MILLWALL head to Ewood Park this weekend for their first away game of the 2018-19 campaign, against newly-promoted Blackburn Rovers.
The Lions didn’t win away from home in the Championship until January 20 last season, but ended up with the ninth-best away record in the division. They will be hoping to get three points on the board away from The Den as soon as possible this campaign.
Both sides conceded in injury-time last weekend to be denied three points, though both managers were still happy to get a point in the first game.
Former Gillingham man Bradley Dack, formerly a target of Millwall, will be key for the hosts and Neil Harris’ defence will need to pay particular attention to the midfielder after he netted 18 league goals in the third tier in 2017-18.
Lucas Ball spoke to Rovers fan Phil Clark this week.
Why do you support Blackburn?
When I was at primary school in Adelaide in Australia the 1980s, one of my classmates was from Blackburn and – with his broad Lancashire accent – he got me hooked on Rovers.
In those days, Aussie TV didn't show any English football. The only Rovers news was tucked away in the fine print of the Aussie back pages – and even in that miniscule font you could tell in the ‘80s Rovers were rubbish.
Thankfully, the ‘90s came along and our fortunes changed.
As I only discovered a few years ago, my grandfather on my dad's side was born in Deptford and his whole family were mad Millwall fans, so my heritage is much closer to The Den than to Ewood Park.
What's been your best season following Rovers?
The obvious answer would be 1994-95 when Rovers won the league but my favourite season was 1993-94.
I was living in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire and getting all the football results from the BBC World Service. Over the crackly radio in tiny West African villages, I listened to Rovers' season-long chase of Man United. Rovers finished second but listening to the Rovers/United tussle on the BBC was electrifying.
Moving to the present day and Rovers’ recent success, how do you rate the job that Tony Mowbray has done?
After eight managers in eight years and all the controversy swirling around the Venkys' ownership, Mowbray has brought stability and street smarts.
The start to the last League One season was rocky but Mowbray quickly settled our nerves and we've never looked back. He talks straight, he's never ruffled and the players and fans love him.
What are you expecting this season?
If Bradley Dack and Danny Graham have the kind of season they had last year, we should get a classic Blackburn mid-table result this season and have a crack at promotion next year.
What are your thoughts on Rovers' transfer window? (Need any more additions?)
Rovers have been relatively quiet on the transfer front, showing Mowbray has full faith in the squad that secured promotion from League One.
Jacob Davenport coming from Man City is a good move, as we need some bolstering in midfield (Dack can't keep doing it all on his own). And Kasey Palmer from Chelsea will add some dangerous pace up front.
What is your expected Blackburn starting XI on Saturday?
I think Mowbray will give a start to Palmer and would've liked to start his other signing, Davenport, except that he's injured. So I expect the starting XI will look like this:
Nyambe, Mulgrew, Williams, Lenihan
Evans, Samuel, Dack, Smallwood
Who will be Blackburn's key men against the Lions?
Dack pulls the strings. If Millwall can't control him, he'll run riot. So I expect the Lions midfield will try to kick lumps out of him from the first whistle.
Which Millwall players will you have to be wary of?
We could have our hands full against Jed Wallace.
Finally, what's your score prediction for tomorrow?
Both teams were unlucky not to win their opening match, conceding late equalisers. Both sides are in good attacking form but, in front of the Ewood faithful, I think Rovers will cause an upset.
Blackburn 2-1 Millwall