|Millwall 0 v 1 Southampton|
Saturday, 4th November 2023 Kick-off 15:00
Southampton At Millwall The Preview
Friday, 3rd Nov 2023 09:25
Saints travel up to South East London to take on the Lions, hoping that a win at the Den alongside other results could see them up to 3rd in the table as well as hauling back the clubs above them a little.
Saints take on Millwall at 3pm on Saturday, but before we travel to London, all eyes will be on Leicester where the Foxes take on Leeds United.
Leicester start the weekend 15 points ahead of Saints and Leeds are just a single point above us, perhaps for us a draw would be the best result or a Leicester win, either would mean that we would jump above Leeds if we win at Millwall and the draw would also haul back Leicester a little.
Perhaps more important for us though is Ipswich who are the side we need to haul back first and foremost, they travel to Birmingham City and if the Blues could beat them, then that aligned with defeat for Leeds and a win at Millwall for us would truly change the dynamics of the top 4 of the Championship.
But when all is said and done although we do have to rely on results elsewhere at the moment, the first thing we have to do is keep up our own good form and keep winning games.
Millwall go into this game in turmoil, at time of writing they are managerless, but who knows by the time we kick off they could have a manager and that could be our ex boss Nathan Jones.
The last few games has seen them drop off, they have dropped off a little of late, failing to win in the last 4 games, although it should be noted that they have drawn 3 of those, indeed that is the pattern over the last 7 games, out of 21 points on offer from those matches, they have won just 1 game, but drawn 4.
If Nathan Jones isn't in the dug out to face his old club, then there will be one familiar face, goalkeeper Bart Bialkowski was at St Mary's for the best part of 7 seasons and played a big part in getting us to the Championship play offs in 2006/07 coming in at a crucial time when Kelvin Davis had a confidence crisis and he also played a league game in our promotion season of 2011/12, a 2-2 draw at home with Blackpool, if you want an omen Rickie Lambert scored a last minute equaliser to give us a point.
Ironically Bialkowski's last two games for the club were against Millwall, a 1-1 draw at the then named New Den in the FA Cup and the replay at St Mary's where we lost 3-2.
It is good to see that the Polish keeper has enjoyed a long career in the game and at 36 can look back at the last 9 years as first choice for various Championship sides for both Millwall and Ipswich.
But back to the future and Saints task is to silence the lions roar and take back 3 points to the South Coast that hopefully push us into the top 3 and a little bit nearer the top two.
Russell Martin has endured a tough first few months as Saints boss and in September came under a lot of fire for a run of 4 straight defeats, but since then he has turned things round and thus we go into this game with the potential opportunity to go 3rd.
Part of the reason that we have found our feet this season is that Martin has found the core of his best side and hopefully there won't be too many changes from the starting XI against Birmingham.
Gavin Bazunu is still young and finding his feet, but he is also finding his form and has played a part in our revival.
But he is being helped by the fact that for the first time in his career at St Mary's he has a solid regular defence in front of him, at the moment 3 of the back four, Kyle Walker Peters, Jan Bednarek & Taylor Harwood-Bellis are automatic choices, at left back James Bree has come in and done well and I expect to see him play at the Den as he is a defensive option, but Ryan Manning could well surprise a few people as the season progresses.
The centre of midfield has seen Flynn Downes and Will Smallbone form a partnership and although some say Smallbone plays sideways, that is perhaps not the insult that they are intending, all sides need a player that does the basics in the centre and gets the ball to those who play it.
So I would expect that so far the first 7 on the teamsheet are nailed on, but after that I feel that only Adam Armstrong can be sure of playing, so the other three places are up for grabs.
Most would say that these 3 spaces should be filled by Stuart Armstrong, Charly Alcatraz & Kamaldeen Sulemana and I think that would be the popular vote, but also in contention are Ryan Fraser, Shea Charles & Sam Edozie, it is not as simple as it looks, Russell Martin is not afraid to change the side to suit the occasion and the worry about starting with the same as last Saturday is that it is a very attacking line up, does he go a little bit more cautious and look to unleash Sulemana or Alcatraz later in the game.
Either way it emphasises the strength of depth we have in the squad when we add the likes of Mason Holgate, Ryan manning & Ross Stewart, all proven at this level and in the case of Holgate the Premier League.
So will this be our first sighting of Ross Stewart, the manager has hinted that he could be ready to play in this game and if not, next week against West Brom, so there could be explosive times head in the goal scoring stakes.
But overall in the last 8 games we have stopped the flood of goals into our own net and in the last 6 we have started to score more in our opponents, that has all added up to an unbeaten 6 game run that has seen us take 14 points and up into the position we now are.
Russell Martin has quietly got on with his job and started to silence his critics, or at least some of them and a win at Millwall would go a long long way to establishing his side as true contenders for not just the play offs but also an automatic promotion place.
The proof of the pudding though is in the eating and we need to win at the den, we should remember that Southampton are a side that never give up and play to the final whistle, some are still pointing at all the late goals, but in football you make your own luck and the number of late winners and equalisers is not just coincidence, it is down to our ability to bring on quality substitutes and turn the screw late on as our opponents legs are flagging.
For those that like a good omen, back in 2011/12 our last promotion season, we were not averse to a late goal or two to pick up points, as mentioned earlier it took a Rickie Lambert 9oth minute equaliser against Blackpool, on our last trip to Millwall, a Championship game on 17th March 2012, we were 2-1 down with 5 minutes left on the clock, two penalties in the space of 3 minutes turned the game round and Rickie Lambert completed his hat trick.
Photo: Action Images
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Blogs 31 bloggers
Knees-up Mother Brown #14 by wessex_exile
The blog returns with KMB14, after another awayday last weekend and first visit for me to Edgeley Park to see the U’s pit their wits against the heir apparent champions Stockport County. Despite a stewarding fubar that I’ve probably mentioned more than enough already, it was a good day out overall, with the U’s more than a match for Stockport for most of the game, apart that is from a 90 second lapse in concentration either side of half-time. Certainly no disgrace though, and with the U’s getting straight back on the bike midweek with a comfortable 1-0 victory over League 1 Posh (albeit against largely their second string), I think we can look forward to this afternoon against promotion contenders Barrow with a degree of confidence.
Knees-up Mother Brown #13 by wessex_exile
KMB13, and this weekend I’m sure we will all, in our own way, pause to remember the fallen. With war again raging in Europe, and the Middle East aflame, I’m sadly reminded of the lyrics of Eric Bogle.
Knees-up Mother Brown #12 by wessex_exile
It’s a wet, windy first weekend of November, which can mean only one thing – it’s the magic of the FA Cup again! Today we face a trip to the New Meadow, home of League 1 Shrewsbury Town. I’ve never been to the New Meadow, my last trip to Salop was to watch the U’s win 2-1 in our FA Cup second round match at Gay Meadow back in December 2005 – and what a day that was too. That match was featured in Matches of Yesteryear #20, and it was pleasing to see it was the focus of a club interview with Greg Halford last week. There is also something very noteworthy about today – unless my calculations are awry, this will be our 200th appearance in the world’s greatest cup competition.
Knees-up Mother Brown #11 by wessex_exile
Well, following the U’s has been a bit of a rollercoaster through the last week. Ben Garner’s U’s slumped to a very poor home defeat last Saturday against Harrogate Town, despite taking the lead with a sublime strike from Chay Cooper. Robbie had seen enough, and that evening Ben was let go, with U21 lead coach Matty Etherington announced as the interim Head Coach on Monday. On Tuesday night, Matty Etherington’s U’s put in one hell of a shift, to come away from Grimsby (Cleethorpes – ed.) with all three points and a masterclass from Arthur Read – happy days, could Matty be our man? Well, not right now that’s for sure, after a call to Robbie from Crawley Town yesterday letting him know that apparently Matty is tied up in a contract exit clause from his brief spell at Crawley, seemingly forbidding him from operating in a head coach/ manager role until May 2024 (when his Crawley contract would have expired). So, Matty Etherington is stood down, with Assistant Head Coach Scott Marshall stepping up as our new interim Head Coach for the tough trip to Accrington Stanley.
Knees-up Mother Brown #10 by wessex_exile
Back again, after another U’s-induced matchday ‘experience’ at FGR, and what an experience it was. What was already a poor match between two poor sides descended into insanity after the red card for Mingi, with the U’s dismantled repeatedly to let four second half goals in. I hardly ever leave a game before the final whistle, but as the board went up for nine more minutes I’d seen enough and me and Alfie headed out for our lift home (and as a result, missed the frank exchange of views between players and supporters at the end). However, let’s focus on the positives, whatever was said, a much changed U’s were a different team on Tuesday at League 1 Cambridge. The U’s thoroughly deserved the win and their Pizza Slice Trophy three points, thanks in no small part to an excellent performance from Chay Cooper.
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