Canos 48 Watkins 85
BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT GRIFFIN PARK
If Millwall are going to end their wait for an away win next time out, it is going to have to be against one of the division’s in-form clubs.
Because coming up for the Lions is a date at Carrow Road on Saturday against a Norwich City side who went top of the Championship on Saturday night before Leeds moved to the summit just under 24 hours later.
The Canaries have no problems winning on their travels, a 4-0 demolition of Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend means they have lost just once on the road in the current campaign.
No one can match their 15 points taken away from Norfolk.
You wouldn’t have believed there would be the promise of a promotion push under Daniel Farke if you rewound back to August 2017 when they got a proper going over at The Den and lost 4-0.
But now the Canaries are singing. And they are doing it without even giving Ben Marshall – so influential during his Lions loan in the second half of the previous campaign – any significant amount of minutes.
What Millwall, or in particular boss Neil Harris, would have given for some of Marshall’s quality on Saturday in South-west London.
Millwall’s strengths are their set-piece prowess and aerial power. But if the delivery isn’t up to scratch then you have got problems.
Marshall slotted seamlessly into the Lions set up when he arrived in January. He had that ability to pick the right pass and added a touch of class to proceedings.
That’s why Millwall were edging along negotiations with Wolves to bring in the talented right-footer, only for Norwich to come in late in the day with a fee and wages that were simply unmatchable.
Shane Ferguson and Jiri Skalak struggled to get crosses from the wide areas at Brentford. The only one I made note of was a first-time delivery by the latter early in the second half but Ryan Leonard could not get the required angle to even test Bees keeper Daniel Bentley.
Millwall were most effective in the opening 20 minutes as the ball pinged around without any real rhythm. The messy nature suited the visitors far more.
Shaun Hutchinson’s header from Shaun Williams’ corner forced Bentley to tip over. But from that point onwards, Brentford began to get their pleasing passing game going.
Said Benrahma, in particular, was the danger in the remainder of the first period. The Algerian repeatedly showed a desire to take on Mahlon Romeo down the Lions right and cut inside to slam a shot against the top of the crossbar.
Millwall eagerly pushed up for Brentford goal-kicks as Bentley looked to pass just outside his area and there were a few hairy moments. But there was no end product for the visitors. Jed Wallace, still plugging away to try and replicate his form of last season, came off the bench but fired one free-kick over and drove another shot low and wide of the left upright.
The Lions have failed to score in five of their eight away fixtures. In the other three matches, they have never led.
Brentford had a touch of fortune for their opener. Ryan Leonard’s pass struck the back of Tom Elliott and Neal Maupay picked out the forward thrust of Sergi Canos, the young Spaniard slotting confidently past Ben Amos.
It was no surprise to see Steve Morison brought on for Elliott in the 60th minute as any forward impetus from Millwall had dissipated. Maupay was a sliding stud away from reaching Benrahma’s ball across the face of goal shortly before that.
While the change made the Lions more combative, it didn’t manage to substantially increase the likelihood they could bring the match level.
Millwall were still in the contest, but only just. Henrik Dalsgaard’s stooping header was glanced onto his own bar by Romeo.
Then Maupay ghosted past Shaun Hutchinson but could only flash his resulting strike past the far post.
The Lions were committing more bodies forward when the game was put to bed. Brentford swiftly exchanged passes to bisect their way through, substitute Ollie Watkins playing a one-two with Maupay before beating Amos.
Brentford had the edge in every department. Josh McEachran was a class act in midfield, spotting the right pass and able to twist and turn to change the flow of attacks. Romaine Sawyers showed physical strength alongside an ability to play.
Former Charlton man Ezri Konsa was very good at the back and the Bees as a defensive unit did a good job of limiting Millwall’s effectiveness in the air. There also weren’t too many opportunities for Leonard to launch in his long throws. The Lions only had three corners.
Millwall’s results on the road are not a worry all the time they can be dominant at The Den. But you need to bank more if you want to seriously climb the table, as we saw last season.
Brentford are excellent at home, even if Thomas Frank’s tenure kicked off with three losses. You have to put into consideration that they have banked 17 points there and their plus-10 goal difference nudges them ahead of Sheffield United, Derby County and Wigan.
The good news is that Norwich have lost at home to West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United and Stoke City. They are by no means invincible.
Millwall (4-4-2): Amos 5, Romeo 5, Hutchinson 6, Cooper 6, M Wallace 6 (Bradshaw 79), Skalak 5 (J Wallace 64, 5), Leonard 6, Williams 6, Ferguson 5, Gregory 6, Elliott 5 (Morison 58, 5). Not used: Archer, Meredith, Tunnicliffe, O’Brien.
IMAGES BY BRIAN TONKS