Pavey and O'Brien on target in 2-2 draw with Colchester
Millwall U21s maintained their unbeaten start to 2015 with a 2-2 draw against Colchester United at Dartford's Princes Park ground on Monday evening.
Having shared six goals with Swansea City in a 3-3 thriller and beaten neighbours Charlton 2-1 already in January, Neil Harris' charges went into action against Colchester looking to build on a promising set of results and performances.
However it proved to be a night of mixed emotions for the coach, who was delighted with some aspects of his team's play on a heavy playing surface, but disappointed at conceding a last-minute goal to deny the young Lions a deserved win.
Speaking to millwallfc.co.uk Chopper said: "The game was played on a very heavy, boggy surface at Dartford which for some of the players was a slightly new experience. We like to play football, play through the thirds with a structure and produce attractive football. The pitch wasn't conducive to that so we had to go a bit quicker back to front, a bit more direct."
The Lions took the lead through Alfie Pavey, who headed home the opening goal after Aiden O'Brien had flicked on Kyren Farrell's corner.
"Alfie is a good target man and it was a really good header to put us in front," added Chopper. "Aiden flicked the ball on and Alfie rose above the keeper and sent a powerful header home. It was an excellent finish and at that stage we were in control.
"However, as I have said on a number of occasions, playing at U21 is a learning curve and I was disappointed that we conceded a goal from a set-piece before half-time to hand Colchester the equaliser. It is the first time that we have conceded a goal from a set-piece at U21 level this season, and the players have to learn how to stay switched on, mark their man and be responsible for their job in situations like that."
Millwall came out strongly in the second-half and whilst dominating possession-wise, found clear scoring opportunities limited.
However a moment of magic from Aiden O'Brien midway through the half looked to have secured victory for The Lions, producing a super finish from the edge of the penalty area following enterprising work from skipper Ben Thompson.
"It was a really well-worked goal," said Chopper. "Ben made a fantastic deep forward run and got to the byline before pulling the ball back for Aiden, and his was a terrific finish into bottom corner.
"We controlled the game really well after that, our structure was good and we were dealing with the elements much better. We got players around the ball, were winning second balls and looked to be on our way to a good win.
"It was disappointing, hugely disappointing, to concede a last minute goal again which has happened a few times. If I was being fair to Colchester I would say that it was a great strike from 20 yards that went in off the bar, but I thought it was avoidable as they didn't get to the ball quick enough and gave him space to shoot. Players have to learn that if they are being punished for an error at this level, they will be punished dearly for the slightest of errors in the first team.
"Although it was disappointing with the manner in which we conceded two goals, I was delighted with our two scorers, I thought that Ben Thompson was very impressive in middle of the park and the young scholars again did extremely well.
"We had 16-year-old Harry Girling in goal, whilst Jamie Philpot and Kyren Farrell in the middle of the park were excellent. JP Rylah came off bench and did very very well too, so there were plenty of positives. As the season goes on younger lads will get more of an opportunity to shine; we will give them experience playing for the U21s to set them in good in stead for next season."
Team: Girling, Siafa, Hoyte, Thompson, Parr, Wood, Webb (Rylah, 60mins), Farrell, Pavey, Philpot, O'Brien. Subs not used: Chesmain, Goodman, Byron, Peter.