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Five things we learned from Millwall 2-1 Blackpool

© Edmund Boyden
© Edmund Boyden

#1: Millwall's best is still to come

As Ian Holloway alluded to after Saturday's win over his former club, Millwall are yet to hit top form this season and their best is still to come.

The Lions "scrapped" their way to three points, Holloway said, instead of ramming home their advantage with the score at 2-0 against what must be said were poor opponents.

Millwall really should have killed the game off and won by three or four but gave Blackpool a glimmer of hope by conceding a sloppy goal on the counter-attack.

Nile Ranger's strike was made even more frustrating by the fact that the Lions were enjoying their most dominant spell of the match when the striker made it 2-1.

It was an uncharacteristic lapse of concentration by Holloway's side and made what should have been an enjoyable final 20 minutes and nervous wait for the final whistle.

Holloway is big on team structure and was furious that, when Shaun Williams attempted an ambitious shot from the edge of the area, eight blue shirts were in front of the ball.

Admittedly it was a fluke rebound that allowed Francis Zoko to collect possession and race downfield, before sliding in Ranger, but Millwall's defending of the situation was poor.

But it says a lot about the side's potential this season that, after five games, the Lions have ten points and yet still there are still some obvious improvements to be made.

#2: That being said…

While there's no doubting the fact that Millwall ought to have won by a greater margin, that they managed to see the job through after Ranger's goal showed great character.

And they also deserve credit for scoring the first goal, something they failed to do whilst they were on top against Rotherham the previous weekend – and were punished for.

The Lions' frustrating tendency to slip up against the lesser sides featured prominently in last Sunday's Five Things We Learned following the 1-0 defeat by the Millers.

Many feared that the visit of rock-bottom Blackpool to The Den would follow a similar script.

So after going ahead through Scott McDonald's first-half opener, it was hugely important that Scott Malone added a second goal to give Holloway's side a bit of breathing space.

Ranger's goal spoiled what was set to be a storming finish.

And Holloway reacted swiftly to the threat of an unlikely Blackpool equaliser by bringing on towering centre back Byron Webster, whose aerial prowess was vital in the last 15 minutes.

Alan Dunne was struggling to win headers against Ranger and so introducing Webster from the bench was a smart move which saw Millwall regain control of their penalty area.

This game was another potential banana skin and though the Lions did things the hard way, they got the job done nevertheless. And that's a step forward from the Rotherham game.

#3: Scott McDonald's best Millwall performance

That was quite some performance by Scott McDonald – and probably his best in a Millwall shirt.

The Australian was subdued in the Lions' previous two Championship matches, against Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham, but he really turned on the style yesterday.

McDonald, now playing in midfield, caught the eye in the early wins over Leeds and Fulham but his displays were lacking an end product or a telling contribution in the final third.

That all changed against Blackpool as he scored the opening goal before turning provider for Scott Malone with an inch-perfect cross to the far post.

With Holloway opting to play one striker up front, the success of Millwall's season depends on the likes of McDonald scoring and creating on a regular basis.

He's now shown that he can do that in a new position.

The 31-year-old's defensive work was equally impressive – he tracked back and closed the ball down when needed and was prepared to drop deep to win back possession.

You only have to look at McDonald's goalscoring record to know that he is a dangerous player, but for whatever reason he didn't do himself justice last season.

Reinvented as a midfielder and with a spring back his step, the early signs suggest that McDonald's second year as a Lion will be a lot more successful that his first.

#4: Jack Powell passes his Championship test

The standing ovation said it all. Jack Powell's league debut was excellent.

The 20-year-old passed his Championship test with flying colours – literally. He made more passes (54) than any other blue shirt, even though he was subbed with ten minutes to go.

And his pass completion rate of 87% was bettered only by Carlos Edwards' 89%. Powell also played more accurate long ball and made more interceptions than any of his teammates.

That's not forgetting his assist for McDonald's 33rd-minute goal.

Having played 90 minutes against Southampton in midweek, Powell understandably tired against Blackpool and, fitness-wise, he's still adjusting to the demands of senior football.

But his performance will give Holloway a pounding selection headache when the Millwall boss comes to select his starting XI for the trip to Ipswich on September 13.

When the international break is over, Jimmy Abdou, Nicky Bailey and Ed Upson will all be available for selection again, giving Holloway an array of midfield options.

Powell, though, has done everything possible to warrant another start.

#5: Tougher challenges lie ahead

When the season resumes in a fortnight's time, Millwall will take on Ipswich Town and Reading in back-to-back away games before hosting early pace-setters Nottingham Forest.

That trio of fixtures will show just how far the Lions have come under Ian Holloway.

Their three wins so far have been over sides in the middle of crises. Leeds have already sacked their manager, Fulham will soon sack theirs and Blackpool's boss will probably quit.

Holloway has already identified the trip to Portman Road as one of the toughest matches of the season and that is when the going will really get tough for his side.

Millwall are in fantastic shape with ten points in the bank after five games but they now face three Championship heavyweights who will put their strong start to the test.

Alex Aldridge

(@accordingtoaldo)

9 thoughts on “Five things we learned from Millwall 2-1 Blackpool

  • August 31, 2014 at 19:13
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    Wheres Fred? I thought he was ihs chosen one

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    • August 31, 2014 at 19:20
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      @gatecrasher: He'll probably be loaned out. He wont get started with the players we have ahead of him. Don't forget Scannell is signing for us (Apparently).

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  • August 31, 2014 at 19:19
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    The trip to Portman road will indeed be a tough one. Our defending against set-plays and corners for me is still dodgy and their number 6, Berra, gets on everything in the air. IH needs to do his homework on this one.

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  • August 31, 2014 at 19:29
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    All good points for once, rather than a load of crap!!!
    Point 2, finish teams off, at 2-0 we were coasting and should of racked up at least a couple more goals, instead we were left biting our nails!!!
    Point 4, Jack Powell, brilliant debut, played like a pro who's been in the game 10 years, great prospect !

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  • August 31, 2014 at 20:44
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    9 points from the drop. That will do me!

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  • September 1, 2014 at 08:04
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    Didn't we learn that Fuller is not the kind of the player who play up front on his own? I'm not sure we even have this type of player in the squad - unless something breaks today.

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  • September 1, 2014 at 13:33
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    Great article but terrible use of the word 'literally' in point 4.

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  • September 1, 2014 at 19:45
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    Sadly Fuller not going to be any good for us this season, why would IH be likely to loan Gregory out? WTF can he not give him at least a full run out, if he is good enough then he is old enough, if not why fcuking buy him. Need Bailey in midfield, Woolford going backwards.
    Why do we play one up front at home, these new diamond shapes suck... We are able to retain the ball and play it around but the last third we are lost. Come on Ollie, put out a attacking unit that includes Gregory.
    Well done Jack Powell fantastic display. Ready to wager he goes out on loan.

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  • October 20, 2015 at 20:08
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    Help

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