff City 2-1 Millwall FC
Wednesday 25th August 2021
The games come thick and fast and after the weekends defeat at Cardiff we returned home for the Carabao Cup 2nd round tie against Cheltenham Town. I decided to switch to a 4231 shape for the game and welcomed the return of Jed Wallace who made an instant impact with an assist for our opening goal just 2 minutes in to the game when George Saville gave us an early lead.
Things got even better just 2 minutes later when goalscorer Saville turned provider with an assist for Sheyi Ojo to double our lead. A great start but Cheltenham were not about to roll over pulling a goal back in the 20th minute when a long ball turned our defence which enabled the visitors to force a corner which they got their rewards with a Mattie Pollock header that set up a nervy finish to the half for us.
Half Time Millwall FC 2-1 Cheltenham Town
Cheltenham had put a bit of pressure on us during the last 15 minutes of the first half so I decided to shake us up a bit at the break and it did the trick. The second half was a wave of Blue shirts camped inside the Cheltenham half. George Saville was having a good night with another assist this time for Luke Freeman in the 66th minute restoring our lead back to two goals.
Freeman struck again this time just 11 minutes from the end to put the game to bed.
Full Time Millwall FC 4-1 Cheltenham
Saturday 28th August 2021
Matchday number 5 in the EFL Championship and we welcome Blackpool to The Den for the final game of the month. Despite us starting the game on the front foot Blackpool are breaking our play up with ease. We have started the game in a 4231 formation and Blackpool are out numbering us in the central midfield strata and take the lead when Keshi Anderson opens the scoring after 17 minutes.
I revert back to the 433 shape and we end the half in level terms thanks to a Jed Wallace penalty just after the half hour mark when Benik Afibe plays Mason Bennett in on goal only for Kenny Dougal to give away a penalty and receive a yellow card. We finish the half with the momentum.
Half Time Millwall FC 1-1 Blackpool FC
I lose my cool in the dressing room and tell the team that they have been nothing short of useless in ploy to get them fired up and it worked a treat with the help of Kenny Dougal yet again picking up his second yellow of the match meaning an early bath.
We were now dominating the 10 men in orange are on the backfoot and we get the break through when in the 69th minute when Luke Freeman creates an opening for George Saville who takes the opportunity to put us 2-1 up. The extra man is taking its toll on the Blackpool players and Benik Afobe extends our lead with a nice finish in the 82nd minute to put us 3-1 up.
We pile on the pressure and soon it’s 4-1 then 5-1 with goals from Mason Bennett in the 88th minute and then Luke Freeman in the 94th minute.
Full Time Millwall FC 5-1 Blackpool
The first month of the season saw us reach the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup and reach 9th place in the table after 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats. Its going to be a tough season which I knew it would but I am really enjoying managing the club and have a connection with the club similar to the one that I have with Torquay United. Its funny how you seem to connect or not with club’s on FM. Millwall are a good honest club that are hard working in real life and it transfers in to the game in my World anyway. I am working closely with the U23 and U18 players in terms of developing them for the future. The board want us to play a direct style of football which is the opposite of how I like my teams to play so that could be an issue if we are not getting results playing my way, I am hopeful that I can change the boards thinking on this so it’s important we reach our expectations. In terms of the 1st team squad I am pleased with what we have got and over the first month of the season it’s no surprise that Jake Cooper and Shaun Hutchinson are the rock of our defence and are averaging 7.43 and 7.22 respectively with Cooper starting all 7 games of the season so far and Hutchinson 6 out of 7 starts. With the heavy schedule it’s important that we have a squad of players who can rotate with as many as 3 games in a week.
Part 3 of the Millwall save will be soon so until then thanks for reading and the interaction. You can find me on Twitter @vanskidderfm