There was much disappointment around The Den last week after we fluffed the chance to go into next month’s second leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Area Final away to Oxford United with an advantage.
Losing 2-0 at home live on TV on Thursday (January 14) was not the result most of our supporters expected.
Oxford were always going to provide a tough test given how well they have been doing this season in the league and their great home win in the FA Cup against Premier League Swansea City in the previous match.
But the manner of the defeat made it tough to take. We lacked passion and drive out on the pitch. We were clearly missing the influence of skipper Tony Craig, the most vocal player we have in our squad.
If you look back over past years we have had some great leaders, such as Keith Stevens, Terry Hurlock, Barry Kitchener, Harry Cripps, Paul Robinson, Neil Harris, Les Briley, Andy Frampton and Dennis Wise. These players would run through a wall for the club. They had varying skill levels but led by example by making the most out of their ability.
All were good readers of the game and if they made a mistake they’d work their hardest to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. The current team lack this kind of leader.
Jimmy Abdou clocked up his 300th Lions appearance in the following match against Port Vale on Sunday, the 25th Millwall player to do so.
Abdou is another player who makes the most out of his ability who has also been a great servant to the club bouncing back to more write-offs than I can remember – although he too quiet to be a leader.
The goals conceded against Oxford were a disaster with David Forde dropping one of the worst clangers in his 339-match Millwall career letting a tame shot in at his near post when the ball bounced just before him.
We missed a hatful of chances with Lee Gregory being particularly guilty and the only hope is that, going into the second leg, we can create those chances again – and then convert them.
The concern will be whether we can keep a clean sheet. Forde was axed against Port Vale on Sunday and unless Jordan Archer gets injured or suspended I would be surprised if we see Forde again in a Millwall shirt.
He has been a great servant to the club and had many great seasons with us but sadly he has lost his form and we need to play the more reliable keeper.
The comfortable 3-1 win against Port Vale courtesy of a brace from Lee Gregory and one from Steve Morison keeps us in the hunt of a play-off place but we need to follow that up with a result up at Chesterfield this Saturday. Consistency of results with leadership on the pitch is the key.
Ian Toal is a committee member at Millwall Supporters Club