FAN Report of the Millwall game from Matthew Reaks, @__mtthw
My first away game of the season sent me to Bermondsey to play against Millwall at The Den; a place I had never seen Town win.
It was my fourth visit to The Den and in those previous results I’d seen us lose 3-1, 2-0 and 4-0 so it’s fair to say Millwall hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for The Terriers in recent years. But surely today was the perfect time to change that? Up against a Millwall side under new management, which are already under pressure from the Millwall faithful having played two League games and taking zero points from a possible 6.
Their defeats came at home to newly promoted Yeovil on the opening day and last weekends 3-0 away defeat at Ipswich. Could Town add to The Lions’ misery? I was confident.
I was glad to see the starting XI had stayed pretty much the same; with just one change. Jonathan Hogg came in for Oscar Gobern. I was disappointed to see Oscar drop to the bench but i’d heard very good things of Hogg and was excited to see him play.
The first ten minutes, I found very frustrating. We’d started on the back foot and Millwall controlled the game. We were trying to play our game but it just wouldn’t seem to happen for us. Millwall had a goal chalked off early on for a foul in the box and probably should’ve let no long after, but Morison missed his chance.
After the first ten minutes Town settled down and their game starting coming together, the fast, flowing football that we’d seen at QPR was creeping in Town were creating chances for themselves. Vaughan was put through and had outpaced the Lions’ centre half but was always falling and his effort fell straight into the hands of Bywater.
In the 33rd minute, Town put together the best move of the match, and the season (however short it’s been so far). It was possibly one of the best flowing moves i’ve seen from any Town team and deserved a goal at the end of it and Norwood went close, however the ball just flew over the crossbar.
Millwall had the first chance of the second half but it was Town who made the breakthrough. Who other than James Vaughan, who met Adam Hammill’s corner and powered a header past Millwall stopper Bywater. It was ironic that Town would score from a set piece. It was only on the journey down, me and a couple of mates were trying to remember the last time Town had scored from a set piece. My exact words were ‘We never score from set pieces’. Was it fate?
Town continued to play some lovely football and create more chances. However, I still think we look a little light up top, and at this moment, you can’t see anybody other than Vaughan scoring the goals so we aren’t punishing teams enough in my opinion.
Town still endured one or two shaky moment at the back and there’s one man who I can pick out for being at fault for a lot of these moments; Alex Smithies. Many people rate him highly and everyone will always have differing opinions of players; football is that sort of game but I don’t trust Smithies. I also don’t think the defence trust Smithies.
He’s very indecisive and struggles to command his 18 yard box and I think players are realising this. There are times when the defence don’t know whether he’s coming or going. There was one incident when he had the ball at his feet and he just dawdled and didn’t get rid of it, he was closed down by the Millwall attacker and ended up having to make a save that shouldn’t have happened. I don’t like ‘slagging players off’ but Smithies, for me needs a kick up the backside. I think he needs another keeper pressing him for that number 1 spot because at this moment in time, he knows full well he’s our goalkeeper and he won’t be dropped. I just think he needs someone to contest that spot.
The last ten minutes were very nervous. It was backs to the wall for Town as Millwall pressed and pressed but to no avail. Town stood firm and saw out the game to win 1-0.
I thought it was a win we fully deserved overall and there were more positive signs to take forward to the Bournemouth game. To be honest, I couldn’t fault any of the players. Apart from Smithies’ moments, not one of the players could really be faulted for their performance.
However, I think there were two stand out players for Town. James Vaughan was one. Not just for his goal, but his all round play is just brilliant. With his back to goal, particularly. He keeps everything flowing, and links the play together so well. And his determination to win the ball off the opposition is admirable. But again, it’s a central midfielder who gets my man of the match vote.
I just think Oliver Norwood had an outstanding game. Possibly his best game in a Town shirt. He was at the heart of everything, his distribution, we all know, can be impressive but yesterday I would say was at its peak. He seems to have grown in confidence. I think this is something to do with him playing in a midfield three, and being alongside Jonathan Hogg.
Hogg is the type of player who is always within 10 yards of the ball, whether we have possession or not. But when we do have the ball, I think this gives Norwood the space and freedom to play his game and he’s just thriving off it, at the moment. There were times last season where Norwood was very much out of favour and his confidence looked shot. But when he’s playing with confidence, he’s one hell of a player.
Alex Smithies 6
Anthony Gerrard 8
Peter Clarke 7
Joel Lynch 8
Adam Hammill 8
Adam Clayton 7
Jonathan Hogg 8
Oliver Norwood 9
Jake Carroll 8
Martin Paterson 8
James Vaughan 9
Calum Woods 7
Oscar Gobern 7
So another very pleasing Town display. It’s so good to see us trying to play the right way, getting it down and moving the ball about. It’s very enjoyable going to watch Town play at the minute. Long may it continue! Next up for Town are newly promoted Bournemouth at The John Smiths. They’ve had an inconsistent start to the season, taking maximum points at home against Charlton on the opening day, then getting trounced 6-1 away at Watford before beating Wigan today. Either way, it’ll be a tough game but one that I think we could take maximum points from again.