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Confidence returning; luck on Lumley's side - Knee Jerks
Thursday, 20th Sep 2018 14:57 by Clive Whittingham

Antti Heinola reflects on Wednesday night's 2-0 home win against Millwall, with Rangers going from laughing stock of the country to the division’s form team in a few short weeks.

Confidence

This team who played last night, particularly first half, would wipe the floor with the team of a few weeks ago. And yet the players are almost the same. The biggest change is confidence. You could see it last night in the fluidity of the passing; the sense that players were not, as they were against Wigan, looking to offload the thing almost before they took control, for fear of making a catastrophic error; the belief going forward; the snapping into tackles. Yes, Millwall, like Birmingham, Bolton and Wigan before them were not great. But you can’t keep saying that after every win or draw. A month ago I’d have laughed if someone had suggested we’d take ten points from those games, or at least assumed such a set of results would have meant McClaren had been binned in favour of some Portuguese genius or other.

Credit must go to McClaren and his team. He may have decided that he was trying to run before he could walk. A complete style change, with split centre backs and a ball-playing goalie, was perhaps too much in one go – particularly when we do not have a ball-playing goalie, because our ball-playing goalie is sitting behind Neil Warnock on a sort of airline chair wearing gloves for no reason, sadly recalling the days when those that loved him would sing about him being England’s number one.

So Stevie Boy changed things up. He shut up shop. He went, in the main, with experience. Risks were not encouraged. Just get a win and we’ll worry about the rest later. It worked – just. On another day, Wigan may have won 2 or 3-1, and had they done so, McClaren would’ve been sacked and we’d be sitting here with Mick McCarthy, with his wonderful press conferences but dire football, saying ‘well, at least he’ll keep us up’ while all the while secretly plotting that once he did keep us up we could get rid of him and get someone else in. Someone sexier, who would split the centre backs and play with a ball-playing goalie. Luckily, we won, and from there, in little increments, things have got better, culminating in a good performance on Saturday, and another good one last night, with the first half in particular being very pleasing indeed.

Tougher tests undoubtedly await, but for now, we’ll take the points, hope the improvement continues, and now really can start to dream of coming 15th. 15th!

Lumley

Ooh Lummy it’s Lumley. The man is a stats machine. He works only in binary this season: 0, 0, 0, 1, 0. Delighted he was at the end, so delighted he decided to clap the Millwall fans who hadn’t left early to buy cans of Foster’s for the journey home. They responded to his good sportsmanship by showering him with thoughtful gifts, like a nice programme and other things I couldn’t make out from my vantage point.

At the moment, he’s certainly a better option than Ingram, but concerns remain, as they do, to be fair, for any young keeper. His kicking was a bit erratic, particularly when Millwall forced him to kick from his hands, which resulted in him volleying balls at sort of waist height really hard to the halfway line. And, woop woop woop! Cliché alert! Woop woop woop! He… LOOKED A BIT DODGY ON CROSSES! Woop woop woop! Well, he did. Sort of patted one corner away in the first half that he should’ve caught and wafted almost catastrophically at a deep cross in the second half.

But, he got away with all of it and when Millwall did have the odd shot, he either saved it, or calmly watched it rattle off the bar, hit a defender on the back of the head and rebound straight into his arms, as he always knew it would. Shouts a lot. Doing well. Seems to have luck on his side.

Cameron

Geoff Cameron (is his name Geoff? I’m not actually sure) is one of those players who plays for years in the Prem and I genuinely never notice them. I didn’t, until we signed him, even know he existed, truth be told, let alone if he was any good or not. Sorry Geoff (Jeff?). But here he finally was, taking his place in the system. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the system was – you can all argue about it if you want, but I’m a bit over systems now. Was it a 4-4-1-1? A 4-5-1? A 4-1-3-1-1? All I know for sure is that we had four defenders.

Anyway, Joel Cameron. Had a quite incredible first five minutes where he won the ball in one way or another about six times and then did a good pass. After that, Jimmy C won it less often, and some of his passing was a little wayward. But still, he was big and strong and he shouted a lot, and he was a pragmatic pick considering Millwall have giants that don’t look like giants because one of their defenders seems legit taller than mid 90s WWF superstar giant, Giant Gonzalez (previously known as El Gigante in WCW, fact fans, and a worse wrestler you’d be hard-pressed to find). So, in short, I only know slightly more about Joffrey Cameron than I did 24 hours ago. Hope that helps.

Wells

Oh my lord, Nahki, you are a very fine player indeed. First half in particular he was excellent. Movement: great. Work rate: Great. Touch: Great. Passing: Great. I don’t want to dig poor Wash out, especially as he’s gone now, but here was an exhibition of how to play the lone role up front even if you are not a big lump. So strong, so clever, so smart, so bright. A real joy to watch and when his goal does finally come it will be richly deserved. And you can see how much Freeman and Eze enjoy playing with him too – he’s someone they can give the ball to and expect to get it back.

Cousins

Starting to get a run in the side now and hopefully we might see the player we thought we’d signed. Seemed to be shunted out to wide right last night when really, if he’s going to play, I want to see him play 5 consecutive games in the middle so we can properly see what we have here. Still, this was one of his best games for the club. Worked really hard down the right, both going forwards and backwards, and in the end should have had two goals – one a tricky chance in the first half (but a great run to get into the position), the second an easier one with the goalie stranded after Luongo (greatly improved) had seen his shot parried. Did his job, essentially, although you do think given the changes that had to be made because of Hemed’s enforced absence, Pav might have been the more natural pick for that position. Still, a really hard-working, effective display.

Bench

It was during the Bristol game that the squad suddenly felt so, so thin. It’s like that in losing runs. The ones on the pitch aren’t doing it and you look at the bench and think ‘well, they’re not going to do it either. Oh dear.’ But suddenly we had a bench full of options last night. Scowen, excellent for most of last season, and usually a first pick. Pav, always a dangerous outlet and a great engine. BOS, tricky, fast, great to bring on in situations last night when spaces were opening up on the counter (why not bring him on then?). Smith – in case all else fails. Hemed – genuine goal threat. And Alex Baptiste, who’s useful, isn’t he? And that’s not even counting Little Smyth, who S-Mac may not rate, which is a shame. A few wins and suddenly everything’s coming up Millhouse. Until Norwich get their annual win on Saturday of course.

Pictures – Action Images

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062259 added 17:30 - Sep 21
Hello Antti, I noticed there were no comments here on your Millwall knee jerks. Be assured that I read them every time you post and always enjoy the insights and commentary. I'm sure many other readers feel the same. You probably know how many hits you get on your page, but even if you don't, please keep 'em coming !!!
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