Millwall deliver perfect Christmas present to fanbase as miserly defence returns for perfect nine-point haul


If Joe Edwards did have a Christmas wish list, a nine-point haul over Christmas would probably have been right at the top of it.

But you’d probably be hard pressed to find anybody of a Millwall persuasion who thought the Lions were capable of accumulating that tally over the festive period.

As we head into 2024, though, that’s exactly what Millwall have done.

If the win against QPR was necessary and the subsequent triumph against Norwich was a pleasant surprise, then Monday’s victory at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate was the icing on the cake.

By making the perfect start to the new year, Millwall also went some way to putting one of 2023’s lowest moments to rights.

The manner in which the Lions performed in the reverse fixture in August was disappointing considering the match was dedicated to the memory of their late owner John Berylson and Bristol City plundered all three points in the final moments.

This time, the roles were reversed with Shaun Hutchinson showcasing the perfect blend of composure and technique to sweep a left-footed strike beyond Max O’Leary after a late corner had only been half cleared.

A finish which would have graced the showreel of any seasoned striker, Hutchinson’s moment of magic capped an imperious performance.

The captain rolled back the years and led by example throughout, constantly stifling attacks by stepping out at the right moment.

He was a worthy matchwinner and has hardly put a foot wrong since stepping in for Wes Harding, who has been one of the Lions’ most consistent defenders.

Just a fortnight ago, I wasn’t alone in expressing concerns that Millwall’s defensive nous had seemingly all but eroded.

But the festive period has seen the return of miserly Millwall – it’s now four clean sheets on the bounce and the South Londoners are barely giving up chances, let alone relying on Matija Sarkic to save them.

Hutchinson may have stood out above the rest but everybody impressed as Millwall extended their unbeaten run to five matches.

After a solid first half, the Lions took charge of the game after the break and were in the ascendancy long before Hutchinson popped up at the death.

The standard of the performance at Ashton Gate was night and day compared to the clash with Stoke in the build-up to Christmas.

The building blocks of what Edwards is trying to implement are slowly coming through and, in flashes, Millwall knocked the ball about with an effortless swagger which hasn’t been seen in South Bermondsey for quite some time.

On reflection, this was probably Millwall’s most complete performance under their new head coach barring the 4-0 drubbing of Sheffield Wednesday at the beginning of Edwards’ reign.

Like the Norwich match, there were plenty of nearly moments in attack for the Lions.

The final third is still a work in progress, but Millwall are creating more chances and, importantly, better quality ones.

It feels like the best is yet to come, along with further bumps in the road, which are inevitable given Edwards has designs on gradually evolving Millwall into a more possession-focused team.

After accumulating nine points inside a week, fans can enjoy the ride in the second half of the season after a brief flirt with the relegation dogfight.

A corner has well and truly been turned considering this group looked completely bereft of belief just a few weeks ago.

Ask anyone of a Millwall persuasion about nine-point weeks and they will all tell you the same thing – they don’t roll around too often in these parts.

This one came at the perfect time because 2023 was full of the inevitable highs and lows, but the highs felt higher and the lows hit harder.

We may only have a small sample size in 2024 but there should be a renewed sense of optimism at the Den when Leicester City visit in the FA Cup third round tomorrow.

Millwall ended 2023 in underwhelming fashion but they have started the New Year in style  and, based on their last couple of performances, there should be more to come.

Shaun Hutchinson. Millwall’s captain was a colossus throughout and a fully deserving match-winner.

Shaun Hutchinson’s last-gasp winner. The composure, the swivel, the finish…a goal worthy of winning any game.


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