Millwall's Nelson grabs chance in Barnet win

SID Nelson said he was “buzzing” after making his first appearance of the season in Millwall’s 4-0 win over Barnet in the first round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday night.

Nelson, 20, started at right-back at The Hive Stadium, the same position he struggled in against the same opposition at the same stage of the competition a year ago.

But on Tuesday night he was part of a defence that kept a clean sheet as Millwall defeated the Bees for the first time in their history at the third attempt to secure a place in Wednesday night’s second round-draw.

Nelson, who is naturally a centre-back, even got forward and showed his ability on the ball when he got the chance to cross, though he did admit those attacking areas are not his natural habitat.

“I’m not Mahlon Romeo, am I, so I have to keep myself reserved at times,” Nelson joked.

“I was buzzing to get out there again and put the Millwall shirt on competitively. It was a good result because these were a harder, more physical opposition to Oldham so the boys did well.

“In a sense we came here knowing we owed them one and luckily we produced. But it’s a new season, a fresh start. If you look back to last year we struggled at the start of the season but we’ve got two wins in two now so we’ve got a different plan this year.

“I feel like the whole team did a shift. I have to give a big shout out to the back four, they were solid against very, very physical opposition. A clean sheet and four goals, you can’t ask for more, really.”

Despite being only 20 years old, this is Nelson’s third full season as a professional footballer. He made his senior debut for Millwall as an 18-year-old against Bournemouth in December 2014 and was handed the captain’s armband by Ian Holloway less than a month later against Ipswich.

Holloway was sacked two months later and his successor Neil Harris signed Tony Craig in the summer. Under the guidance of the current manager Byron Webster and Mark Beevers also enjoyed resurgences in their form which meant fewer opportunities for Nelson, who played just 14 times last season.

The unexpected emergence of Mahlon Romeo has also made competition for places in the back four intense, but Nelson insists he still has plenty of time to make an impact in the first team.

“I want to play as many games as I can,” he said. “I’m still young and luckily I got my chance two seasons ago, so it feels like I’ve been here for ages. I’m still learning from the boys.

“You’ve got to be patient when the boys are playing really well, but you’ve also got to be selfish in the sense that you want to be playing week-in, week-out. But it’s about the team, it’s not about me.”

Nelson will probably drop to the bench this weekend when Millwall visit MK Dons trying to make it three wins from three this season.

The defender acknowledges it is an intense start to the season – with another away trip to Peterborough next Tuesday – but believes the squad are ready for the challenge.

Nelson said: “Everyone could tell how disappointed we were last year but from the first day of pre-season we came in and forgot about it, we had to leave it behind us.

“We all got together and said, ‘That’s gone and we’ve got a big task ahead of us’. We’re fully focussed on that now.

“Playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday is very tough but we’re a fit group and we’ll all help each other out. Wembley was a bit late and the fact we had less time off helped. Things are going right for us at the moment so we just want to keep it going.”

Image source ©Millwall FC

John Kelly