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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Millwall Preview

Four wins in a row - could have been six if the ref hadn't disallowed Akpo's goal at Yeovil - has seen us close the gap to Leeds from the six points of two weeks ago down to only 2 points after the Lilywhites have had two draws in a row with Huddersfield and Brentford.
Both teams have difficult games next week with Leeds at home to Pardew while we entertain, if that's the word, the Spanners.
Oh, yes, Millwall. Anyway, in the next 4 games up till January 2nd, we have them and Swindon at home and Brentford and Walsall away which will take us on to 25 games. Both Brentford and Walsall have decent home records with 4 wins each and only a couple of home defeats while Swindon have won 4 games away from home. On paper then, of the four games only Millwall, with just a single away win, looks the easiest although, it being their cup final, we know it won't be. But, forgetting them, as we'll be able to do next year, a good run over those four games could see us sitting in top spot because over the same period Leeds, with their cup game at Salford on January 3rd, only have 3 League games; a sticky Pardew and a simple Hartlepool at home and then Stockport away....
And, of course, 6 points from our next two games will see us equalling Leicester's halfway total last season.

So the Spanners. Not our favorite team over the years but as young Dave very well points out over at Drinking, things have changed a lot over the years. Manager at the Spanners is now 47 year old Kenny Jackett. Born in Watford he played for them a massive 335 times before retiring injured at the age of 28. He's been manager at Millwall since November 2007.
Millwall are currently 8th, two points off the Play-Offs, but with the 16th worse away record in League One and only 1 win to show for 10 away games. However, they keep it tight and only ultra-cautious Oldham and desperate-to-survive-at-this-level Brentford have seen less that the total of 22 goals scored in those 10 games so while they have only scored 9 away goals, against the Addicks 17, they have only conceded one more than we have away from home. Nevertheless, they have had four away defeats at Bristol and Gillingham both 2-0, Orient 1-0 and last time out on the road an embarrasing 3-0 drubbing at Hartlepool. A game at lowly Stockport was their only away win so far and they couldn't even win at Staines (FA Cup ) or at Barnet (JPT).
So after their superb three wins in a row in October over Stockport 4-0, Leeds 2-1 and Colchester 2-1 they have only had two wins in the last 6 games.

Darren Ward has been back at the Den recently on-loan from Wolves. He had 4 years at the den back in 2001/04, which included their other cup final (lost), and he played sixteen times for us last season but was an un-used sub against Walsall last weekend with centre-back and captain Paul Robinson now back from injury.

The Opposition

Ex-Orient striker Gary Alexander hasn't played since coming on and scoring the winner against Leeds in October and is currently wearing a protective boot while sadly both top striker Neil Harris and winger Chris Hackett are also out injured.
With Hackett and Harris missing the key could be overcoming the battling spanners midfield. They've both got high numbers but number 24 Laird and 26 Abdou need careful watching. Scotsman Marc Laird was Port Vale's new manager Lee Sinnott's first signing two years ago from Manchester City but it wasn't long before he moved to the den and number 26 is 25 year old Frenchman Jimmy Abdou ex of Plymouth ( he played against us in our 2-1 win there in April 2008 ) and both are known as midfield tigers that never stop working.


All-time top Millwall scorer with 115ish is thirty-two year old Neil Harris and he tops the lists this year with 11 but sadly we'll have to pass up the chance of seeing him as he's out injured and hasn't played since the 2-2 draw at Brentford a month ago so ex Stevenage Borough Steve Morison has been filling in and has surprised everyone with 4 goals in the last 4 games. Everytime he scores, apparently, the Spanners have won but seems he doesn't like travelling as every single one of his total of 6 goals have been scored at the Den.

Whats Their Secret?
Their favorite score in 1-1 and they have the 4th best defence in League One ( 21 goals) with only Leeds, the Addicks and Colchester conceding less. And they are one of only 6 teams that have not lost a game once they have gone in front ( along with Leeds, the Addicks, Oldham, Exeter and Swindon). And as you can see after their victories over Leeds, Colchester, Huddersfield and MK - all at home of course - they also have an excellent record against the top half of the table with only 2 defeats in 9 games.

What Are They Saying?

Jackett was full of praise for striker Morison after his two goals against Walsall last weekend, "He needed an adjustment period coming from non-league into League One but he's worked hard for his two goals. He has to use his physical attributes and when he does he's more than a handful for defenders. The two centre-halfs need to know they've been in a game and Morison did that today with his pace and power."
Meanwhile over at Brentford Leeds' Grayson has been complaining about the Bees pitch last weekend but Andy Scott was not exactly sympathetic "It was a physical game and I think that Simon is clutching at straws if he's trying to blame the pitch and refereeing decisions."

You all know the figures, sixty-two games altogether and they have won 30 of them. Twenty one draws and only a paltry eleven Charlton wins. So a pathetic average of 1 win in every 6 games And you can't explain it away because we don't like the Den because our record against them at the Valley is truly woeful. Leeds can point to a 10-7 winning record in 19 games at the Valley but nobody can come near a Valley record of 13-7 to the spanners with a huge 11 draws. If it's any consolation thats 35% of games at the Valley being drawn and their last win at the Valley was 1992.

Our last confrontation was during their relegation season 1995/96 when we did the double over them with two 2-0 wins, our first over them since 1935/36.

The Team

Its just another game, or so Parky says, but I can't see him changing a winning team even for a derby. There's no news of our treatment room and before a critical game you won't expect it so its an unchanged eleven. Richardson has now missed 7 out of the last 9 and make abortive comebacks in the other two while Kelly Youga has now missed the last three.

And there's still 4 players on 4 yellows ( Dailly, Youga, Sam, and the shirt-removing McLeod) but they all seem to be making an effort to avoid the critical 5th. Christian Dailly, with Bailey the only player to have topped 2000 minutes action this season, after receiving 4 in 7 games hasn't had a single one in last 3.

But is Shelvey champing at the bit? Its only a single start in the last 7 for JonJo and no sub appearances either while Akpo has now racked up over two hours in an Addicks shirt but has still to start a game. And while Llera is keenly watching Christian in the hope of that 5th card, Sam Sodje is not far behind either with three yellows to his name.

Elliot; Omozusi, Dailly, Sodje, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Wagstaff; Mooney, Burton

They have a lot of injuries but have history on their side and their away form won't count for a lot in a steamy local derby. Predictions in derbies are always a lottery so maybe I'll cope out and consult the wisest. Of the 16 top predictors in cafcpicks (all those with double figures correct) seven forecast a win, eight a draw and only 1 ( step forward Bob Pooley) a defeat. But the top two ( Westie and Frankie ) saw a draw and the history says 35% drawn so thats my verdict, 2-2.

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