Millwall 1:3 Leicester City
City had to dig deep and grind out a win to get 2014 off to a flyer at The Den in monsoon conditions
Nigel Pearson chose to show faith in his squad players on New Year’s Day at The Den on a sodden pitch in atrocious conditions, and made and incredible five changes from the side that beat Bolton in such thrilling fashion just three days earlier. Out went De Laet, Konchesky, James, Drinkwater and Vardy (who was suspended). In came Wasilewski, Miquel, King, Hammond and Taylor-Fletcher.
Millwall started off on the front foot as Bailey brought a good save from Schmeichel early on with a thirty yard drive but the large travelling contingent of City faithful didn’t have to wait long before they were celebrating the opening goal. Anthony Knockaert seemed to pose little threat as he picked the ball up in midfield in the 6th minute but the Millwall defence gave him too much space to line up a low, left-footed shot that zipped in to the bottom corner past a helpless David Forde. Three minutes later City could have doubled their lead when Taylor-Fletcher dragged his shot wide from a good position. It was Millwall who pressed City though for the remainder of the half and Schmeichel was called upon to make several smart stops to preserve City’s lead as Millwall piled on the pressure with an aggressive brand of football that had City sitting deep and relying on the counter-attack as half-time beckoned and a chance to re-group.
Within three minutes for the restart City had doubled the lead. Lloyd Dyer’s lofted through ball caught Millwall flat-footed and Taylor-Fletcher took full advantage by drawing Forde from his area and chipping a perfect cross for Nugent to head in to the gaping net from a yard out. Millwall’s frustration at this setback was illustrated when a fan ran out from the crowd and grabbed the linesman’s flag before attempting to break it. We’ve been coming to this corner of east London for long enough now that we aren’t surprised by anything that happens when The ‘Wall are at home! Millwall now had little option but to throw men forward and they were eventually rewarded in the 68th minute when McDonald made space on the left and drove a ferocious shot that Schmeichel did well to block only for Chaplow to force home the rebound in a scramble that left the City keeper needing treatment.
The closing stages of the match saw City soaking up wave after wave of Millwall attacks that were dealt with thanks to some excellent defending and more smart work by Schmeichel with only Easter coming close for Millwall; he should have done better when clean through but his attempted lob was for too high. It was City who scored the final goal of the afternoon in stoppage time when Knoackaert sent Schlupp away who calmly slipped the ball under Forde to send the away end delirious and the home fans heading for the exits.
It was a win that City had to graft for, something they haven’t always been able to do on previous visits to The Den but this squad is showing a desire and togetherness (as well as a good helping of quality) that has sustained them thus far in the campaign and the ‘non-regulars’ that were given their chance today illustrated the improved depth of the current squad. Let’s not get carried away and mention the ‘P’ word just yet but there are 23 teams that all want to swap place with Leicester City tonight!
City: Schmeichel, Wasilewski, Morgan, Moore, Miquel, Knockaert, King, Hammond, Dyer (De Laet 56), Taylor-Fletcher (Schlupp 74), Nugent (Drinkwater 80) Subs not used: Logan, Konchesky, James, Waghorn,
Millwall: Forde (c), Dunne, Morison, Bailey, Woolford (Martin 56), Lowry, Beevers, Chaplow, Abdou (Easter 76), McDonald, Malone (Smith 64) Subs not used: Bywater, Shittu, Wright, Pavey
Referee: Tim Robinson. Attendance:10,014
All photos by David Purday