Sunday, 28 December 2014

Cherry Chimes speaks to Millwall fan Mark Litchfield

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Millwall v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Mark Litchfield Blog

I managed to make contact with a Rival Line blogger this week from Millwall. Mark Litchfield has his own blog on the Lions and we ask him whether Millwall have enough about them to stay up this season? Millwall have flattered to deceive in the first few weeks of the season and yet fought back heroically at Dean Court in November to earn a draw, so what type of Millwall will we see on 28 December?

CC: Do you think Ollie is getting Millwall to play more consistently now?
MLB: Yes and no. When it comes to passing the ball about, we do it with the utmost calmness in our own half – we more often than not dominate the possession stats – but that all seems to go to pot in the final third. Instead of being direct and going for goal, passing the ball like we do further down the pitch, we resort to long-ball tactics; more often than not up to the lone striker, Lee Gregory. As talented as Lee is (he has bags of potential, if you ask me), he cannot do it all on his own. Our lack of goals is due to poor decision making in the final third.

CC: I saw Ollie at the Bournemouth fixture and he was kind enough to sign many programmes for the Bournemouth fans, I even lent him my pen. So do you and home fans in general find it easy to be able to approach him before the games at the New Den?

MLB: I wouldn't really know the answer to this question personally – I don't see the players and/or manager before the game, but I see enough photos etc on social media to know that Holloway is easily approachable. One thing Millwall managers and the fans have in common is respect – as long as they make time for the fans, they'll always be supported. An ex-West Ham midfielder aside – we won't talk about him much!

CC: How much of lift do you think the win at Brighton will have done for your players? (this question was asked before the Norwich drubbing)

MLB: Despite playing badly, we gained a much-needed win at the Amex. You would've thought that grinding out three points like we did would boost morale, but on Friday night against Bolton, despite the fact that we were looking good coming forward, our failure to put the ball into the net coupled with the ridiculous formation put out and substitutions, made by Ian Holloway, ensured that the win was a distant memory.

CC: Millwall have not been scoring highly so do you expect a new striker to come in during January and have you any likely candidates?

MLB: Absolutely. As previously eluded to, our lack of goals is due to poor decision making in the final third. A large factor in this, in my opinion, is Holloway's choice to start each game with one up front. Fans have been crying out for months for him to play two up front – it is the Millwall way – but the boss has stuck to his guns. On the rare occasions we have seen two up front, we came back from 3-0 down against Wolves, 2-0 down against Blackburn, 2-0 down against Brentford (although we went on to lose the game) and 2-0 down against yourselves, so the proof is in the pudding.

With regards to targets, the names of James Hanson, Tom Pope and Benik Afobe have been thrown around in recent months, but being a Millwall fan, you know that we'll never go for the obvious choice. What we do need, though, is a target man. Lee Gregory is a natural finisher that'll benefit hugely from someone doing the dirty work for him – perhaps Hanson fits that bill.

CC: Are Millwall good enough to stay up?

MLB: Yes. I had us down to finish mid-table at the beginning of the season and, providing we do some good business in January, I don't think we'll be too far off. As everyone knows, the Championship is a tight division. Even in March/April, the majority of promotion and relegation places aren't decided – a few wins will see you shoot up the table, while a few defeats will see you in trouble. I think we'll be fine – if we play two up front!

CC: What went wrong in the Middlesbrough drubbing Millwall received, because you played well against AFCB the week before?

MLB: Everything! Because we'd been finishing games strongly in a variation of a 3-5-2 formation (most notably against yourselves), the manager decided to start that way against Boro. The problem is, the five in midfield didn't really know their positions – Andy Wilkinson, a loan signing from Stoke City, is a right-back, yet he found himself having to play further up the field, getting caught out of position too many times. Scott Malone, who is one of our most promising players, has believed the hype about himself just a little too much and now seems to play as a left wing-back – that meant we were vulnerable down both sides, which Boro ruthlessly exploited with their pace, power and direction when on the ball.

The midfield five offered no support to the front two, who despite working hard, received nothing but aimless long balls all afternoon. It was all a bit of a mess and Boro fully deserved to hand us our annual thumping at home.

CC: Millwall pummelled AFCB with high ball in our box in the second half at Dean Court so do you expect the same tactic against AFCB at home?

MLB: One would hope not. Away from home, for me, that tactic works wonderfully. But, as the home team, my way of looking at things is you should set the tempo of the game, you should play your own way and you should make the opposition adapt to your way of playing. Most Millwall fans would love to see a return to days gone by – a time where we played 4-4-2, with two wingers swinging in crosses for two strikers. But Holloway doesn't see it that way.

Should we go 2-0 down again, then yes, expect it!

CC: Do you think it is helpful to Millwall players to take on AFCB again so soon after the away match for you?

MLB: I'd say so. Things will still be fresh in the memory, such as the way you play, who your danger men are etc. But, then again, it'll also be of benefit to Bournemouth because of the same factors.

CC: How is the injury situation - are any players definitely out of the AFCB game from your side?

MLB: We have a long-term absentee in Nicky Bailey, but apart from that, the rest of our injuries are just little niggles.

CC: Adam Smith used to play for Millwall at right back and Scott Malone is still in your team at left back, so are attacking wing backs a strong feature of your team in this current season?

MLB: They are on the left. As previously stated, Scott Malone seems to operate as a left-wing back now – he is very attack-minded. Unfortunately, this leaves us open down the opposition's right too many times for my liking. I've said for a while now that we should move Malone to the left-midfield position and let someone else do the job of a left-back. We have Matthew Briggs in our ranks or, with January on the horizon, we could bring someone in.

CC: Who would you say has been your best player up to this point in the season and why?

MLB: Shaun Williams. The Irishman has added class to the club since his arrival from MK Dons in January. Calm on the ball with an outstanding range of passing, Williams offers so much to the team. His strike against Blackburn on November 4th showed his quality, for me. If we had a team of Shaun Williams', we'd be in business.

CC: How difficult do you rate the Bournemouth game compared to your other Christmas fixtures against Bolton and Norwich?

MLB: I think it's the toughest by far. We'll go to Norwich on Boxing Day with absolutely no pressure on us. The Canaries will be expected to win – just how we like it. Whilst Bournemouth will also probably be expected to win, as the home side, there will be a lot more pressure on ourselves than there will be at Carrow Road. I personally think Bournemouth are one of the best sides in this division (along with Middlesbrough and Ipswich) and you have an fantastic manager in Eddie Howe, so we'll have to produce our best performance to gain all three points.

CC: Finally, what is your score prediction for the game?

MLB: With Ian Holloway in charge, who knows. One thing is for sure – there will be goals.

CC: Thanks Mark for sparing the time to write all those very detailed answers. I think AFCB players have a healthy respect for what Millwall did down at Dean Court and that should make this quite a re-match. I just hope that both sides really go and playing some attacking football and as you say let their be goals! It's cold sitting in the stands in December and we will all need a reason to get up and jump about a bit. If it's a nil-nil affair then we all get cold!

If you liked Mark's answers, please go and take a look of his excellent blog. Us bloggers put a lot of hard work into our sites and it's great for us when we see that we've had a lot of visitors, so get over to Mark's blog and see what you can find out about Millwall before the game. UTCIAD!

Tweet me your score predictions @peterbell19

No comments:

Post a Comment