Gutted. Dismal. Just two of the many words that could have been used to describe my feelings after Millwall’s play-off final loss. I went to Wembley in high spirits after two strong performances in the semi finals vs a good Bradford side and us only having lost three or four times since Christmas. Barnsley also had a superb second half of the season and it looked as if there would be a great game.
A bit of ‘banter’ between the Lions and Tykes fans at Kings Cross St Pancras station lightened moods before that 20 minute tube to Wembley Park and the walk down famous Wembley Way. With ‘f*** off back to Barnsley’ chants from us and something in a northern accent I couldn’t comprehend from them! We arrived at Wembley before gates opened so decided that the Power League bar below was a good idea, although the Green Man Pub would have been a better choice with it being packed full of Wall fans!
Pre-match tensions started to build especially when our CB Byron Webster was injured just 10 minutes before kick off 9he had been struggling with an injury all week), and Steve Morison who had been captain for the majority of the season after Craig’s injury was set to captain the side until, wrongly in my opinion, Moro had the captaincy taken away from him with Craig replacing Webster. Harris and Craig said that this caused no problems but Morison later said he was hurt and angry, maybe it caused a rift in the squad?
So, just 2 minutes into the game after what can only be described as atrocious defending by captain Craig, we were 1-0 down. Within 20, it was 2 after no one closed Hammill down. We were disappointed to say the least, but continued to sing’ No One Likes Us’ amongst some other songs. Beevers pulled one back before half time but Martin’s injury took away all our momentum and we were never the same side that came close to equalising. It ended up 3-1 after what was in truth a poor game for the Lions.
With the additions of wingers Gregg Wylde and David Worrall on top of a 3 man, 50 something goal strike force which already had some quality on the wings, the attack looks even stronger with Worrall already contributing 3 or 4 assists in pre-season. Shaun Hutchinson has been brought in as well to replace new Bolton man Mark Beevers. He has looked strong in the friendlies and the former Fulham man also offers a threat going forward. Fred Onyedinma looks to be back in form, and has been playing well both out wide and up front. Main man Lee Gregory has 2 goals from 2 friendlies whilst Steve Morison has also picked up a goal.
Millwall released two central midfielders in Ed Upson and Jack Powell but, in my opinion, we should have kept at least one as we now only have three first XI CMs. However, with the standard of players that have come through the youth academy recently, either Kyron Farrell or former Arsenal academy player Harry Donovan could fill that void. Young right back James Brown has also put in some quality performances whilst now 2nd choice RB Shaun Cummings recovers from injury. Noah Chesmain has got a few friendly games under his belt and looks to be the new second choice left back. And, after his quality performance against Dover last night, I expect Tom King to challenge veteran David Forde for the backup keeper spot throughout the season. Young strikers Jamie Philpot and Alfie Pavey are also likely to get game time this year.
All in all, I think the squad has the character and desire to overcome last year’s defeat at Wembley and go up automatically this year, possibly by even winning the title. I personally think we will get 2nd with Charlton winning the league (unfortunately!) and last year’s fifth placed side Bradford finishing in 3rd place.