MILLWALL stretched their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions with a comprehensive dismissal of Colchester at The Den on Saturday afternoon.
Shane Ferguson bagged his first goals for the Lions and Lee Gregory and Byron Webster were also on target against an away side shorn of confidence in defence.
Gregory put Millwall ahead in the 13th minute when he outpaced Tom Eastman to finish past Jamie Jones.
Ferguson doubled the lead when he was picked out in space by Steve Moriuson on the left side of the box and he kept his nerve to roll the ball under the Colchester goalkeeper.
Colchester looked shaky at the back and one wrong step away from disaster but it was a mistake from Joe Martin that allowed substitute Chris Porter to pounce and make it 2-1.
Ferguson put Millwall two up again when he ran onto Gregory’s pass to find the bottom far corner with a low shot.
And Webster got his second of the season when he shot home in a crowded area after Shaun Williams’ corner caused panic, yet again, in Colchester’s defence.
How they lined up
Manager Neil Harris didn’t risk Carlos Edwards, who is still troubled by a tight hamstring. Shaun Cummings, back after featuring in Jamaica’s squad in their 1-0 win over Haiti on Monday night, replaced him.
And apart from captain Tony Craig that’s Millwall’s first choice side.
Harris said in the match programme: “We want to give (the fans) something to feed off with the way in which we play and perform and that is by being a strong, solid Millwall team, but with some flair as well.”
All of that was in evidence in the first half with Morison embodying strength and Aiden O’Brien and Ferguson adding a dash of flair.
There was even a couple of smart Cryuff-like turns from O’Brien and at one point in the first half Ferguson slalomed his way into the box with a little feint, a burst of pace and it was only a pity there wasn’t someone at the back post to put the seal on that little cameo by nodding in his dinked cross.
Ferguson is really wearing his Millwall shirt well now, though, and you can see how the crowd has taken to him.
He finished his first goal very calmly and his second even better when he drove the ball low past Jones from Gregory’s pass.
Gregory takes up where he left off
The striker is such a confidence player, and at the moment it’s sky high.
The way he finished the first chance he got was a demonstration of that, even if he was given a massive helping hand – or stumble – by Eastman.
Gregory still had lot to do when he reached Williams’ hopeful hooked half-volley pass forward. He was in the inside-left channel with Eastman scrambling back, but he was able to cut inside the defender and then lift the ball over Jones in the Colchester goal.
That put him a goal clear of O’Brien in the Millwall scoring charts, but he ought to have added another after Colchester yet again got in a muddle at the back. Gregory actually could have taken the ball further towards the goal – and really walked it in he had so much space – after nipping in to take the ball around Jones. But, instead, he shot and hit the post.
In the second half he continued to be a menace to the away defence, who looked so, so nervous, and he helped settle some of Millwall’s nerves after Colchester had halved the lead when he superbly produced a nutmeg pass for Ferguson to run onto and put Millwall 3-1 up.
He came off for Lee Martin late on, and must have reflected on the reception he received when at times this season it has been criticism he’s had to bear.
Man of the match
Ferguson is enjoying quite a season. He played as a centre-back at times during Newcastle’s tour of the USA during the summer, but must have wondered where his future lay with Steve McLaren coming in as manager.
Since then he has qualified for the European Championships in France and here he was on Saturday afternoon clapping the fans, who had risen to acclaim his performance as he made way for Fred Onyedinma.
Whatever else you get from Ferguson you know that hard work is the bedrock of his performances. Harris constantly emphasised attitude and character when he spoke about recruitment in the summer and Ferguson is exactly the kind of player who ticks those boxes.
He deserved his two goals, not just for his effort on Saturday, but for his general play recently that has seen him make the left wing position his own.