MILLWALL had threatened to do it based on their first four league performances this season, and it was Norwich who bore the brunt at The Den on Saturday as Aiden O’Brien felt his side “bulldozed” through their opponents in a 4-0 win.
In the first 10 or 15 minutes it seemed the Canaries were a level up from what they had faced before, with Josh Murphy and Wes Hoolahan showing their class from wide positions and some neat build-up play stretching Millwall.
But this Lions side aren’t worried about periods like that, and after Lee Gregory and George Saville scored within two first-half minutes Millwall controlled the game and bullied more experienced players at this level.
Jed Wallace scored two minutes before the break and though Shaun Hutchinson made it look like a stroll with a fourth in the 72nd minute, this was a win Millwall really had to work hard for.
Saville went off shattered with six minutes left, and when he appeared in the press room an hour after the final whistle O’Brien was taking deep slugs out of a water bottle and still trying to catch his breath.
There was a passage of play in the second half that illustrated Millwall’s work ethic, when it was O’Brien and Wallace sprinting back to cover the central midfield positions with Saville caught up the pitch.
O’Brien was asked about the work the players had put in, but he didn’t feel it should really be worthy of praise, instead seeing it as a fundamental starting point.
“First things first, you’ve got to put in a shift as a team. You don’t ask for that – that just comes,” he said. “That’s what’s got to happen. And then the quality should shine, which it did.
“It did in previous games but the end product wasn’t there in all the games. Today we absolutely bulldozed them and we deserved three points.
“We were never worried, we always knew we were going to come out on top sooner rather than later. We go into every game thinking we’re going to do what we do best, impose our game on them.
“We’ve been creating a lot of chances and I would say we’ve been the better team in every game we’ve played this season. That edge just wasn’t there or we didn’t get that luck in the final third or in and around our own penalty box.
“But this means nothing unless we don’t carry on and get results.”
The win also meant a different atmosphere among the squad after the game, following their previous performances which they felt hadn’t been reflected in results.
“We were coming into the changing room saying, ‘I can’t believe we didn’t win that, how the hell did we not win’," O'Brien said. "That means nothing, I’d rather play awful and we win 1-0. It’s a results-based business. If you play well all season and get relegated, who cares? It’s all about getting the three points. That’s all that matters, the manager is happy, the fans are happy, the board is happy, the players are happy.
“That’s exactly what happened, we got three points and it kick-starts us. We can’t wait to get to the next game.”
Millwall were indebted to Jordan Archer for producing a number of excellent saves, the pick of them when he tipped Nelson Oliveira’s low effort around the post in the first half before he spread himself to deny Wes Hoolahan in the second.
O’Brien has noticed a big difference in quality between the Championship and League One.
“Massively. We’ve seen it time and time again,” he said. “One minute we’re attacking their goal and then they go down our end and put it in our net. It’s cut-throat in this division, give someone time and a chance and they’ll put it in the net.
“You’ve got to take care of the ball, be disciplined in your position and know what you’re doing and then you can help the person next to you.
“We’ve got that bond, we know exactly what we’re doing on the pitch. When we do get in and around the box we do usually put them in. Once we keep the ball out of our net we should be fine."
Millwall’s next home game will be their third fixture after the international break, against Leeds United.
O’Brien feels the atmosphere the fans create at The Den will make a big difference this season.
He said: “It properly gets me going, it gives me that extra five or ten per cent to get back, make a tackle or bust a gut to get back into the box to try to clear the ball. When the crowd are on their game they play a massive part in how we play.
“When they’re shouting and cheering and doing the ‘Milll’ their players crumble, you can see it, they make mistakes and as soon as they make a mistake we pounce and we’re off.
“Teams will hate to come play us at The Den because they’ll know the way we play, the way we set up, not many teams can stop it, if there is any team that can stop it. When we’re on our game like today I don’t think anyone can stop it.
“When the ball goes up to the forwards and they’re on their game and knock it down we’ve got runners off the ball, it’s frightening. No one is ready for it, we know what we’re doing and they don’t. We’re already ahead. It’s impossible to stop when we’re flying.
“Hopefully we can keep this momentum going. I know we’ve got a break, it’s come at the wrong time. But we’ll keep doing what we’re doing on the training pitch, listen to the staff and keep going.”
Image: Millwall FC