Three thoughts ahead of Millwall's clash with Swindon Town

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

NewsAtDen takes a look at some points of discussion ahead of the resumption of Millwall’s Sky Bet League One campaign this weekend.

The Lions went into their second international break of the season after a win in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy last week – but with new concerns in midfield.

There is also the question of whether there is a need to bring in a striker and if October’s fixture list indicates it’s time for a decisive move…

1. Marquis to stay on Orient Express?

The win over Northampton, as well as boosting mood going into the international break before the next League One fixture against Swindon, also raised a few pertinent questions.

One was answered on Friday morning.

With manager Neil Harris short six first-team squad regulars due to international duty, injury and suspension, many Lions fans might have expected to see John Marquis feature at some point against Northampton.

Instead the striker was left on the bench and days later he was on his way to Leyton Orient before making his debut in their 3-2 defeat to Crawley on Saturday.

This is the eight loan spell of his career and though the 23-year-old signed a one-year deal with Millwall in the summer it’s tempting to think that if the 93-day agreement goes well then a permanent switch might suit both parties.

Of course, that depends on whether Harris can add another forward to the squad – or whether he feels Alfie Pavey can successfully make the step up to fill that ‘fourth striker’ gap.

Pavey has scored seven goals for the U21s this season and is a player who doesn’t lack confidence.

That’s something Marquis seems to struggle with and he hasn’t really progressed as had been anticipated when he made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2009.

He was the outstanding youth player at the club at that time, earning Kenny Jackett’s praise and respect for a series of mature performances for the reserves against more hardened and experienced professionals.

Marquis has cut a frustrated figure at times during his six appearances this season, almost as if he feels it’s not working out for him as soon as he steps on the pitch and is caught between aggressively trying to impose himself on the game and keeping a lid on that frustration.

He now drops down a division but joins a side on the up with Leyton Orient in and around the promotion spots in League Two after last season’s relegation.

He may very well rediscover the form that brought him eight goals in 18 starts for Gillingham last season, but it’s now more difficult to see his longer term future lying at The Den.

2. Opportunities missed?

That JPT win also raised more questions surrounding the immediate futures of two players, and therefore the possible need for reinforcements in two positions.

Jack Powell started his second game of the season but was again substituted and he didn’t look pleased with himself as he hurried off the pitch to be replaced by Ben Thompson.

Harris said afterwards that Powell and Lee Martin wanted to impress too much, and there was certainly evidence for that.

At one point in the first half Powell took a free-kick from the right and swept a ball to Mark Beevers on the left that gave the centre-back an uncomfortable moment before he managed to hook the ball away.

Powell was clearly trying to catch the eye, but instead caught the centre-back off guard when a more pragmatic approach was required. Maybe he envisions a more idealised way of playing the game, but League One is full of hard knocks and harsh realities.

At 21, Powell would perhaps benefit from a period out on loan where he could attempt to merge his undoubted skill and passing ability with a better understanding of how to influence a game: In other words, to realise the simplest option is often the most constructive and coherent.

Martin, too, made his way into good positions and while he did swing in a couple of decent crosses, he over-hit a couple more in attempting to put some pace on the ball.

The injuries and the suspension to Shaun Williams last week show how an area of strength can quickly be depleted.

Harris brought in George Saville on a short-term loan and he confirmed it could be extended if the 22-year-old impresses and a deal can be agreed with Wolves.

With Jimmy Abdou and Ed Upson facing extended periods out, that leaves Harris with just Williams and the inexperienced Thompson and Powell, as well as Saville for at least five league games.

Thompson has talent but it might be expecting a bit much of him at this stage to adequately fill the space left by Abdou, who Harris often stresses is crucial to how his side plays.

With another week to reflect on the current strengths of his squad, he may feel a bit more experience is required in midfield.

3. Can the Lions take their form up another notch and string together a run that would put them in the top six?

Peterborough attacker Conor Washington has described League One as “absolutely crazy”.

There are just nine points separating 17 teams and we’ll soon be approaching that point in the season when those sides will confirm themselves as promotion candidates or spend the latter part of the season looking nervously over their shoulders.

After the last international break the objective for Millwall was to stabilise and find something approaching a settled side.

The form of Carlos Edwards, Mark Beevers and Williams ensured they achieved the former but the settled feel will now be disrupted with the current injuries.

However, can others step up to continue the improvement and help the push for a top-six place?

A glance at the table and October’s fixture list suggests they have an outstanding chance to make a significant move; four of the games they play are against sides currently below them in the League One pile and either in an apparently irreversible downward spiral (Blackpool), massively not delivering on pre-season expectations (Swindon and Bradford) or not getting much return despite a managerial change (Doncaster).

It feels like it’s time for Millwall to make that first decisive move this season.

John Kelly