AFTER successive home wins over the festive period, Neil Harris will now be hoping that his Millwall side can pick up their first away win since April.
The Lions ranked 32nd overall in a combined table of teams from all four leagues in 2018, and will want to do even better in 2019 – particularly as they now need wins to pull themselves away from the relegation dogfight.
Millwall face Ipswich on New Year’s Day.
Lucas Ball spoke to Nick Chenery this week.
Why do you support Ipswich?
I’ve been a fan for 20-plus years now and they were the first team I ever went and saw play. Safe to say I fell in love with Portman Road as well as the club’s history.
What’s been your favourite season following the Tractor Boys?
The best season was probably the first season back in the Premier League in 2000.
I was only 12 at the time and didn’t go to any games, but I always looked out for the results and watched on the TV when I could.
And the worst?
I’m not sure if I could pinpoint a particular season but the ‘era’s’ of Roy Keane and Paul Jewell were pretty tough to watch; just ask anyone who sat through more than a handful of games of either managers’ tenure.
Keane had us playing a negative style but at least we were winning occasionally while Jewell seemed to get rid of the defending handbook altogether.
Were you happy with the appointment of Paul Lambert?
I wasn’t unhappy about it, to be frank. A certain amount of our fan base will hate the Norwich and Colchester connections more than anything, but he’s shored us up at the back a tiny bit.
Our previous manager, Paul Hurst, didn’t exactly help matters but it’s a young squad we’ve got this season with a distinct lack of goals which has been evident.
We’ve been more defensively solid under Lambert, but that wasn’t that hard to do.
Do the problems run deeper than the manager?
Perhaps. Owner Marcus Evans hasn’t exactly been one to splash the cash as freely as some of the other sides in the Championship.
He’s been owner for over 10 years now and in many fans eyes there has been little to no progress made. He must have expected more of a return than one play-off campaign in the last 10 seasons and only a handful of top-10 finishes.
Where do you most need to strengthen to have any chance of avoiding relegation?
Two strikers, and a creative midfielder I’d say. All depends who we can bring in during the January transfer window.
The Lions win the reverse fixture 3-0, and given both teams’ recent form confidence must be low on your side heading into this one?
The scrappy win against Wigan gave us hope but the fact we’ve only picked up a point and scored once against Sheffield United since then has put us a step further back if anything.
Who will be Ipswich’s main men?
Freddie Sears. He’s got three of the last four goals that Ipswich have scored and assisted the other when Ellis Harrison netted against Sheffield United. He’s a fan favourite at Portman Road and I’m sure I’m not the only one who enjoys seeing his name appear on the scoresheet.
Which Millwall players are you most wary of?
Lee Gregory and Jed Wallace have a combined total of 10 goals between them in the opening half of the season. That might not sound much, but they’ve both popped up with vital goals recently, including Wallace’s early goal against fellow strugglers Reading on Boxing Day.
What are your thoughts on Neil Harris?
He’s a club legend. I worked with a Millwall fan a few years ago and the amount of stories he told me about Harris in his playing days were fascinating.
If you could sign one of his players, who would it be and why?
I always enjoyed watching Ryan Tunnicliffe when he was on loan at Town a couple of seasons back. He popped up to score the winner against Forest and is a decent midfield player.
What’s your predicted Ipswich starting XI and formation?
Not sure if we have any fresh injury worries ahead of the game aside from Grant Ward, but I’d expect the same side that lost 2-0 to Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Gerken; Spence, Chambers, Pennington, Kenlock; Nolan, Downes, Chalobah; Edwards, Sears, Jackson.
Will you be at the game?
I won’t be but I’ll be looking out for the result and obviously watching the highlights.
Finally, a score prediction?
Heart says Ipswich, head says a 2-1 Millwall win.