Tired Lions limp over the line

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Nick Brad­shaw

MILL­WALL sur­vived rel­e­ga­tion to League One by the skin of their teeth af­ter de­feat at Derby – but as­sis­tant boss Joe Gallen in­sists cel­e­bra­tions will be muted.

Sub­sti­tute Conor Sam­mon stepped off the bench to sink Kenny Jack­ett’s tired team and forced them to rely on re­sults else­where to keep them in the di­vi­sion.

An FA Cup run to the semi­fi­nal and a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle with a small squad has left Mill­wall out on their feet but af­ter the dust set­tles on a 53game sea­son, Gallen be­lieves the Lions can be qui­etly pleased with their achieve­ments.

“We won’t be cel­e­brat­ing – I think the play­ers are all a bit too tired for that,” he said. “We’ve played more games than any­one else in this league and the play­ers just couldn’t take it.

“To play the amount of games we have re­cently – ten in 33 days I think – has been phys­i­cally and men­tally tough. Af­ter the fall-out of the FA Cup semi fi­nal, I don’t think the man­ager and the play­ers have got the praise they de­serve to be hon­est.

“It was a fab­u­lous achieve­ment to get to Wem­b­ley and we’ve done re­ally well to stay in this league.”

Only an un­likely set of re­sults would have seen Mill­wall fall through the trap door and Crys­tal Palace’s late fight­back against Peter­bor­ough, cou­pled with Hud­der­s­field’s draw against Barns­ley, meant they missed the bot­tom three by just two points.

And Gallen added:“We knew the scores else­where but I didn’t tell the man­ager un­til Derby scored. It was nervy but we knew it was in our own hands. Even when Derby scored, we were more con­cerned about try­ing to equalise than what was hap­pen­ing else­where.”

Mill­wall knew a draw would keep them up and they set up their team to achieve just that. Jack­ett’s men were happy enough to hit Derby on the break while giv­ing the home side the ma­jor­ity of pos­ses­sion.

That game plan re­sulted in a te­dious open­ing with Derby be­ing forced to wait un­til the 41st minute for their first ef­fort on goal when David Forde par­ried Richard Keogh’s header to safety.

Mill­wall, who lost Shaun Batt early on through in­jury, came out of their shell more af­ter the break with sub­sti­tute Jer­maine Easter twice go­ing close to break­ing the dead­lock. Shane Lowry then ri­fled nar­rowly over the bar but as news of goals else­where fil­tered through, Mill­wall be­came ner­vous.

The Rams in­tro­duced the im­pos­ing Sam­mon off the bench and it proved a mas­ter­stroke as he linked up with Jamie Ward to slot the ball un­der Forde.

Derby fin­ished in the top ten for the first time un­der Nigel Clough but the boss is ex­pect­ing much more next sea­son from his team.

“We prob­a­bly need a bit of ex­pe­ri­ence – not 30-year-olds but late 20s – and I think we’ll be able to give it a good go then,” said Clough.

“We fin­ished seven points off the play-offs and while we are a bit dis­ap­pointed by that, it does give us a bit of con­fi­dence.

“Conor looked far bet­ter com­ing off the bench be­cause he was fresh.

“He’s played 40 games this sea­son which is too many. Hope­fully I can get four strik­ers and then ro­tate them.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

MATCH WIN­NER: Conor Sam­mon scores the win­ning goal for Derby

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.