Five things we learned: Millwall 2-3 Brentford

© Keith Gillard
© Keith Gillard

#1: Scott McDonald a big miss

Leaving out Millwall's most consistent performer was a decision that Ian Holloway deeply regretted in hindsight.

Having scored twice without Scott McDonald in their previous game, Holloway wanted the Lions to start against Brentford how they finished against Blackburn.

But that move backfired and Holloway acknowledged his mistake afterwards.

It was evident after 20 minutes that McDonald was being sorely missed.

In the first half especially, the Lions turned over the ball with unforgivable ease. Nobody could retain possession in the final third.

And not enough pressure was being applied on the visitors' back four – they were given far too much time to feed the ball into midfield unchallenge.

Millwall were chasing shadows for the first 45 minutes. Their closing down was half a yard slower than the Bees' crisp passing.

McDonald's absence was so noticeable because of the defending he does from the front.

The Australian sets the standard for the Lions' pressing, and without him the side lacked cohesion. In contrast, Brentford hunted the ball down in packs.

McDonald is also brilliant at getting hold of and keeping possession, either by jinking past a player of turning out of a tackle until support arrives.

It was little surprise that his introduction from the bench after 57 minutes almost turned the game in Millwall's favour.

"Scott had played every minute of every game and I wanted to give him a rest but boy oh boy did I rue the decision to leave him out," said Holloway afterwards.

Given that post-match admission, you'd think this won't be a mistake the Lions boss makes twice.

#2: Lions struggle to raise their game

Millwall are a good underdog but they really struggle in the games they are expected to win.

This has been a problem for a while now, stretching far beyond Holloway's nine-month tenure, and it's a huge Achilles heel.

Even when the Lions did beat crisis club Blackpool at the end of August, they did so by just the one goal and were hanging on for dear life at the end.

Leeds, Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Cardiff? No problem. Away to Wigan and Derby? You can rely on a dogged rearguard action and a clean sheet.

Big games against big clubs typically bring the best out of Millwall.

But Rotherham, Birmingham and now Brentford have all rolled up at The Den this season and landed fatal blows simply by scoring the first goal.

Even though they were beaten 3-1 by Watford at the turn of the month, the Lions still produced one of their better performances at Vicarage Road.

But on Saturday, Millwall started so sluggishly. The Bees were sharper, faster and hungrier.

Mark Warburton's side are new to the division and determined to prove they belong here. They did just that.

So the Lions must find a way of raising their game against every opponent – not just those with the biggest budgets.

#3: Lions boss has chance to name settled side

A combination of injuries, suspensions and three-games-a-week has caused significant disruption to Millwall's back four.

But looking at their fixture list between now and Boxing Day, Holloway may now be able to field a settled side.

The Lions boss has rejected the notion that he is "deliberately chopping and changing", saying that making regular alterations to his XI has been necessary to prevent injuries.

With Andy Wilkinson banned for three games and Scott Malone nursing a muscle strain, Holloway has had one hand tied behind his back.

He has chosen to keep things fresh at centre half, where Alan Dunne and Byron Webster have rotated with Danny Shittu and Mark Beevers.

Goalkeeper David Forde admitted after defeat to Brentford that the changes in personnel in front of him "hasn't particularly helped".

Thankfully, Millwall's next six games each come a week apart, so the Lions will have enough downtime between matches to be firing on all cylinders.

#4: Gueye deserves a second chance after error

A loose first touch from Magaye Gueye led to Brentford’s second goal but the Frenchman should not be cast aside after one mistake.

He looked lively when he came on against Blackburn in midweek and was rightly rewarded with a start. But like many others on the day, his performance was mixed.

And his final contribution was to gift the Bees possession in a dangerous area, allowing Alan Judge to tee up Andre Gray for their second goal.

He was substituted seconds after that lapse, although his withdrawal was already being planned before the goal went in.

Gueye was a £1million player four years ago. He's 24, his best years are still ahead of him and he has only just been deemed fit enough to come back into the fold.

He needs the chance to play his way into some form.

#5: Up and at 'em is effective

Holloway has hinted that Millwall could try a new formation after the international break.

"I might have to look at changing shape and playing a different way to give our boys some confidence," he said.

"When we went from back to front and put Brentford under pressure, we looked really good."

When the Lions commit bodies into the box and get the ball forward quickly, they have far more potency about them.

That was the case against Wolves, when they came back from 3-0 down to draw, and against Blackburn, when they repeated the feat with ten men.

The same gung-ho approach nearly paid off at the weekend, when they overturned another two-goal deficit to briefly get themselves back on level terms.

There is a fine line between a fast-paced direct approach and aimless hoofball, but this tactic did the trick at the end of last season and it may be the answer again.

The only problem? Millwall don't have Stefan Maierhofer anymore…

Alex Aldridge

(@accordingtoaldo)

43 thoughts on “Five things we learned: Millwall 2-3 Brentford

  • November 10, 2014 at 13:20
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    That's about 35 things you say we've learnt but in actual fact we've learnt nothing !!!

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    • November 11, 2014 at 13:34
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      @cabydabydoo: I thought you learn from your mistakes 5 things ollies learned 1 nothing 2 nothing 3 nothing 4 nothing 5 nothing

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    • November 11, 2014 at 13:36
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      @cabydabydoo: I thought you learn from your mistakes 5 things oilles learned nothing

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  • November 10, 2014 at 13:23
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    five things we learned in my eyes.
    1. ranejie is quite possibly the worst striker in the league, GET RID!!!
    2. we need a 90 minute striker to partner gregory
    3. we need a settled 11 and very quickly
    4. we need to start using some players from the u21's
    5. our win rate is 26% since ollie took over! not good enough tbh, considering the so-called pedigree of the manager. but ill stick by him and hope it comes good eventually. NOLUWDC!!!

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    • November 10, 2014 at 13:34
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      @steveomfc5: settled back four yes, the whole spine if the team should start every game they are fit for. Forde/Beevers/Webster/Williams/Macdonald should start, the rest can be rotated.we do lack a regular target man though and Fuller/Ranegie are not doing the job. Gregory will score goals when played with a decent target man. Step forward Tom Pope.

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      • November 10, 2014 at 16:51
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        @glyngo: Pope is out for at least 3 months and after that kind of injury players are rarely the same again, but knowing us we will get him for top dollar and give him a nice fat contract and then he will keep the ginger sick note company in the treatment room.

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        • November 11, 2014 at 08:48
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          @Sealion: I didn't know that. wonder if we will still try to sign now. Apparently its lateral knee ligament damage.

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  • November 10, 2014 at 13:46
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    Another formation f****** head case

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    • November 10, 2014 at 15:06
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      @Jim28: couldn't have said it better jim. Talk about a contradiction on terms, he wants a settled side( that's a no brainer) but he wants to try a NEW formation( brain dead). Ollie I'm going out on a limb here but how about playing players where they are meant to be, and sod it, a really stupid idea, play 4-4-2

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      • November 10, 2014 at 17:25
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        @Geoff the lion: you never know you might get your wish.cos 4-4-2 is the only formation he has'nt used

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      • November 11, 2014 at 10:17
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        @Geoff the lion: hopefully the new formation will be a 4-4-2 to get confidence as everybody knows there position and role in the old trusted 4-4-2
        It will bring balance and hopefully get goals out of Gregory. Not sure how the midfield clicks with a 4-4-2 though.
        Martin / Williams or upon / McDonald/ woolford.
        Or play McDonald just behind Gregory, drop fuller and play both Williams and upson

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  • November 10, 2014 at 13:54
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    Can not believe what he is saying about leaving McD out and the rest is just b******s all what he has mentioned is down to him, the guy who lost us the game trying to look like Liam Trotter (not chasing back) needs another chance??? get rid of half a dozon and get a settled side that are up for every week he has lost it next it will be us then the dressing room then goodby.

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  • November 10, 2014 at 14:02
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    Why not play McDonald up front with Gregory.Thats his natural position,he's got pace,he's experienced which will help Gregory and he has good scoring record (Middlesbrough & Celtic)?

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    • November 10, 2014 at 15:57
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      @the verminhater: I think we are stronger with him in the midfield, who can play in his position and do as good a job?

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      • November 10, 2014 at 20:30
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        @glyngo: Maybe thats just the problem? We probably have more midfielders in our squad than any other team in this division,yet we have to play a proven striker in that position instead.

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    • November 10, 2014 at 16:54
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      @the verminhater: We need some height up front, we tried midgets last season and it don't work.

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  • November 10, 2014 at 14:17
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    To be fair we've had more than our share of injuries and suspensions. Having said that, Ollie IMO has unnecessary at times changed things too much. Yes we do need a settled side and a decent partner for Gregory,then we will see a massive improvement.

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  • November 10, 2014 at 14:18
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    Why doesn't he listen to the supporters and play with 2 strikers up front? OH, I FORGOT OTHER THAN GREGORY WE HAVEN'T GOT ANOTHER PLAYER CAPABLE OF SCORING GOALS!!! Also, he admits after the Brentford game that he made a mistake in not starting with McDonald in the team. He has also admitted previously that he hadn't treated Upson or Webster right either. AT THIS RATE BEFORE THE SEASON ENDS WE WILL HAVE A TEAM OF 11 HE ADMITS TO NOT TREATING PROPERLY BUT UNLESS RESULTS IMPROVE THAT WON'T STOP US FROM BEING RELEGATED!!!

    he

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    • November 11, 2014 at 10:22
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      @denslions:
      Isn't Magaye meant to be a striker? We've only seen him play wide, maybe play him and Gregory together. Easter looked good preseason, don't know what's hapoened to him. Or play obrien

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  • November 10, 2014 at 14:49
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    1. The Watford bloke Reginade or whatever he's called can do one.
    2. Why rest Mcdonald when there's two weeks break immediately following the match?
    3. Play two up front.
    4. Stop tinkering. You aint managing a big club with big names who are playing in Europe every other week so leave it out and stick with the same side.
    5. Play a formation which the players understand.
    6. Use our talented pool of young players who will go out with no fear. The performances they have put in when given the chance put some of the seniors to shame.
    7. Take off the flat cap. You look like a mug.
    8. How much did the club raise for the armed forces?
    9. Please send that oxegyn thief back to Watford.
    10. Lets hope Charlton away is the start of a decent run of results.

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  • November 10, 2014 at 15:03
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    IH needs to stop messing around with the defence and play the best four. Previously in my mind that would have been Wilkinson, Webster, Beevers, Malone but after his failure to contain Brentford's front players on Saturday I would probably have Shittu in for Beevers. For me, Webster has to start for his arial ability, passing and pace. Dunne doesn't even get neart the first team for me I am fraid. Love the bloke but he is just not good enough. I would rather ahve a youngster in.
    Then you want Williams in the middle and Gregory up front.
    Rotate the rest if you like but keep the spine and defence as consistent as injury and suspension allows.

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  • November 10, 2014 at 15:22
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    Yeah , to leave a player of MCDONALDs class out because he wants to rest him right when there's an international break coming up was a really stupid thing to do, especially when he wasn't getting games , was getting the hump and looked like moving on a while back. MCDONALD wants to play in every game and has looked our busiest and fittest player. Then if that's not bad enoughOllie then puts CHAPLOW in his place, who isn't anywhere near as fit cos he only gets bits and peices of games. Really poor decisions from a manic manager who is much too busy. He needs to calm down and stop wanting to be the main event all the time . The players need to get used to something, all the time it's different back four,different midfield, different strikers,different systems and none of it is proving successful , so it's time for you to change Ollie and stop keep changing.

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      • November 10, 2014 at 20:19
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        @glyngo: probably on his way to africa to captain his country

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  • November 10, 2014 at 15:53
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    whats happened to Jimmy?

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  • November 10, 2014 at 16:47
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    We don't need a striker come off it the two goals Saturday came from defenders if we had a couple of half decent ones we would have won 5 -3

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    • November 10, 2014 at 17:03
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      @mfc2u: What we need is strikers who can score and defenders who can defend. At the moment our defence have scored nearly as many as our strikers, a bonus I know but if we had strikers who could hit the target more often then perhaps our defence could get on with what it is supposed to do and keep the bloody goals out.

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  • November 10, 2014 at 17:20
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    HI, this is my first comment on nad. Can anybody tell me how many players did brentford rest on wednesday and saturday , because that had to play 2 games in a week , not many i bet .

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    • November 10, 2014 at 20:08
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      @little h: can you imagine how many times Andre Gray will be rested...big fat zero

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  • November 10, 2014 at 17:40
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    @LITTLE H : that's a very good point H, and remember brentford played Wednesday night so a day less recovery time, didn't show though did it.

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  • November 10, 2014 at 20:01
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    Ollies one of those people who cant make his mind up on anything, not only football....the team need a calm influence he s probably driving them all mad......he overthinks everything and his own brain must be spinning ....he will end up in a straitjacket if he isn't sacked

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  • November 10, 2014 at 20:14
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    We're s***

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  • November 10, 2014 at 20:25
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    If you realised in the first twenty minutes that we were missing macdonald, why did it take the best part of 70 minutes to make the change?

    If it's that bloody obvious, change it and admit you got it wrong before we go two goals down!

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  • November 10, 2014 at 21:09
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    Southampton play the same team in every game where possible, Shankly, Paisley, Clough and all very successful manager ALWAYS play the best eleven unless injury intervenes.

    Not rocket science is it?

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  • November 10, 2014 at 21:50
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    1 - Ollie is confused
    2- Aldo is confused
    3- Fordey is confused
    4- MacDonald is confused
    5- We are all f****** confused, sort it out Holloway, you're confusing the f*** out of everyone.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 10:47
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    I remember a certain Alan Hanson saying you wont win anything with kids then a talented bunch of kids came in and Man Utd dominated the top flight for 15 years.
    We keep saying experience is needed but if not given the chance where will this come?
    Why not just pick a settled 11 and any injuries or suspensions then just use a kid who plays that same position for under 21's, instead of juggling and moving everyone out of position, we are still a small club financially and we don't need a huge squad for the first team.
    Give Powel, Goodman, Fred, Nelson, O'brien games.

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    • November 11, 2014 at 11:53
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      @brooker: i agree experienced players are needed.but having nearly a full team of em makes no sense..perticuly when we have such talented young players

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      • November 11, 2014 at 13:31
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        @Jim28: Exactly, we have loads of experience in everyone's ideal first 11. just fill the gaps with the youngsters unless you have a big issue like edwards then you need long term cover.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 14:30
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    Surely none of the commercial or playing management reads any of these comments? If they do they must think we know absolutely nothing about football because everything said is ignored. Ollie on the other hand can apparently do no wrong, it is just that the world is against him.
    Seven of Southampton's players have played every premiership game this season, including four of the back five, and they are flying. Burnley played in 442 formation with, I think, seventeen players last season and got promoted.
    How many players and formations has Ollie used? Relegation looms.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 19:05
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    I feel that everybody fails to understand that there is nothing much wrong with the team or management. Saying we need better defenders will not stop goals conceded. There will always be goals conceded. The hardest part is getting a goal scorer who can bang in a goal or 2 in every 2/3 games on a regular cycle! The Millwall manager will not admit to this as he's constrained in saying certain things about the club. Our Chairman is I'm sure aware of this problem and I can only hope that come the next transfer window there will be a target that IH has his eye on will be the answer to solve the lack of goals from his strikers section of the squad.

    Keep the faith and support the team and management whether you agree or disagree with team selections.

    Up the Wall !

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    • November 11, 2014 at 20:37
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      @Lion: nothing wrong with the team if you like to see a losing bunch of old b******* & a lunatic og a manager

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      • November 11, 2014 at 23:07
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        @Jim28: jim this is how I see it, jb across the pond, AA don't give a f***, ian holloway lost the plot, no one of any quality wants to play for us unless we pay them silly money, we don't have any chance until jb starts to spend big money.

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        • November 12, 2014 at 10:09
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          @foxy: FFP springs to mind. Its a scheme to keep the big clubs big and the small clubs small. Same as the parachute payments.In a few years time there will be no clubs like ours in the Championship, it will be more Prem A and Prem B as us small clubs are forced out of their cosy little qwango.

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