(Millwall win 3-1 on penalties)
BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE DEN
Millwall’s passage to the second round of the League Cup was a chance to run the rule over the trio of summer signings – and it was Ben Amos who ended up looking the most impressive on the 90 minute showing.
Well, 90 minutes and a bit. Because it was the penalty shootout which gave both sets of goalkeepers the chance to be a hero.
And Amos, whose season-long loan move to the Lions sees him needing to wrest the number one jersey off Jordan Archer, took it.
Gillingham’s Tomas Holy had the edge in size, seeming to swallow up the goal in front of the boisterous away end — who spent a fair portion of the evening trying to pretend there was a genuine rivalry between the two clubs.
And he started off in style as he denied Jed Wallace.
But Amos twice went the right way, getting a hand on Brandon Hanlan’s kick to push it onto the post and confirm Millwall’s progression.
The Bolton Wanderers loanee – a free agent in the summer if he does not extend his stay in SE16 in the meantime – produced solid handling throughout, even if the saves he made were expected.
Gillingham, with a 100 per cent record in League One, had two excellent opportunities in normal time to try and take away his clean sheet but Hanlan and Regan Charles-Cook – both on Charlton’s books last season – failed to find the target.
With Jordan Archer starting the campaign in strong form, Amos is unlikely to get a Championship opening soon.
The most likely to get game time is Jiri Skalak. The former Brighton winger had the least impact of the three, but clearly still needs to hone his sharpness after being out of the first-team picture after the South-Coast club’s promotion to the Premier League.
There were still a couple of moments for the Czech attacker though, Holy beating away his first-half strike. With a reputation of providing quality deliveries from out wide and dead-ball situations – there was a 39th minute corner which Murray Wallace could not keep down.
It was clear that Harris wanted Skalak to get in practise in a match situation, beckoning Shane Ferguson away when he went to offer a short corner option. But his sights were a bit hit and miss, like the Lions performance.
Murray Wallace was unflappable alongside captain Byron Webster, who was playing a competitive game for the first time since suffering serious knee damage against Barnsley in September.
Millwall’s inability to build up an attacking head of steam made the frustration easily audible – at least around the press box. Much of it seemed to be directed at Tom Elliott.
The striker showed character to take the second spot-kick but needs goals in open play to boost his confidence.
Some of his flick-ons and lay-offs worked – with Ben Thompson snapping one shot into the arms of Holy – but Elliott has not been able to make a strong claim to dislodge the preferred front pairing of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory.
Fred Onyedinma also needs to show more when played in that role. His one big moment came when he got to Elliott’s cross ahead of Max Ehmer, but Holy was quickly off his line to deny the youngster.
Harris made 10 changes for the tie – one more than the same stage in 2017-18 – but you only had to look at the experience running right through the starting 11, and the back-up on the bench, to realise he wanted to progress and also get a first win on the board.
Jake Cooper and Mahlon Romeo both went on to become starting regulars after featuring against Stevenage – and there are a handful from Tuesday that can do the same.
Harris held his hands up to what he described as a lack of “cohesion” from the home side, pointing out that there was little time available on the training ground between league commitments.
Tomorrow against Derby will be a return to personnel who are totally familiar with each other – and the gameplan required to gain success. Millwall (4-4-2): Amos 8, McLaughlin 7, Webster 7, M Wallace 7, Meredith 7 (O’Brien 74), Skalak 6 (J Wallace 83), Tunnicliffe 6, Thompson 6, Ferguson 6, Onyedinma 6 (Gregory 74), Elliott 6. Not used: Archer, Cooper, Williams, Romeo.
PHOTOS BY BRIAN TONKS
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