Leonard 19 Mahoney 49 Smith 62
BY ALEX GRACE AT THE DEN
Millwall are into the third round of the EFL Cup where they will face Premier League opposition – it’s just a shame it can’t be in front of a sold-out Den crowd.
The Covid-19 pandemic means there won’t be the usual buzz leading into the tie against Burnley next week.
Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Cheltenham Town was about as comfortable as it gets. The Lions were never really troubled by Michael Duff’s side as they made it into the third round of the often-maligned competition for the second time in the last three seasons.
Millwall manager Gary Rowett made seven changes from the side that drew 0-0 in Saturday’s Championship opener against Stoke. Murray Wallace, Tom Bradshaw, Shane Ferguson, Ryan Woods, Matt Smith and Connor Mahoney all came into the side. Mahlon Romeo made his first appearance since the 4-3 defeat at QPR in July.
The Lions controlled the game from start to finish.
The warning signs were there for the visitors early on as Millwall attempted to get balls into the box and on to the head of Smith.
The Lions should have taken the lead on 15 minutes, Mahoney’s corner was headed back into the danger area towards Shaun Hutchinson but the defender was unable to steer his header on target and force Josh Griffiths into action.
Mahoney was proving to be a problem for the Cheltenham defence. His shot from outside the box forced Griffiths into a smart stop.
The visitors’ resistance was broken just two minutes later, Murray Wallace’s ball was controlled brilliantly by Smith, who headed the ball down for Tom Bradshaw – he intelligently spotted Ryan Leonard steaming towards goal and cued up the former Southend United midfielder to drill into the bottom corner.
Millwall doubled their lead three minutes into the second half. Shane Ferguson’s cross found Mahoney, who finished smartly into the top corner.
The visitors did not sit back and feel sorry for themselves with the lively Alfie May still causing problems.
But Millwall put the tie to bed just after the hour mark. Ferguson again assisting, this time for Smith.
West Brom loanee Finn Azaz’s effort from distance beat Lions keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.
Rowett took the option to replace Romeo with Jiri Skalak after an hour.
The Millwall chief now has a selection headache ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Rotherham United with Mahoney, Smith and Ferguson all pushing their claim for starts at the New York Stadium.
Squad depth is something that Millwall lacked last season and that was evident in that nine-game mini season in June and July. The quick turnaround of games – plus injuries – left the squad stretched and Rowett’s options were minimal.
This season that appears to be different. Something that can only benefit Millwall going forward.
Connor Mahoney. The winger caused problems all night for the Cheltenham defence – and capped off his performance with his goal early in the second half.
Shane Ferguson’s cross for Mahoney’s goal. The two standout players combined brilliantly.
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