Millwall recorded a comfortable 4-0 victory over 10-man Bristol Rovers at The Den today.
After Daniel Leadbitter’s 14th minute sending off, Millwall seized the initiative in front of a crowd just shy of 10,000 at The Den. Aiden O’Brien’s close range finish gave the hosts a deserved lead as the visitors struggled to impose themselves on the game.
Quickfire second half strikes from Shaun Williams and Lee Gregory made certain of the three points, before youngster Harry Smith added the icing to Millwall’s cake shortly before the final whistle.
LESSON IN PROFESSIONALISM FROM MILLWALL
So often, an early sending off can create an immense amount of pressure for the team with the man advantage. However, the way in which Neil Harris’ side seized control of the game after Daniel Leadbitter’s dismissal was admirable.
Rovers had the best of the early exchanges, and Millwall had Ben Thompson to thank for a goal-line clearance to deny Peter Hartley, while in-form striker Matty Taylor fired narrowly over the bar. However, after Leadbitter received his marching orders for dragging back Aiden O’Brien on the edge of the area, Millwall made sure The Gas didn’t get another sniff.
O’Brien’s opening goal certainly would have quashed any nerves in the Millwall side, as he poked home from close-range following Kelle Roos’ parry. The rest of the game was played largely in Bristol Rovers’ half, and Neil Harris will be delighted with the way in which his side asserted their advantage in this game.
WILLIAMS MILLWALL’S METRONOME
At 30, Irish midfielder Shaun Williams is one of the more experienced members of this Millwall side, and he showed his class in today’s performance.
Williams, who was the cover star of today’s match programme, made his name at the now defunct Sporting Fingal after spells at Drogheda, Dundalk and Finn Harps before earning a move to England with MK Dons. He has now racked up over 100 appearances in a Millwall shirt and is a key part of Neil Harris’ system.
Sitting in a deep midfield role this afternoon, Williams showcased his magnificent range of passing, allowing Millwall to exploit the gaps left as a result of Bristol Rovers’ numerical disadvantage. His composure and consistency in the middle of the park gave the likes of Ben Thompson and Fred Onyedinma license to create. A blistering left footed strike into the bottom corner to double Millwall’s lead was rich reward for the Irishman.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
21 year-old Harry Smith earned only his second senior appearance for the Lions today, having made his debut in Tuesday’s EFL Trophy win over Luton Town. Smith scored twice in that game, and added a first league goal to his name today, slotting home after being inexplicably passed to by Rovers’ Chris Lines.
At 6’5″, Smith is what could be described as a ‘traditional English centre forward’, and he utilised his substantial frame to great effect today, at times bullying Rovers centre halves Peter Hartley and Tony Lockyer.
However, it’s his strike partner Lee Gregory who can claim the pick of the goals in today’s rout. Smith flicked on a cross from the right, and after controlling with his chest, Gregory fired a magnificent volley past Roos in the Rovers’ goal. It was the kind of finish Millwall fans have come to expect from Gregory, but in Harry Smith, they undoubtedly have cause for optimism for the future.
DAY TO FORGET FOR THE GAS
For Bristol Rovers, it would be best to move on as quickly as possible after today’s defeat. The sending off changed the game, and even though Rovers looked the better side up until that point, once Millwall took the lead there looked to be no way back.
Without doubt, manager Darrell Clarke will be disappointed that his side didn’t show more resilience after that early setback. For a side that has experienced successive promotions in the last two seasons, perhaps this will act as a reality check for Bristol Rovers. They went into this game in fifth place in League One, and fans that were beginning to dream of a third straight promotion will have been brought back down to earth.
However, it’s important not to read too much into this result given the early sending off, and move on to the next challenge, which is an FA Cup first round replay against Crawley Town this Tuesday.
For Millwall, the win moves them up to eighth place and a win in their game in hand could see them leapfrog Bristol Rovers into the play-off positions. That, combined with the clinical nature of this afternoon’s performance, will give the Lions fans cause to roar.