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Five things we learned: Derby County 0-0 Millwall

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

#1: Webster bounces back from Reading disappointment

Ian Holloway was the first to admit that the circumstances of Byron Webster's substitution against Reading last month would have knocked the confidence of any player.

The centre back, making his league debut for the club, was hooked off after just 26 minutes to accommodate a tactical switch with the Lions 2-0 down.

Holloway claimed Webster took the decision in "fantastic spirit" but, on the inside, he would surely have felt like a scapegoat as he trudged to the touchline.

It was a nightmare start to Webster's Championship career with Millwall.

So when he was recalled to the starting XI on Saturday, Webster had a point to prove – and there couldn't have been a better platform for him to do so than against third-placed Derby.

The Rams had already hit 18 goals this season (compared to the Lions' ten) and have been in particularly ominous form at home, where they've lost just twice under Steve McClaren.

It was a big opportunity for Webster to get back on track and he seized the opportunity with both hands, producing a commanding and composed performance.

Webster struck up an immediate understanding with Millwall's other centre back on the day, Shaun Williams, who was a calming influence at the heart of the defence.

Between the two of them, Williams and Webster made seven tackles, three interceptions, 14 clearances and three blocks as Derby's sharp forward line was blunted.

Webster will be relieved that his second league start for the Lions lasted longer than his first – but he can also be proud of a resilient display and a hard-earned clean sheet.

#2: Briggs passes test of character with flying colours

When Matthew Briggs first joined Millwall on trial in the summer, Ian Holloway expressed niggling doubts about the left back's mental strength.

"If I bring someone to my club who might not start well and then cannot handle it, then I'm wasting my chairman's money," Holloway said, before handing the ex-Fulham star a deal.

Briggs' career at The Den started well enough. 27 minutes into his debut against Wycombe, he scored what proved to be the winning goal in the first round of the Capital One Cup.

But in the same game, and having been booked for removing his shirt in celebration, Briggs was shown a second yellow card and consequently a red.

Were Holloway's fears about the defender coming true already?

After serving a one-match suspension, Briggs was recalled for the second round tie against Southampton. He had a quiet game, was booked again and hadn't been seen since.

So like Webster, Briggs needed to lay down a marker against the Rams. This was his league debut and the first time he had been picked ahead of Scott Malone in the Championship.

Briggs was lucky to escape an early yellow card for a raking lunge on Chris Martin but, after that rash tackle, he really grew into the game and was effective at both ends of the field.

He made more tackles than any other Millwall player and used his strength and speed to get up and down the left flank, troubling Derby's back four with a couple of mazy runs.

He was also inches away from scoring with a left-foot rocket that arced narrowly wide of the bottom corner.

But what stood out the most – and will have pleased Holloway more than anything – was Briggs' defensive discipline against a very dangerous opponent.

The former England U21 international proved, in the face of mounting Derby pressure in the second half, that he can stand up and be counted when the going gets tough.

#3: O'Brien a threat on first Championship start

Aiden O'Brien made a big impact when he came on against Birmingham last Tuesday.

That impressive substitute appearance was his first in the Championship – and it was rightly rewarded with a full league debut at the iPro Stadium.

And on what was his 21st birthday, O'Brien came of age.

Switching between the left and the right wing, he offered a real threat on the counter attack and put in the necessary defensive work too, which isn't always true of a young player.

He was efficient with the ball (completing 80% of his passes) and created two chances – one for Lee Gregory, whose shot was blocked, before his own drive was deflected for a corner.

O'Brien nearly chalked up his second assist of the week with a dangerous low cross to the back post which was whipped away from Gregory's toes by a defender at the last second.

It was a really promising performance.

When Holloway discusses the youngsters on the fringes of his squad, O'Brien is spoken of in the same terms as Fred Onyedinma and Sid Nelson – even though he is several years older.

So by O'Brien's own admission, he has reached the make or break, sink or swim stage of his Millwall career after working his way up through the academy ranks.

Now that he has finally broken into the Lions' senior side, O'Brien will be desperate to stay there. And he did more than enough against Derby to warrant another start.

#4: Holloway wins tactical battle to frustrate Rams

Derby fans have accused Millwall of playing anti-football.

But before they start complaining about the Lions' defensive display, perhaps they should question why their side could only muster one shot on target.

In fact, the visitors had more efforts on goal than Derby did (11 compared to ten) and two of those forced Lee Grant into making saves, albeit routine ones.

Likewise, David Forde's only stop of the afternoon was a two-handed parry from Jamie Ward's 20-yard drive. Frankly, neither side created enough clear-cut opportunities.

But Millwall would have been asking for trouble if they had opened up and tried to beat the Rams at their own game. That almost certainly would have ended in a defeat.

Bolton tried to "out-football" McClaren's side last week and ended up losing 2-0. Their then manager, Dougie Freedman, paid for that tactic with his job just days later.

So Holloway set his side up not to concede and he was absolutely right to do so because the Lions desperately needed a positive result before the international break.

If Derby want to be promoted to the Premier League, they will first have to find a way of breaking down stubborn opponents.

And their fans should learn to recognise a brave performance when they see one.

#5: Break has come at the perfect time for Lions

Millwall need to regroup so this international break is perfectly-timed.

And thankfully the Lions don't have another loss to stew on before their next game against Wolves in a fortnight's time. A point at Derby gives them something to build on.

When the Championship took two weeks off at the start of September, Holloway's men were building up a head of steam but a bit of downtime took the wind out of their sails.

This time around, however, the break will work in Millwall's favour. By the time the games resume again, Lee Martin should be able to return from a knee injury.

And Holloway can now afford to focus more of his attention on exploring the loan market for possible additions to his squad.

But more importantly, the Lions manager will spend time with his players on the training ground ironing out the defensive frailties that have emerged during the past month.

Millwall have long had difficulty scoring goals but, as their performance at Derby proved, they can be much tighter at the back and that has to be Holloway's top priority.

Alex Aldridge

(@accordingtoaldo)

23 thoughts on “Five things we learned: Derby County 0-0 Millwall

  • October 5, 2014 at 20:32
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    Need a goal scorer fast! COYL!!!

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  • October 5, 2014 at 21:36
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    333lions

    Agreed but survival depends on not letting in goals, teams are built from the back.

    We don't want another wage thief let Gregory and O'Brien have a decent run and see what they can do.,

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  • October 5, 2014 at 21:53
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    Martin's return will surely be welcomed we've missed his hard work and I think its no coincidence our dip in form started when he got injured. Webster really surprised me how good he is with his feet for such a big fella, but would rather see him with Beavers at the back as Williams is true class in midfield and maybe that's the main reason we couldn't open Derby up. If Ranegie is out for a couple of months we need to let him go and get another target man for a plan B as Fuller isn't consistent enough he is better suited for when we are defending a lead and holds the ball up well. What happened with Eagles? Surely we knew what wages he was after, is it dead in the water or is he just stuck up his a*** and asking for to much? NOLU WDC

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  • October 5, 2014 at 23:01
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    Hmmmmm.

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  • October 5, 2014 at 23:08
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    what about playing Malone in front of Briggs - turn him into a Gareth bale

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    • October 5, 2014 at 23:20
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      @timchimes: absolutely,
      Was gonna post similar but opted to post about Williams instead.
      I couldn't agree more Tim, bale started as a very good young LB at saints and spurs turned him into the attacking force he now is.
      We need a winger so why not push SM up, definately worth a try and would keep both SM and MB happy.

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    • October 5, 2014 at 23:20
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      @timchimes: Ollie did put Malone on and tried it out and it did cause some problems for Derby, but I wouldn't drop Woolford though he has been a bit quiet lately. If things don't go well for Woolford against Wolves I would like to see Briggs come on for Woolford and push Malone up as Briggs is better at Defending than Malone imo. COYL

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  • October 5, 2014 at 23:13
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    Might get shot for this but hey Ho.
    Williams is undoubtedly our best player up to now. Ollie needed to make obvious changes to our back line and opted for Webster and Williams in the middle which proved a success. Moving dunne back to right back also worked in our favour but I can't help but think that Williams may prove to be our best CH, yes I agree he's our best holding midfielder but we have been crying out for a ball playing CH and he's head and shoulders above anything we have in our squad and reading the reports Webster slotted in beside him nicely. Every good team relies on a good CH partnership and we haven't really had one since nethers and dyche. I ain't gonna blow smoke up either of their a***'s as ollie could change it all again come the wolves game. We really lack any real leadership at the back and the indecision has lead to the whole spine being all over the place, too many players having to drop back to cover one bad mistake by the CH, scott Mcdonald is meant to be the supply behind the front man but how many times have we seen him picking the ball up in front of the back 4 all because the CH's have not been good enough to consistently do their jobs properly.
    Well against the inform rams our CH's held their own and showed plenty of promise. I'd like to see what can come of it. We have more than enough midfielders who can do a good job but putting Williams in the back line may just make us a lot more organised and give who ever plays in front of him the confidence to push forward and do the job he's supposed to. He's a natural defender and more or less has been playing there all season with the amount of covering he has done so why not play him there, we have nothing to lose.
    It was hard to see why that change worked so well, was it dropping beevers or moving Dunne over to RB, or both ?
    Could beevers and Webster be a good partnership or Dunne and Williams ? At a push I'd go with beevers and Webster but I really hope ollie sticks with Williams bad Webster. I'd even go as far as bringing in another RB and making Williams captain.

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    • October 5, 2014 at 23:35
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      @lukesmithmfc: You make a good point but id go with Webster/Beavers as I think Webster is pretty good at passing out the back from what I've seen and is pretty vocal which has been missing lately. Williams for me is far more valuable further up the pitch with his passing range and offers that killer pass for Gregory and O'Brien or Fuller which with our lack of goals is more vital as I would trust Webster/Beavers combination. NOLU WDC

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      • October 5, 2014 at 23:47
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        @mitchamscaff: you could be right mitch but are we now in a position where we can continue to tinker with the line up especially the back 4? Its the 2nd international break and we still havent a settled side, what happens when bailey and martin return? Martin has to start and I get the impression ollie likes bailey enough to start him but as ollie has said bailey and williams gets in each others way so for that reason alone I would leave williams and webster at the back.
        Either way I think we have a special player on our hands in williams and what a bargain

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        • October 6, 2014 at 01:17
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          @lukesmithmfc: If Ollie does insist on picking Bailey I would rather keep Williams in CH over Beavers like you said, but personally I prefer Williams over Bailey. I think when Bailey is fit he will need to earn his way back in and go from there, as for Martin I would play Chaplow on the right until he is fit then ease him back into the team unless Chaplow does an outstanding job then that'll be another debate for the future. No matter what happens the manager of any team needs to tinker when there is a lot of injuries occur and the defence takes a bit of a knock in confidence. This break couldn't of came at a better time roll on Wolves 3 points and it would be nice to bang 3 in for the 1st time in a long time in front of the Den crowd and remind KJ what a great club this is COYL!

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    • October 6, 2014 at 18:05
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      @lukesmithmfc: dropping Malone was the key, he is a liability and should only be considered as an attacking option, from the bench.

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  • October 6, 2014 at 12:24
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    Williams is by far the most influential player we have with the ball, he's calm and can pick a pass out (for £250,000 what a bargain!!). If our CH's don't learn to play the ball out then unfortunately Williams will have to drop in and play there with Webster (who is also pretty good on the ball).

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  • October 6, 2014 at 14:31
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    I think it's gotta be Webster and beevers at back Williams is too influential on middle of park to put him at back , as for baileys inclusion he needs to fight to get back in and get fit and stay fit I agree it's worth pushing Malone forward least he runs at people

    Still need to get a right back on loan a striker and a winger in my view

    Doubt any will arrive though until some deadwood is cleared

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  • October 6, 2014 at 14:31
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    I think it's gotta be Webster and beever at back Williams is too influential on middle of park to put him at back , as for baileys inclusion he needs to fight to get back in and get fit and stay fit I agree it's worth pushing Malone forward least he runs at people

    Still need to get a right back on loan a striker and a winger in my view

    Doubt any will arrive though until some deadwood is cleared

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  • October 6, 2014 at 14:37
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    Dont wanna be the one whos having a moan but when illite came in he signed upson and Williams and said he wants youthful players with potential and he did that both young cheap and have potential. Since then his signings not all bad havent had the same impact on the squad as those 2 Williams is a ever present master pass man an upson is a good attacking player but is weak a puppy s*** (gym work needed there ed) midfield is our strongest area by far and ollie found some gems in those 2 I'm just curious as to how comes its so hard to find gems in the final third of the pitch. Gregory has glimpses of potential but at 500k hes more of a gamble than a bargain.

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    • October 6, 2014 at 14:48
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      @spartacus:

      You say Gregory is a gamble yes I suppose he is but I would rather someone like that than the s*** we have wasted on loans how much the likes of hulse, Tyson , hoyte , and various others cost us over the course of there contracts ?

      Perhaps when we sign players we should include a pay as you play deal fxxk me we would be laughing then !!

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    • October 6, 2014 at 14:50
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      @spartacus:

      You say Gregory is a gamble yes I suppose he is but I would rather someone like that than the shxx we have wasted on loans how much the likes of hulse, Tyson , hoyte , and various others cost us over the course of there contracts ?

      Perhaps when we sign players we should include a pay as you play deal fxxk me we would be laughing then !!

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    • October 6, 2014 at 16:10
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      @spartacus: I think you will find Gregory was £250,000 not £500,000

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  • October 6, 2014 at 14:52
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    Why does it keep saying publication failed she it hasn't ?

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  • October 6, 2014 at 17:42
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    Gregory is a goal scorer, he will score goals for us, he just needs to be supplied so IH go get another winger, right back and another target man to replace reggie seeing as he is injured I have faith in Gregory to become a good goal scorer for us

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  • October 7, 2014 at 17:51
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    Sorry I've been away, can anyone give me an update on Angel Martinez?

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    • October 7, 2014 at 19:25
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      @CGLR53:

      Injured

      Physio is now using the executive suite as his offices are too cramped

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