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Thread: United 1 Millwall 1 - report

  1. #1
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    United 1 Millwall 1 - report

    Unitedís promotion hopes took a major blow when they failed to beat relegation threatened Millwall at Bramall Lane. With Leeds beating city rivals Wednesday; the Blades now are three points behind their Yorkshire rivals. It was the second consecutive home game without a win as a jittery United could not see the game out and the Lions scored a late goal to take a deserved point just minutes after they had missed a penalty. To further compound things United lost two key men to injury, in Sharp and Basham and another Egan to suspension.

    Jack OíConnell was back in the side and Freeman preferred to Baldock as Wilder kept faith with McGoldrick and Sharp with Duffy behind them. Millwall had been playing with just one-man up front with Blades fan Lee Gregory supported by Ben Thompson for a Millwall team fighting for their lives.

    United started the game on top and a cross from the right skimmed Stevens head but was well wide. Duffy had a weak low shot but Millwall were keeping a solid shape and restricting United to very few openings. The football was too slow and deliberate and Millwall just kept moving across to restrict any real chances. Millwall had the first chance when Fergusonís cross was fired wide from Pearce. Basham took a knock and tried to carry on but clearly could not continue and had to be replaced. Boldly, Wilder decided to put Madine on and ended up with a formation with Madine and Sharp up top and McGoldrick and Duffy as the two advanced midfielders and a flat back four.

    This change in shape did not seem to work and the game became scrappy for a period and United could not get any momentum at all. McGoldrick looked the main threat and he came inside twice to fashion a half chance but the ball was cleared. The same man then cut inside and hit a curling effort not far off target. Stevens was the other main United threat with one cross blocked and another effort deflected wide after a lay off from Sharp.

    The game had been poor and United could not really penetrate at all. Millwall had offered little as an attacking threat but were able to stem the few half chances United had quite easily. The half time whistle came not long after Madine had looped a header over.

    After the break United increased the tempo attacking the Kop end. McGoldrick and Madine had shots blocked that led to a corner after the final effort deflected over. This increased energy saw United make the break through. McGoldrick made the break with the through ball and Fleck got in and darted behind. He went past his man and unselfishly squared it across to the waiting MADINE who converted easily to send the crowd wild.

    Buoyed by this United came again and Millwall looked panicky for a period but the final pass was not good enough and slowly the away side came out. They won three corners in a row and Freeman had to make a block before Wallace and Fleck were both booked for cynical fouls. Sharp pulled up and was struggling and Cranie came on as united went back to a more familiar formation. Big Elliott came on for the away side and they attempted to hit him at every opportunity. Wallace fired an effort narrowly wide as Coutts came on for Duffy with 20 minutes to play.

    McGoldrick made an opening but fired over but it was mainly the away side attacking. One ball in dropped and was cleared at the last ditch. Elliott won a series of headers and one shot from the angle was pushed away and United had to clear. It was backs to the walls jobs but with 5 to play, they conceded a penalty

    Another unopposed cross was met by Elliott who turned the headed past Henderson and Egan got back but used his hand to turn it away and the penalty was given. Egan was given his marching orders and United suddenly had both injuries and a suspension looming over them. The substitute Marshall took it but his kick hit the bar and went behind and United survived. They still had three minutes of time too see out though.

    Even before this time elapsed Henderson had to save twice more at close range and United were really struggling to see the game out. The game entered five additional minutes and it seemed like United had done enough but disaster struck.

    The game entered the final minute of stoppage time and McGoldrick looked to get away but his appeals for a foul were waved away and Millwall sent the ball forward again down the right-hand side.

    The ball was pulled back and Elliott won another header that Henderson pushed away but COOPER reacted first to nod home calmly. The Millwall players and fans celebrated wildly. In truth it had been coming but it was late heartbreak. United took the kick off but the full-time whistle came soon after and as United players slumped to the floor they knew what a big moment it could be. They hoped for a favour from city rivals Wednesday but it was not to be as Leeds took the initiative in the promotion race.

  2. #2
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    United – It was another nervy, disjointed performance. It is devastating to let a goal in so late and throw away three points but in truth it had been coming and Millwall deserved the point. They had lots more chances than us over the game for the last 20 minutes there was only one side in it and we sat back, defended and they had a number of chances. We sat off, did not stop the ball coming into our box and were right on top of the keeper. We had a let off for the penalty but were not so lucky at the death. Make no mistake it had been coming. Henderson made 3 or 4 saves even outside of the penalty. United never got going from the start really and save for a spell for 5-10 minutes second half, we never attacked, did not create many clear chances and looked a tired, meek side that did not quite show the belief needed. Millwall are a poor side but they sensed we were going further and further back and made us pay for this approach.

    United were the better side first half but we did not create anything of note at all and it was very pedestrian. McGoldrick tried to get us going and had one decent chance he made himself but outside of his nothing happened, as we did not make anything happen. Millwall defended deep but we did not penetrate and it was all so slow and deliberate. We never moved it at tempo and never got our wing backs really into the last third. Basham went off injured and we opted to go for Madine and another striker. This was odd as it seemed the whole planning and ethos of what we do was changed for a more of a gung-ho attack. It became even more disjointed after this and half time 0-0 was right. They had not attacked at all but were happy with how it was going.

    Second half we seemed to up the tempo and Fleck surged forward and made a goal with a great run. After this we had another decent spell and you felt we could go for it but it never really happened. They put another striker on and started to pen us back. Sharp went off injured and we became really disjointed. We went back to a 5 and then the ball kept coming back at us. The big lads won headers and they had lots of corners we managed to see out.

    We got to the last 10 minutes but they started to really throw men forward and we sat back deeper and deeper. Henderson made a few good saves and then disaster as they got the penalty as the ball would have gone in. After this miss, you felt we would get new belief but it never happened. Even after this we sat back and never pressed the ball and they had more chances and finally one went in after another save from Henderson and we did not react. We got what we deserved. People can mention the possibly foul on McGoldrick but they could have scored long before this. We did not keep the ball, sat back and panicked. We basically played well for about 10 minutes in 90 and that is not enough.

    It was a nervous performance and one where we lacked energy. We looked so tired long before the penalty/late goal. Norwood was sitting right on the defence. We ended up with Madine almost as one up and McGoldrick in midfield and looked a long way off a promotion team and looked quite a ragged, desperate crew. Players were blowing out of their behinds a long time before the end of the game and with two key men off injured and the red card, we looked all over the place. McGoldrick and maybe Stevens were the only two who kept their standards; maybe Henderson. The defence did not win the key headers when it mattered but the whole team invited pressure.

    When we beat Brentford, we mostly kept out shape, discipline and shape against a better team. Today Millwall were just lumping balls into our box but we could not handle it at all and they got all the loose stuff and came again. I was really disappointed how we saw out the game and we never looked composed at all. We looked a long way off a promotion side and it reminded me a bit of the side that was dead on its feet around February/March last season – I have felt this way since the international break and the high intensity football and adventurous approach seems to have gone and we are now not seeing that risk and reward football we saw until a few months ago.

    People will talk about tactics, or formations or subs but for me when you have 5 or 6 players off the game as they have been for the last 3 or 4 games, it is hard to win games. Sharp has not really been at it the last few weeks and the midfield have not won battles. This puts a lot of pressure on the defence and has meant lots of chances. The last four games the other team has made Henderson work much harder than their own keeper. Today, they had 7 shots to our 2 and the only other one we had was a McGoldrick one that was comfortable. The keeper did not have one save to make outside of that and can barely recall us having any shots or efforts all game. I felt for McGoldrick today who at times was having to almost play them on their own.

    Now we have Egan missing for a game and possibly Sharp/Basham out for a while too. People will say do not overreact and we are still in it, but today was pretty disastrous on all fronts. We did not win the game, played poorly and lost possibly 3 key men. Leeds won their game and now we really need to win every game really and at the moment don’t look like going on the run that we had done a few months ago. I hope Wilder is right and we see a different team to the usual United team that wilt under pressure but the last few we have not been good enough which is a shame as we got in a great position. We still have four games to play but you sense today being a huge turning point.

    We have now let in two very late goals at Villa and today that have cost us 4 points with almost the last kicks of the game. We have let in a few late goals to lose points this year – Stoke at home another that stands out and going the other way other than Norwich at home, I can’t recall too many late winners for us in the last minute or stoppage time? That worries me as traditionally a promotion team gets lots of late goals as Leeds and Norwich have done this season; and does not concede many at this stage.

    When the goal went in, I felt the same as when Kuqi scored against Oldham a few years ago and you sensed what a moment it was. Gutted tonight. No point dressing it up really. It was a huge opportunity missed.

    Millwall – For 60 minutes they defended and did it well. They restricted us to barely a chance, defended in numbers and kept it tight. They were comfortable really as they made us try and go through them or around them and we managed neither. Second half we upped the tempo and we struggled and they conceded. Like the game last season, this was the chance for us to go for the jugular. We never did and they slowly improved. They made changes and started penning us back. It was basic route one stuff looking for the big lads but it worked. They had 2 or 3 chances and then missed a penalty but kept going and still attacked and attacked. The goal was their just rewards for really going for it. The last 20-25 minutes it was all them really in terms of play and chances and they looked more like the home/promotion side. They will stay up as they have enough fight and the rather direct approach will yield them goals/points. They have some decent ball players and it must be frustrating playing in such a direct side If you are decent on the ball but their up and at me approach will probably help them stay in the division but also stop them going much higher than where they are. I always felt today would be tough and so proved. We should have the quality to move them about and create but we never did and they kept in the game and then came with a really good end. Well done to them. To be honest it would have been a travesty if they had not got anything as they battered us for the final period of the game.


    Opponent man of the match – The lad Cooper is a giant and can see why teams are looking at him. Scored the goal and played well. He headed and cleared things all game. Leonard was hard working and marked Duffy out of the game and for the final stages of the game he was tireless and chased everything. I felt Gregory was not really in it but the big lad who came on Elliott caused us all sorts of problems and won most headers.

    Weak link – Attacking wise Thompson and Wallace did not really get in the game until the closing stages. Tunnicliffe is a player that has not gone on from the potential he showed at Man Utd, and was poor today. I also felt we did not get at the full backs at all and they had an easy ride and I think both are weak defensively. The keeper was not tested at all.

  3. #3
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    Henderson 7/10 – He actually made a number of saves at the end. Some have said he pushed the goal back into play but it was so point blank he just had to save it and hope others reacted. A few before that he saved and pushed away or held. I felt he was given no protection at all and they were peppering us the final stages of the game. At home as a promotion team we should not be counting on our keeper to make save after save but that is what happened.

    Freeman 6.5/10 – He did ok but is a definite downgrade on Baldock. I felt he did ok but actually like Baldock his final ball disappointed and he did not really create much. Second half he got into some good areas but often his touch was poor or the ball did not quite find him. Felt he did not get tight enough to his man a few times near the end when they put a number of unopposed crosses into the box.

    Stevens 7.5/10 – Our second-best player after McGoldrick. He attacked well when he could and I felt was one of our main threats and appeared down the left and right. He showed some great

    Egan 6/10 – I thought for an hour he was fine but then the big lad came on and he struggled to hold him back. He won quite a few headers and I felt caused us some real problems. Not sure why he was not attacking the ball rather than moving back on the line. Also, the way he handled it was weird as it was close to his head. He would have been better letting it go in but if we win 1-0 then people say it was the right thing to do. Will be a big miss but it is only one game I believe?

    O’Connell 7/10 – Steady-ish first half and got forward a bit when he could but felt we were a bit reserved attacking wise. He did not get forward at all second half. Felt he was one of the defenders that got some blocks and interceptions in but at the end I am not sure anyone took initiative. They scored one, could have had two or three more really as they won the balls that come in the box. However, will be disappointed the defence had no protection at all.

    Basham 6/10 – He was ok first half but like many others seemed a bit conservative in his play and he was more defensive than attacking and then ended up taking a knock. He tried to play on but after 2 or 3 times that he went down, he could not continue. Bash does not go down injured unless he is really hurt and you worry if he could be out for a few games.

    Fleck 6/10 – Gets an extra mark for his assist on the goal which was the Fleck we have been waiting for recent weeks. A great run and assist. Sadly, we barely saw this all game and it was another quite conservative game. First half he was not involved at all but he did improve after the break and the best of a very mediocre midfield. He at least drove us on a bit and got on the ball. Overall though the midfield has not protected the defence or offered much creativity at all since the international break. He needs to do much more of what he showed in that one moment.

    Norwood 5.5/10 – Another who did not turn up when it really mattered. First half he was ok but it was all too slow and deliberate. I felt he took too many touches and meant they got men behind the ball. All a bit safe really. His set plays were also really poor. Second half when we got in front, we needed him to show some composure and keep it and/or protect the defence. He did neither. It was his poor ball that meant Bash had to go for a 50-50 and got injured. Twice second half they ran away from him and he looked like he was stuck in quick sand. Lacks mobility defensively and the last two home games think he has been poor when we have needed big performances.

    Duffy 5.5/10 – Once again given a chance and I felt was poor again. Did not keep the ball well enough and did not offer much of an attacking threat. Felt he did no assert himself at all on the game and was needed as a key man today to get us moving quicker in the final third and this never happened. I have been really disappointed with him the last three games. He did a few bits early on and you felt here he is, the Duffy we need, but after 5 minutes did he do much at all of note?

    Sharp 5/10 – Thought he was anonymous. He tried to hold it up but barely had many touches and inside the box not really a threat. He looked tired today and lacked the zip and running we have seen much of this season. Not sure he had any chances on goal or set anything much up either. Just got outmuscled and hassled out of it. Went off injured and was feeling the back of his leg and the concern is he could miss a few games.

    McGoldrick 8/10 – Our best player by a mile and I felt carried us for much of the game in the attacking third. Came off and held the ball up and linked play. Only player who did not panic and showed some composure and slowed things down. Looked a class act. Had a good effort first half when he curled over and involved in most good things we did. Made the goal with a great ball and then after this tried to keep it as we saw time down but he did lose it a few times. Had a shout for a foul just before the goal.

    Subs -

    Madine 7/10 – Not man of the match as given but he at least offered us a threat. First half he did not win all his headers but the crosses were often poor to him. I felt 2nd half about the time he scored, he got on it, held it up well and had a really good spell. Took his goal well and was nice and composed. After this he was chasing around but at this stage I felt we were defending a lot and he did ok when he could. Did take it in the corner near the end and kicked it straight to the keeper and they went down and scored not long after this.

    Cranie – Came on for Sharp which was a surprise as I thought we would keep another mobile threat up top but he was preferred and we went back to a 3. He did ok as they pumped ball after ball int the box and made some decent interceptions although they won a lot of loose balls/headers down the stretch.

    Coutts – Have to say I thought he was desperately poor. He gave it away a few times and looked at full stretch. Did a couple of nice bits of keep ball but off the ball players were running off him and he looked a player that had not played for a long time. He was sloppy on the ball and that is why he was brought on and I felt the defence did not stop the crosses/through balls coming in. We needed him to keep the ball or calm things down but he did not and for the defensive side; he did not stop the runners or the balls coming in. Will get panned for this but he has looked a shadow of the player he was for me. We keep saying he needs time but he suffered his injury 17 months ago now. I am not sure they will use him much for the remainder of the season as he simply cannot run.


    Wilder 4/10 – The team was fine and glad he kept faith with Sharp/Duffy despite some poor performances but both today were poor. He had to change things but strangely abandoned our tactics/shape in favour of something we have not really seen. Madine scored so credit there but not sure it worked at all. When Sharp went off, he went back the formation of before. He was chopping and changing too much. I also felt this gave them too much respect as we sat back even more and had no out ball at all. He does not seem to have much faith in Dowell/Hogan which is worrying. I expected a big reaction after a flat performance at Birmingham but did not get it. We looked flat from the start and even after scoring; bit like the Bristol City game we never sensed we had control of the game. We were going deeper and deeper and no attempts were made to change the shape to alter it. We needed some energy in the middle of the park but got much worse after Coutts came on and had no protection for the defence at all from the midfield who did not stop the ball or runners. I am not sure he had much other options at this stage but we needed some energy in the middle of the field to try and stem the flow. It just kept coming back. He can criticise the ref but the reality is we have had a lot of shots hit our post, had some let offs in some recent games (two pens possibly at Preston) and so our luck was always going to run out.

  4. #4
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    Referee – Webb. Was fine. Seen loads saying he was poor but he let things flow and let people compete. Not sure he got a lot wrong all game even though as we have dropped points sometimes we feel we need to find a scapegoat. Easy spot kick award and easy red and the yellows were all deserved. The big call may have been the foul at the end on McGoldrick. I have seen them given but also will say I would have been unhappy if we had been penalised as felt the ball had got away from him. I am not sure it was as obvious as many are saying. It was a 50-50 call for me disappointing that Wilder makes so much of it and that deflects a lot from our poor play. I could be wrong and would like to see it again. We still have to defend after this and had numerous chances to clear but failed as they reacted to the second ball as we stood around (same as at Brum). I also thought 5 minutes was about right – there were 5 subs and a goal and a few times players went down. They scored pretty much bang on 4 anyway so if it had been one minute less it would have been still a goal.

    Crowd / Fans – Very nervy and quiet but the team never gave them anything to get excited about at all. They needed a lift. I compare it to the Brentford game where the crowd were fantastic. Today, it was flat but the team need to do more. We barely had a chance all game against the 4th bottom and their keeper made one save all game outside of the goal. Even when we got forward, we never really got deep into their territory. It was all a bit safe and conservative and we did not get men in the box. When we did, we scored! Towards the end you could feel the nerves but no one in a red and white shirt did enough to calm the nerves. You sensed at full time how demoralising it was. I felt it was the moment the dream died and when Leeds won as I expected this compounded it. It can all change round but the team need to turn things round rapidly from the limp performances they have shown since the break. Even at Preston we were not convincing. We have picked up 5 points from 12 and if we repeat this for the final 4; we are done. We need to almost be perfect now until the end and with a few players out, it will be touch to recover from this one. Wilder had a big job but this is where we will see what this team is made of. If we say win 3, draw 1 or win 4 and Leeds do the same; then fair play to them but I want the team to take the shackles off a bit. It has not been the risk and reward football that Wilder has got them playing and has been pragmatic (jittery?) stuff the last few games.

  5. #5
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    As a Lions fan and Author you have summed up the game with no bias and with truth Deadbat. It made a good read, since Leonard left the Blades would you say he has improved. I like this Division and would be pleased if we stay up, whereas You are a big club and understand your wish to be back in the Premier but do you think you might become another Huddersfield, you have some talented players however your scorer against us was a loan player, so do you have enough strength in depth. But I wish you good luck and would rather see you back and not the weeds.

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