Three thoughts for this weekend – Swindon Town

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

The one before it gets really intense

Millwall should have beaten Wigan but a point was valuable as it prevented the gap to the top two from lengthening.
They couldn’t afford to slip up against Blackpool and didn’t and that suggests they have the psychological resources to deal with the building pressure.

Sure, Blackpool were hapless, but Millwall produced one of those performances infused with authority. That was illustrated by Steve Morison converting a penalty – he’d missed the only other one he’d taken this season, against Barnet in the League Cup last August.

Swindon feels like another one of those games they have to win before three season-defining fixtures against Sheffield United, Bradford and Burton.

Whether Carlos Edwards is available or not could make a crucial difference. If he isn’t risked then there will be two positional changes, with Shane Ferguson at left-back and, most likely, Ed Upson on the left of midfield.

Upson would be an able replacement but he doesn’t have the same ability to dribble and cross like Ferguson. It would change the dynamic of the side that looks close to a perfect formula: Ferguson and Jed Wallace on the flanks supplying rich service to Steve Morison and Lee Gregory.

A win would set them up perfectly for that triple test. But it won’t be easy…

Swindon much improved

If you were to describe the ideal behaviour from a chairman to give stability to a club then Lee Power would probably be at the other end of the spectrum.

Here is the 2015-16 highlights reel (so far): Ban the local media before the start of the campaign; sign 22 players and get rid of 20 (Some of whom are some of the 22 you signed); Sack the manager 11 games into the season (After the 2-0 defeat to Millwall in October); Appoint yourself as manager; Hire Martin Ling and see an upturn in form before the same manager stands down 56 days later; and, this week, give a relative novice a five-year deal as head boss.

And after all that Swindon have somehow dragged themselves from 22nd in the table near the end of November to their current position of 13th, seven points of the play-off places. Given that what Barnsley have done since Christmas (Rising from the relegation zone to the top six) shows what’s possible in this division, Swindon are not out of play-off contention.

That illustrates both a hope and a danger for Millwall: They have shown they have the quality to realistically to go on a winning sequence and gain automatic promotion; but equally, if the dip, there are sides capable of putting ominous runs of form together and edging them out of the top six.

Despite all the upheaval and instability, and now under the talented but inexperienced Luke Williams, Swindon are one of League One’s most dangerous sides.

Power says Williams is the best coach he’s seen in 25 years and maybe he’s genuine. Whether he is that brilliant or not Swindon will be far more of a threat than they were in October.

Millwall seemed to be caught off guard at Peterborough and Fleetwood this season. They can’t let that happen again.

Ajose threat

Nicky Ajose’s undulating career trajectory is almost the perfect representation of the chaos of Swindon’s season.

He is just 24, has already played for 10 clubs with his career seemingly going nowhere when he joined Leeds but barely played.

And now his own graph is going the same way as Swindon’s is currently – very definitely upwards.

He joined Swindon for the second time in his career last summer after a previous loan spell and had a relatively slow start, scoring two goals in nine games. But since that 2-0 loss at The Den he has been simply superb and close to unstoppable.

Lee Gregory’s record of 11 goals in 13 games is prolific but Ajose has done it over a slightly longer spell: He has scored 18 goals in 21 games, form that make him one of the division’s most fearsome strikers.

Of course, every hot streak has to come to an end and, with a defence that has kept six clean sheets in eight games, Millwall should have the defensive nous to at least know how to deal with him. Doing it is another matter.

And as Neil Harris said this week, the role of the central midfielders is key to that defensive solidity. Jimmy Abdou and Ben Thompson have provided clever and combative cover in the last two games against Wigan and Blackpool.

The communication between those two players and their back four will be crucial at the County Ground.

John Kelly