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2017/18 Season Review: Lions acclimatise to Championship life

August under the spotlight...

14 May 2018

2017/18 was quite the season for Millwall Football Club.

Following promotion to the Sky Bet Championship after victory in the League One Play-Off Final, The Lions started life back in the second tier at Nottingham Forest, complete with summer signings James Meredith, Tom Elliott, Jed Wallace, George Saville, Conor McLaughlin, Jake Cooper and Ryan Tunnicliffe.

Neil Harris' side dominated their opponents, creating 21 shots on goal, but succumbed to Barrie McKay's 41st-minute strike on a controversial night by the Trent which saw Steve Morison have a goal disallowed.

Despite the loss, the manager was pleased with side's ability to execute the gameplan, but also stated the need to be more ruthless.

"My players executed the gameplan perfectly. It was a really strong performance. We didn't sit off and let them play, we pressed at the right times. At this level - and certainly the next one up - if you don't take your chances, you lose the game. It's a good performance, but we've got nothing to show for it other than a pat on the back. We have to be more ruthless."

Elliott was at the double four days later as The Lions eased into Round Two of the newly-named Carabao Cup with a 2-0 win over Stevenage. "Tom's got the ability at the back post with his size, aggression and power to score goals like that," said Harris after the success.

Saville scored the first of 10 goals in 2017/18 in the 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers on 12th August. The midfielder gave The Lions the lead shortly after the resumption of the second half, but former Millwall winger Filipe Morais' free-kick on 62 minutes ensured a share of the spoils.

Jordan Spence's late winner condemned Millwall to their first home defeat of the campaign three nights later as Mick McCarthy's Ipswich Town team won a seven-goal thriller by the odd goal.

Jed Wallace scored the opener after just 44 seconds, but Joe Garner equalised just three minutes later. The first half scoring was not done there, however, as Martyn Waghorn (2) and Aiden O'Brien ensured that The Tractor Boys went in at the break 3-2 up.

Elliott stepped off the bench to equalise 10 minutes from time, but Spence headed home to give Ipswich all three points late on.

"We should be winning that game," said the manager. "I've said to the guys that there are a load of positives to take from the night - the goals we scored, the chances we've created, the second balls we picked up, the wide areas we got in to, overhead kicks, free-kicks, oohs and aahs, but that doesn't win you games of football.

"Organisation, discipline, work ethic, good play, good spirit and good decisions - that wins you games. Tonight, we were nowhere near them."

The same XI made amends the following Saturday as The Lions ground out a goalless draw at Bristol City, but it was to be a game they perhaps could've won, dominating large periods and forcing 16 corner-kicks at Ashton Gate.

"The wins will come" was the view of the boss in the wake of that trip and despite a 3-1 after-extra-time defeat at Reading in the Second Round of the Carabao Cup, a first Championship victory came in the last game of the month as ex-Premier League side Norwich City were defeated 4-0.

Lee Gregory and Saville scored two goals in three minutes to set Millwall on their way and after Wallace made it three shortly before half-time, it looked to be game over for The Canaries. Shaun Hutchinson's header added the gloss in the second half on Steve Morison's 250th Millwall appearance.

"Today clearly doesn't make a season, but its another step in the right direction," said Harris. "My players have delivered - I'm really proud of them."

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