Millwall moved into the top six for the first time this season last Saturday, as goals from Aiden O’Brien and Lee Gregory captured three valuable points at Chesterfield – the first time since the opening day that the Lions had come from behind to win a game. This Saturday, Neil Harris’ side welcome struggling Crewe Alexandra to The Den. Taking up ‘The View From The Opposition’ this week is The Sentinel’s Alex reporter, Rich Sharpe…
Name: Rich Sharpe
First Crewe game: My first game covering the club was the final game of the 2013/14 season, where they stayed up, thanks to a 2-1 home win over Preston North End.
Greatest moment following Crewe: I arrived too late to enjoy the back-to-back trips to Wembley, where they won promotion from League Two and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, so it’s been slim pickings this season.
But, the 1-0 win at Port Vale in January 2015 was the first time ever in the club’s history that they did the league double over their closest rivals, so that was an enjoyable afternoon!
The Alex are rooted to the bottom of the table – are they destined for League Two, or is there hope of survival?: They moved off the bottom with the 0-0 draw at Bury on Tuesday night, but after surviving on the final day of each of the last two seasons, the feeling among the fans is that there won’t be a third time lucky. Seven points from safety, with a poor goal difference, is certainly a big ask.
The reason behind the survivals in the last two seasons have been the impact made by loan signings, such as Nicky Ajose, Jamie Ness and Alan Tate last season, plus Chuks Aneke and Uche Ikpeazu the season before.
There’s unlikely to be much help from outside this time, so it’s down to the young squad they’ve got, so it will be difficult. They will take heart from the turnarounds in the past two seasons and although nine wins from 19 games – which is probably what it will take – appears unlikely, they’ve been written off before and managed to pull off a great escape. The fact a lot of teams in League One aren’t pulling up any trees could work in their favour.
Millwall moved into the play-off places last weekend with a victory over Chesterfield – do you believe they have enough to stay there between now and May?: I tipped them for the top six before the season started, with Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic and Gillingham being the three I thought would get promoted. The teams in the top five will finish there, in my view, though what order, I’m not yet sure.
I think it’s between Millwall, Sheffield United and Peterborough United for that sixth spot, so it will be who can be most consistent. The fact Millwall never seem to draw I think could work in their favour, so I think they might sneak in.
Who are Crewe’s ‘ones to watch’ on Saturday?: Ryan Colclough, eight-goal top scorer and star asset, leaves a big hole in the attacking ranks – he will be sorely missed. Another Academy graduate now probably takes up the accolade of star man – Ben Garratt.
The 21 year-old is one of the most highly rated young goalkeepers in the Football League and was named Player – and Players’ Player – of the Season last season, after some excellent displays. Approaching 100 games for the club, his stock is rising, despite playing behind one of the Football League’s leakiest defences since breaking in to the side. Garratt is likely to be the next Academy graduate to move on to better things.
Brad Inman is also a threat on the break with his pace and scored a terrific goal in the draw with Wigan last weekend.
Are there any Millwall players you will be wary of?: I watched Lee Gregory play in his Halifax days and always thought he could do well in the league. I thought the Championship was a level too high to test himself first up, but he’s certainly doing the business in League One, which doesn’t surprise me. I love his work-rate, too.
Shane Ferguson and Jed Wallace are good signings at this level, too, so there’s been some good business by Millwall in this window.
Finally, how do you see the game going?: I can see Millwall having a lot of the ball and looking to get the ball wide and getting crosses into the box – something Crewe allow to happen so easily. The Alex faced a similar threat against Bury on Tuesday and just about managed to hold on, so it will take a similar level of concentration to keep the Lions out.
I do fancy Crewe to trouble Millwall, though; Colclough and Inman on the break will create opportunities, but they’re likely to be few and far between, so they’ll need to take the few chances they create if they’re to have any chance.
I think if they can keep it tight and stay in the game, they can come away with a point.
Score Prediction: Millwall 0-0/1-1 Crewe.
Rich’s Team Prediction: Garratt; Turton, Ajayi, Nugent, Guthrie; Fox, Jones; Cooper, Inman, Bakayogo; Haber.
Millwall take on Crewe Alexandra at The Den this Saturday, January 30th. Kick-off is at 3pm.