LEE Gregory and Aiden O’Brien fired Millwall to their third successive victory at The Den against a Swindon side who were overwhelmed and could have lost more comprehensively.
Gregory put Millwall a goal up against an injury-ravaged Robins on 19 minutes when he shot past Lawrence Vigouroux after being put through by O’Brien.
Millwall missed a host of chances throughout the game but O’Brien built on his burgeoning reputation by firing in his fifth goal of the season seven minutes after Gregory’s strike.
This was arguably Millwall’s most dominant performance of the season, yet curiously also one of the most frustrating as Steve Morison, Tony Craig, George Saville and O’Brien, among others, wasted numerous opportunities to hand Swindon an even more severe beating.
As it was, the Lions had to be happy with two goals – and they now go to Blackpool on Tuesday night in a run of favourable fixtures in October that offers an enticing chance to rise towards the play-off spots.
Proactive or pragmatic?
Neil Harris picked a really attacking line-up with three strikers and Shane Ferguson wide on the left. The feeling after seeing Swindon lose so many first-team players to injury or suspension must have been to go for the jugular of a weakened beast.
Swindon have found it difficult to recover from having their Championship hopes dashed by Preston in the play-off final in May. They made some sweeping changes during the summer with 19 players coming in, but they hadn’t won in seven before this game.
And you could see why initially. It was all Millwall in the first half and they should have gone in at the break four goals ahead.
With most of the attacking intent coming down the left and Joe Martin and Ferguson linking up really well, the goal came from a source on the right. Swindon’s Drissa Traore and Momar Bangoura had been trying to create something for their side when Carlos Edwards won the ball back. It was shifted forward quickly and O’Brien fed Gregory who finished well under Vigouroux.
O’Brien was playing out of position but having initially found it difficult to get into the game he started to flourish with Millwall well on top. His goal was another from range and another from a player in serious form. With that though, will the bigger vultures be circling come January? You would have to conclude yes.
Did the injuries take their toll?
No, but with the caveat that Swindon were down to the bare bones. Harris went for loan player George Saville to partner Shaun Williams in midfield rather than the more attack-minded Ben Thompson.
And Saville looks like a real Millwall player. He was composed on the ball and sharp to nip in front of Ben Gladwin late in the first half to initiate another attack. The former Chelsea man, with Williams, who looks a different player to the one dropped for the 2-0 defeat to Chesterfield, gave the defence perfect protection in that space in front of the centre-backs that was exploited ruthlessly by Coventry and Barnsley during that awful home run.
Harris will surely be speaking with Kenny Jackett to get the deal extended.
And he might look to do the same with Ferguson’s deal. The left-winger was excellent in the first half, producing two superb pieces of control and generally providing the energy and urgency in front of a diligent Martin.
The only concern for Harris was that Millwall should have won by more with Morison, otherwise excellent, spurning two glorious chances in the first half.
Man of the match
It was between O’Brien and Saville but the Irish striker gets it for his decisive contributions. He was cool to play in Gregory and then he connected perfectly with the ball for his goal.
He also showed his versatility by starting on the right of midfield and switching to the left when Fred Onyedinma came on. He then went up front when Lee Martin entered the field.
O’Brien has been linked with Everton and Swansea in the past and his value continues to rise. And a measure of his value on the pitch is the improvement in Millwall’s form since he recovered from the injury he picked up in pre-season.
As Harris has said, he can link play, hold the ball… and he’s got a wicked shot in him. He’s well on the way to 15 goals this season and that should propel Millwall up the table.