The Sky Blues travelled to The Den to take on Millwall on Saturday, hoping to make it two league wins on the spin. With the Lions being another one of the favoured sides to get promoted, I’m sure I and most other City fans would’ve been happy with a point…what we were treated too was utterly unbelievable.
Tony Mowbray named the same eleven that beat Wigan on the opening weekend, and they proved to do their duty again. Millwall were outclassed from start to finish and a dominant away display saw the Sky Blues stroll to a 4-0 victory.
It was a fairly scrappy opening and the first few minutes just consisted of the ball being cleared from end to end, but with 4 minutes played the home side were given the chance to take an early lead from the spot. Lee Burge was perceived to have brought down Lee Gregory by the referee who pointed immediately to the spot, City players protested furiously however as it looked as if the striker had taken a dive. Justice was served nonetheless as Burge sprung to his left to save the spot kick and keep the scores level.
From this point on, City seemed to come in to life as they ‘took the bull by the horns’ so to speak. Adam Armstrong certainly did, and he produced a moment of magic just 2 minutes later to propel the Sky Blues in front. The on-loan striker received the ball out wide on the left, he then saw the goalkeeper off his line and lobbed the ball with precision from 35 yards in to the back of the net to send the away end in to raptures.
Millwall looked to respond and possession soon came their way more often, but they didn’t trouble an organised City back line. Shaun Cummings did manage to play a tempting cross with 9 minutes on the clock and Lee Gregory was inches away from making contact. Steve Morison did also float in a ball after stealing it off Ruben Lameiras soon after but Burge commanded his area well to punch away from danger.
The home fans, who getting increasingly frustrated, were left fuming on 19 minutes as Coventry made it 2-0. Some superb play from Jim O’Brien allowed him to find James Maddison on the edge, he then played to Lameiras and the winger drilled the ball under David Forde’s body after cutting in neatly. It got worse for Millwall soon after too as Armstrong got his second goal of the game after Lameiras timed his pass perfectly, the striker then finished with aplomb to make it 3-0 and reward the Sky Blues’ dominance.
Some sublime football was being played by City and the home side were left wondering. Boos began to ring around the stadium whilst the away end was in party mode. With half an hour played Millwall had their best chance of the game following a Lee Martin corner, Gregory somehow headed over from six yards under pressure. It just wasn’t the home side’s day.
After putting themselves in to a commanding lead, the Sky Blues began to play the game at their own pace as they kept possession well to frustrate their opponents. Millwall did have two efforts go close on 42 and 45 minutes in some of their rare ventures forward as Shaun Williams struck the outside of the post from range, he then also saw a half-volley dip narrowly over the bar. The referee’s whistle sounded shortly after to signal an end to the best 45 minutes I’ve seen us play for years.
The second half got underway with the Sky Blues looking the better of the two sides again, Armstrong had an early chance but he rushed it to Forde’s relief who gathered the ball. Possession was at the forefront of City’s second half plans as all they really needed to do was keep it, this started to frustrate Neil Harris’ side and Ben Thompson was lucky not to see red after chopping down John Fleck.
It was Thompson who had the next chance of the affair on 56 minutes as the Lions attempted to find a route back in to the contest, he fired a powerful effort on goal from 25 yards but Burge showed competent handling to hold the swerving effort. The ‘keeper was then called in to action just minutes later and he responded as Morison diverted a Thompson cross on target.
The home side enjoyed the odd spell but they were miles away from what I -band I’m sure, their fans – expected. With a slight improvement in their performance, they could have had a one-on-one opportunity on 69 minutes but Burge raced off his line with bravery to steal the ball off Gregory’s feet.
City’s chances were drying up a little now as Millwall resorted to damage limitation tactics. Although they looked to be restricting the Sky Blues, they could do nothing to prevent a fourth goal which put the icing on the cake for the away supporters. Some brilliant build-up allowed O’Brien to play a neat one-two in the area with Marcus Tudgay, the Scottish midfielder then drilled the ball in to the roof of the net before wheeling away in celebration.
The final 10 minutes of the game saw Millwall search for a goal to restore a bit of pride, but City’s defence stood firm to keep a clean sheet. A number of chances opened up for the away team and Reda Johnson miscued a header either side of two Jacob Murphy efforts. It was full-time shortly after though and the players and supporters celebrated a well-earned victory alike.
Well, that was truly mesmerising. After the win over Wigan and a fairly admirable performance against Rochdale on Tuesday night, I was confident we’d get a point – boy did we do more than that! If you thought the opening day performance was good (it was), this game was twice of that.
Once Lee Burge made that save from the penalty spot, the game turned on its head and the Sky Blues were in the driving seat, the home side just passengers. The first half was a pleasure to watch and I needed time to recover at half-time, the excitement was getting to me! It proved to be a more laid back second half but it was professional, organised and very credible.
It’s not very often you come away from a game as a City supporter thinking ‘we were better in all departments’, but we were today. Mowbray has us playing some tantalising football and we truly carved Millwall open in their own back yard. Man for man we were excellent and it sets a standard to aspire too.
Lee Burge commanded his area well when needed but him and his back four remained fairly untroubled for the entirety of the game. In front of them, Romain Vincelot did an excellent job in breaking up play whilst John Fleck was metronomic and kept things ticking over – his work rate was incredible also, he was everywhere!
As for the front four, they were top notch again and they reaped havoc on a fairly strong defensive line. Jim O’Brien put in a characteristically grafting display whilst James Maddison and Ruben Lameiras were technically levels above. For players of small stature, the latter pair use their body very smartly to glide past players and failing that, buy numerous fouls. All of the goals were of high quality as well and hats off to Adam Armstrong, his finishes were way beyond his years – the first one, exquisite.
There wasn’t a fault in the display and we’ve deservedly got 6 points on the board now. Despite being ridiculously excited and overjoyed (believe me I am), we’ve got to remain grounded. There are 44 games to play. What a start though…if we can keep this up we could be in for a decent season. On to Crewe.
Lee Burge – 8
Chris Stokes – 8
Sam Ricketts – 8
Reda Johnson – 8
Jordan Willis – 8
John Fleck – 9.5
Romain Vincelot – 9
Jim O’Brien – 9
James Maddison – 9
Ruben Lameiras – 9
Adam Armstrong – 9.5
Jacob Murphy – 8
Marcus Tudgay – 8
George Thomas – N/A
Coventry City: Burge, Willis, Ricketts, Johnson, Stokes, O’Brien, Vincelot, Fleck, Lameiras (Tudgay 72), Maddison (Murphy 62), Armstrong (Thomas 83).
Unused Substitues: Charles-Cook, Phillips, Martin, Morris.
Millwall: Forde, Cummings, Craig, Williams, Upson (Cowan-Hall 77), Gregory, Onyedinma, Martin (Thompson 45), Beevers (Ferguson 45), Webster, Morison.
Unused Substitutes: Archer, Hall, Marquis, Nelson, Powell.