Six games that could shape Millwall's 16-17 season

WITH the EFL League One fixture list now released, NewsAtDen takes a look at six games that could help shape Millwall's 2016-17 season…

1) Oldham Athletic (H) – August 6, 2016

Millwall will start their home league season in the way they finished it in 2015-16 – a home game with Oldham Athletic.

The Lions emerged victorious on that day, winning 3-0, courtesy of a Byron Webster double and a Shane Ferguson goal, but that was after a run of home form stretching back just over two months.

Historically, Millwall do not start well. Especially last season.

Defeats to Barnet, Coventry City, Barnsley and Chesterfield ensured the club's worst home start to a campaign in its history.

Therefore, it will be vital that the Lions produce a positive performance and gain a result from the opening day clash.

New signings Shaun Hutchinson and David Worrall will want to introduce themselves to the home crowd and add to a squad hungry for promotion after missing out last year.

They will come up against an Oldham side predicted for relegation. Millwall will need to set the tone for the season.

2) Coventry City (H) – September 10, 2016

As eluded to above, Coventry City assisted the Lions in making their worst ever home start last season.

Their 4-0 win at The Den on August 15th brought all Millwall fans back down to earth with a bump after the opening day win at Shrewsbury Town the previous weekend.

In 2016-17, the Sky Blues will visit SE16 relatively early on in the campaign once more.

Not only will the September 10 clash present a chance for revenge, but it will also be a yardstick of the improvement in Neil Harris' management skills.

Last season's defeat saw many question whether the club's leading goal-scorer was the right man for the job at the time – and it also saw the conclusion of the likes of Lee Martin and Paris Cowan-Hall's first-team careers.

By the time the two teams meet, the table should have started to take shape – will the Lions be at the right end of it?

3) Charlton Athletic (H) – October 8, 2016

Despite the resumption of the strong bond between fans and players returning last season, 2015-16 never really presented any home games to get the fire in the bellies of the Den faithful going.

That will change next year.

After one season apart, Millwall and Charlton Athletic will renew rivalries in 2016-17. However, this time, it will be in League One.

The last time the two clubs met in this division, there were goals. Twelve of them in two games, to be precise.

An incredible 4-4 draw at The Valley, in which ten-men Millwall equalised late on through Danny Schofield, was backed up by an emphatic 4-0 win at The Den for the Lions, as both clubs chased a top six place.

On October 8, the two rivals will clash once more – and the odds suggest that it could be an early promotion six-pointer once more.

Charlton haven't defeated Millwall since 1996 – Neil Harris will want to keep it that way.

4) Gillingham (H) – December 31, 2016

Just like Coventry, the home tie with Gillingham will present a chance for revenge.

Despite the upturn in home form towards the end of 2015, the Gills turned up just before Christmas and eased to a 3-0 victory – although Jordan Archer's first-half red card did not help matters.

The Lions got their own back somewhat in the final league game of 2015-16, defeating the Medway outfit 2-1 in their own back yard, thanks to a 98th minute Lee Gregory penalty, but the New Years' Eve clash will no doubt already be marked by all involved with Millwall.

The date of the fixture will more than likely ensure a powder-keg and festive atmosphere inside The Den.

Given the Lions' generous holiday season schedule, it could also present a real chance for Neil Harris' men to gain some momentum going into the second half of the season.

The game could also be seen as a chance for redemption for right-back Mahlon Romeo, who saw his play-off dream cruelly taken away from him against his former club on the final day at Priestfield.

5) Sheffield United (A) – March 11, 2017

By the time Millwall visit Bramall Lane in mid-March, the run-in will be just around the corner.

Installed as favourites for the League One title, Sheffield United will possibly be looking to finally exit the third tier after seasons of misery.

With any luck, Neil Harris' side will have the same aspirations.

A double from Aiden O'Brien made the division sit up and take notice of Millwall at this fixture last season – the Lions defeated the Yorkshire outfit 2-1.

After Nigel Adkins' departure, former Northampton boss Chris Wilder has taken the reins at Bramall Lane and will look for no less than promotion to the Championship.

Of course, events may transpire to render this game all but meaningless.

However, should nature take its course, this could be one of the most important afternoons of Millwall's season.

6) Bristol Rovers (A) – April 30, 2017

The final day of the season will see the Lions travel west to Bristol Rovers.

A midday kick-off on a Sunday will mean an early start for fans, but should any promotion or play-off hopes rest on the game with the Gas, you'd bet good money on that not being an issue!

After sneaking into the final League Two promotion spot in the dying embers of the 2015-16 campaign, it remains to be seen how Bristol Rovers will adapt to life in the third tier.

At 20/1, the bookies have Rovers down for a mid-table finish. By the time the trip to the Memorial Stadium comes around, Millwall will hope to be a little bit higher than that in the League One table.

Will this be the game that confirms the League One title for the Lions? Will it confirm a play-off spot for a second consecutive season?

Will any January signings steer the club to glory? Will the strike partnership of Lee Gregory and Steve Morison still be as prolific?

Only time will tell!

Mark Litchfield