REPORT: Millwall 0-4 Coventry – Lions boss blasts 'shambles' as James Maddison and John Fleck conduct Sky Blues riot

August 15, 2015 – The Den

COVENTRY did all the damage inside the first 24 minutes to inflict a devastating defeat on Millwall at The Den.

After Lee Gregory had missed a penalty just four minutes in, two goals from Adam Armstrong and a Ruben Lameiras strike put the Sky Blues three up at the break.



Jim O'Brien added a fourth with ten minutes left to make it an utterly depressing afternoon for Neil Harris' side.

Coventry boss Tony Mowbray had spoken before the game about weathering an early Millwall storm before settling down to play a passing game, and that's exactly how it turned out as his side made it two league wins in a row.

Millwall were simply much too naïve after Gregory's penalty miss, handing the midfield initiative to the away side and they didn't hesitate in taking maximum advantage.



Armstrong had given notice last week of the damage he can cause in behind defences with his pace, but Millwall seemed not to heed the evidence as they persisted with a high defensive line in the first half.

The Lions also looked like they didn't know how to deal with Coventry's formation, with James Maddison a really dangerous presence behind the on-loan Newcastle forward.

Millwall will have to consider their approach to the game, but will have little time to make the necessary improvements with Barnsley visiting The Den on Tuesday.

As expected Harris stuck with the side that won 2-1 at Shrewsbury last weekend and that decision looked like it was going to be immediately justified three minutes in.

Lee Martin picked up the ball in the inside-left channel to feed Mark Beevers whose shot was spilled to the feet of Gregory by Coventry keeper Lee Burge.

There didn't look to be much contact as Gregory went down, but referee Andy Woolmer didn't hesitate in pointing to the spot.

The striker went to the same side as he had last Saturday but this time, at a nice height, Burge palmed the ball away for a corner.

If Millwall fans were stirred by the bright start, that was as good as it got as they watched their side run ragged for most of the rest of the first half.

Coventry went ahead after just six minutes when Armstrong, such a quick and menacing player, picked up a loose ball 40 yards out and, spotting David Forde off his line, expertly chipped the keeper for his third goal in two league games.

The home side were desperately struggling to get to grips with Coventry's slick midfield trio of John Fleck, Romain Vincelot and Maddison and when the latter engineered some space on the edge of the box on 19 minutes he played a sumptuous though ball to Lameiras.

The right winger had an ocean of space to cut back inside Beevers and he beat Forde at the near post to put his side two up.

If that was a bad goal to concede the third, on 24 minutes, was worse.

With Millwall keeping a high line, Lameiras delayed a pass to Armstrong before releasing the striker and the on-loan Newcastle youngster raced away unchallenged to lift the ball over Forde.

The closest Millwall came in response was a speculative Shaun Williams drive from 25 yards that scraped the outside of the post with Burge beaten.

Harris brought on Shane Ferguson and Ben Thompson for Beevers and Martin at the break and there was a marginal improvement at the start of the second half.

Still, Millwall created nothing clear-cut; Thompson's shot was well saved by Burge before the midfielder found Steve Morison in the box, but his volley didn't have enough on it to trouble the keeper.

Harris introduced Paris Cowan-Hall with 14 minutes left but it was Coventry who added a fourth, O'Brien finishing well after combining with Marcus Tudgay.

And Millwall's misery was summed up three minutes from time when Gregory somehow contrived to miss after Morison's cross had found him inches from the Coventry goal-line.

Verdict

A week is a long time in football.

This time last Saturday, Millwall had ushered in a new era by coming from behind to win at Shrewsbury. Seven days later, Mowbray's Coventry showed League One isn't going to give them a soft landing from the Championship.

If the home defeat to Barnet in the first round of the League Cup on Tuesday was bad, this was worse. Millwall were simple blown away and looked a team way off the pace, encapsulated by their failure to deal with the rapid Armstrong, who scored twice inside that harrowing first 24 minutes.

Millwall were slow and cumbersome, compared to their effervescent visitors, who ran rings around them. The Lions could barely get close to Maddison, who looks a top talent, while Fleck was the deep-lying conductor for his side in midfield.

Millwall just don't have that creativity, hence the need to go long. The hosts lacked any attacking ideas, Coventry easily dealing with the direct play towards Morison and Gregory.

Beevers and Martin were both hooked at half-time – the promising 19-year-old midfielder Thompson replacing the latter – but they won't be the only two players fearing for their starting places in the side. Forde, so long a stalwart, will be glancing nervously over his shoulder with Jordan Archer hungry to make an impact.

Harris, a relative novice in the management game, perhaps took a risk publicly criticising the players after the rout. Alex Ferguson doesn't do that, and maybe he's not a bad point of reference.

Barnsley are next to visit The Den on Tuesday – Harris will be looking for a big reaction.

Neil Harris

"I thought it was a shambles at times, to be honest.

"It really hurts, to be honest, and I'm not sure it hurts some of those players in the dressing room as much as it hurts me.

"We knew they had dangerous players, they had exciting players but we have to impose ourselves on them. We didn't. Some of the players looked like they didn't know how to do it. I'm disappointed with all the negativity.

"I thought we were excellent at Shrewsbury and we were excellent against Barnet at times.

"I think it's clear to me that some of the players are struggling to play here at the moment and until there's some results on the board I certainly have to reflect that in my team selection."

"I didn't speak individually, I spoke collectively to the group. We'll address that from tomorrow. I'm far too angry to speak individually at the moment.

"I'll have to speak with my goalkeeping coach Kevin Pressman regarding [Forde's] starting position but I thought it was a bit of magic by the boy to finish it.

"Forde was taking his starting position off the centre-halves, trying to push up to nullify the threat that they have.

"Jordan [Archer] grew into the game last Tuesday, he made some great saves but it's not only the goalkeeping position. We have food for thought all over the park.

"I think the first goal changed the game, not the penalty. Missing the penalty didn't help but I think the first goal was the changing point.

"We didn't react in a good manner whatsoever.

"Even at 1-0 down you think, 'just keep doing what we're doing and we'll get back into the game no problem', but the second goal was a real sucker-punch.

"All the goals were poor goals to give away but the second one was particularly poor. The second, third and fourth goals have all come from us giving the ball away."

Millwall: 4-4-2: 1 Forde; 2 Cummings, 17 Webster, 5 Craig, 16 Beevers (Ferguson, 45); 10 Onyedinma, 8 Upson (Cowan-Hall, 6 Williams, 11 Martin (Thompson, 45); 9 Gregory, 20 Morison.

Substitutes: 7 Cowan-Hall, 13 Archer, 14 Marquis, 15 Nelson, 18 Ferguson, 23 Powell, 24 Thompson.

Coventry: 4-2-3-1: 1 Burge; 2 Willis, 18 Ricketts, 5 Johnson, 3 Stokes; 4 Vincelot, 7 Fleck; 8 Lameiras (Tudgay, 72), 10 Maddison (Murphy, 63), 11 O'Brien; 9 Armstrong (Thomas, 83).

Substitutes: 12 Morris, 17 Phillips, 20 Tudgay, 21 Martin, 23 Charles-Cook, 25 Murphy, 27 Thomas.

Referee: Andy Woolmer

Attendance: 11,197

John Kelly

(@jkelly1882)