WE ARE just over halfway in the 2012-13 campaign, and what a season it has been so far in comparison to the first 24 games of the previous season.
4 – The number of more wins we have at this stage of the season as we did last year
13 – The number of goals scored more than this time in the 2011/12 season
1 – Millwall have conceded one more goal in comparison with this stage last term
+12 – The swing in goal difference 12 months on.
4 – Four defeats less this season after 27 games than in the last campaign
13 – The total number of points greater than Millwall’s tally after 26 games in the 11/12 season
Before the season started I would have taken a dull mid-table finish with the odd upset over the big boys in the Championship.
But considering Millwall lie ninth in the table and only outside the top six by just five points, it just shows what a magnificent turn around it has been, masterminded by the division's longest-serving manager, Kenny Jackett.
After 28 league games last season, the Lions were languishing in 21st position and five points above the relegation zone. Fast forward 12 months and after an unconvincing start to the season, Millwall hit form with an unbeaten run of 13 games.
We've started off 2013 with two wins and one defeat in the league and progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup against Premier League strugglers, Aston Villa.
A 2-0 home defeat to play-off rivals Burnley saw the visitors leapfrog us into seventh in the league, with Millwall now ninth – five points off the playoffs.
However, Millwall are still positioned perfectly for a play-off charge in the second half of the season; historically their stronger half of the campaign.
Millwall have improved considerably in the last year – we are 13 places better off in the league and five points off the top six. Only nine points off the top two automatic places. We are right in the mix.
The doom and gloom that was clouding The Den last year has been replaced with optimism that Millwall can seriously challenge for promotion to the Premier League.
As it stands right now, we are in with as good of a chance as anyone in this league. Excluding the relegated and promoted teams Millwall have bettered eight results so far than they did last season:
*Scores in brackets indicate 2011/2012 season results.*
Middlesbrough H 3-1 (1-3)
Bristol City A 1-1 (1-0)
Birmingham H 3-3 (0-6)
Nottingham Forest A 1-4 (3-1)
Watford A 0-0 (2-1)
Derby H 2-1 (0-0)
Leeds H 1-0 (0-1)
Bristol City H 2-1 (1-2)
Conversely, Millwall have had seven worse results:
Blackpool H 0-2 (2-2)
Cardiff H 0-2 (0-0)
Brighton H 1-2 (1-1)
Burnley A 2-2 (1-3)
Ipswich A 3-0 (0-3)
Barnsley H 1-2 (0-0)
Cardiff 0-1 A (0-0)
From that, there is obvious improvement not only evident in the points tally and positioning in the league, but also against certain teams; away to Nottingham Forest (4-1) being the standout result.
That excludes all games against promoted and relegated sides – of which Millwall only lost one, against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Not forgetting, my game of the season, and result of the season so far – a 2-0 win at Ewood Park against former Champions of England, Blackburn Rovers.
The signs are there and the stats prove it: we can challenge and compete this season against the big boys. There is always one surprise package every season, so why not Millwall?
Millwall have only lost four of their last 21 league games, and those four defeats have been in the last eight games, after previously going 13 games unbeaten in The Championship.
If the Lions can better their tally in the remaining 19 games, then the play-offs are a real possibility. But regardless of what happens, it’s been one hell of an accomplishment to be mixing it up with the financial heavyweights in this league, and beating a few of them too.
We don’t need players who were never ours to begin with, nor do we need players that aren’t committed to helping Millwall achieve a place in the play-offs.
We need Millwall type players who will graft and give their all for the shirt, like the ever reliable Danny Shittu, who has been immense as stand-in captain this season.
My Nan always says: “I’ll look at the table after Christmas,” and with Christmas now long gone, five points separates us from the play-offs. I for one will remain optimistic, until mathematically impossible, we can dream of reaching the play-offs.
Maybe even, dare I dream, the top two?
Regardless of whether we reach the play-offs or ultimately fall short, this season the team are already exceeding many expectations. Either way, buckle up; it’s going to be one hell of a ride.