PREVIEW: Norwich City vs. Millwall

GEORGE Best was the footballer of the year. Harold Wilson was the prime minister. Joe Cocker’s Beatles cover, With a Little Help from My Friends, was the number one single in the UK, and that same week Millwall defeated Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Derek Possee got one goal and a brace from Keith Weller secured the 3-0 result that tucked the Lions between Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers in second place in the old Second Division.

Millwall supporters in the crowd of 19,048 at Carrow Road on November 2, 1968 most likely made their way home from East Anglia thinking and talking about the possibility of promotion to Division One for the first time in the club’s history.

They would have to wait almost 20 years for that, after ending the 1968-69 Division Two season in tenth place in the league table.

Last season Millwall went to Norwich on New Year’s Day looking for a first away win of the season, went a goal up through Steve Morison but lost 2-1.

Something sparked in them, though, and when they next went on the road they defeated Leeds United in that incredible game 4-3 and won the next five away from The Den to rise from 15th in the table on January 1 to sixth on April 10 when they won 2-0 at Bolton, their last away victory.

Murray Wallace said after last Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Brentford that little could be read into form in such a competitive league as the Championship and he better be right, because going on form Millwall are in for a tough afternoon.

Norwich won just one of their first six league games this season as Daniel Farke’s reign seemed to be coming to an end. But the Canaries have unexpectedly and remarkably turned their season around, winning eight of their last 10 games and when they came away from Hillsborough with an emphatic 4-0 result last Saturday they were top of the table.

It’s even more impressive considering they lost James Maddison to Leicester and Josh Murphy to Cardiff in the summer.

That gave them serious financial muscle in this division, and it meant they could easily beat Millwall to the permanent signing of Ben Marshall, a player who was important to the Lions’ resurgence in the second half of last season.

Millwall could do with his reliability and service on the left of midfield, with Jiri Skalak yet to really give the impression he provides the same threat, and Aiden O’Brien currently out of the side.

Millwall have been creating attacking opportunities – 90 in their previous five games before last weekend, according to Neil Harris – but Marshall provided quality ones and chipped in with three goals during his 2017-18 16-game spell in south London. That’s the same as Skalak, O’Brien, Jed Wallace and Shane Ferguson have scored between them 16 games into this season.

Goals from attackers have been lacking generally. Lee Gregory has seven but Steve Morison, Tom Elliott and Tom Bradshaw have only two combined.

At the other end, Millwall have conceded 25 goals in 16 games, a rate that if it continues would see them let in 71 or 72 after 46 games. That’s compared to 45 last season.

It all points to how much improvement is needed in a lot of areas, and Norwich fans will hardly be fretting about a first defeat in over 50 years at home to Millwall on Saturday.

Possible Millwall team:

4-4-2: Amos; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; J Wallace, Leonard, Williams, Ferguson; Morison, Gregory.

Match odds:

Norwich 4/5 Draw 5/2 Millwall 10/3

Last season:

Millwall 4-0 Norwich (Gregory 15', Saville 17', Wallace 42', Hutchinson 72'); Norwich 2-1 Millwall (Trybull 52', Maddison 77'; Morison 44').

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly