Verdict on Millwall’s 4-0 win at Concord Rangers – with Matt Smith quickly underlining what he will add to Lions attack

CONCORD RANGERS 0

MILLWALL 4
Williams 33 Thompson 72 Duncan 73 Onyedinma 90

BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE ASPECT ARENA

It was new non-league opposition for Millwall as they kicked off their pre-season programme, but pretty much the same outcome.

Twelve months ago the Lions travelled to Dartford – on the day that England faced Sweden in the World Cup quarter-finals – and were 5-0 up by half-time.

On Saturday Millwall made the relatively short trip to Canvey Island to take on National League South side Concord Rangers. They might have managed one goal fewer than in Kent but it was the kind of honest opposition you wanted to put you through your paces on a humid afternoon.

The only negative for the Lions – and manager Neil Harris admitted as much post-match – was Tom Elliott only lasting 10 minutes before needing to be replaced with a hamstring niggle.

But the former AFC Wimbledon frontman is already third-choice in the striker department and will drop another place as Millwall chief Neil Harris has already spoken about wanting at least one more arrival in that area.

The Lions were tight-lipped over the weekend about claims that a £750,000 fee has been agreed for Reading’s Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. But the Icelandic international, 27, is one who they are keen on and the Royals being under a soft transfer embargo could make getting a deal across the line a little easier.

Elliott can go if the deal is right. And so too can Fred Onyedinma, who rounded off the scoring. If Aiden O’Brien had not been missing with a hip and groin problem, then the latter might have been one of the surplus substitutes.

It’s crucial that Millwall get their transfer business right in terms of bolstering their attacking options.

The departure of Lee Gregory to Stoke City means that they have lost a striker who has been top-scorer in every season Harris has been in charge – providing perpetual motion, doing the gritty side of the game and producing respectable goal hauls in English football’s second tier.

The pairing of Tom Bradshaw and Matt Smith could very well be the front two on the opening day of the Championship campaign against Preston on August 3.

You’d expect Harris to shift between 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 this season – the latter particularly seeming to suit Ben Thompson when he returned from his loan at Portsmouth. Both formations were used at The Aspect Arena.

Smith won his first flick-on within about 15 seconds and moments later headed Bradshaw’s cross against the Rangers bar.

Concord’s defenders had no chance of competing, let alone beating, him in the air and he also glanced wide in the second minute from a Jed Wallace cross.

Okay, you can make the point that Smith will be up against higher-quality defenders when the serious stuff starts, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s going to be a titanic job to contain him.

And Millwall will service their big number 10. A prime example came when fellow debutant Frank Fielding pumped the ball up for the former QPR and Fulham man to flick on, Bradshaw taking a touch before slamming his shot narrowly over Chris Haigh’s bar.

Jed Wallace scored the first goal of the 2018 pre-season. And this time the typically chirpy winger provided the assist in 2019. His low cross was dummied by Bradshaw and Shaun Williams calmly stroked the ball home shortly after the half-hour mark.

Concord carried more of a threat in the first period than after the restart.

Fielding made one smart save from Joel Nouble – the younger brother of former West Ham striker Frank – and he was the Essex outfit’s most effective attacker. But one meandering dribble ended with the Deptford-born man stepping on the ball.

Former Charlton winger Danny Green was a bit of a free-kick specialist in his professional days, but skied one truly ambitious attempt from about 30 yards out.

Millwall made wholesale changes at the interval, an entirely fresh 11 coming on.
Once again it was a blend of experience and youth.

When it came to the latter, Tyler Burey and Sam Skeffington were arguably the most impressive of the development players on show.

The small compensation paid to AFC Wimbledon for Burey could be money well spend with the 18-year-old right winger showing a desire to take his marker on and put crosses into the box.

That’s exactly what he did for goal number four of the afternoon, working a yard of space and finding Onyedinma at the near post.

All three of the final goals came from the right-hand side of the pitch.

Mahlon Romeo burst into the box and put a chance on a plate for a confident Ben Thompson to spin and convert to make it 2-0 on 72 minutes.

And Reuben Duncan, who had replaced Elliott, headed Ryan Leonard’s deeper floated delivery in at the back post. The Beach Boys were wiped out.

Did we learn too much more from Saturday? No, particularly when Millwall are at least four – and more conceivably five – signings away from having a squad which Harris is happy with.

And to prove that pre-season results and performances count for diddly-squat, just look at the results before the 2017-18 season. Dartford? A 1-1 draw. Followed by? A 1-0 loss at Barnet. Next up? A grind of a 0-0 at Stevenage. Yeah, Granada were beaten 3-0 but that was the one victory. And yet Millwall went on to finish eighth in the Championship after promotion from League One.

Millwall (first half): Fielding, McNamara, Pearce, Cooper, Tiensia, J Wallace, Mitchell, Williams, Skalak, Bradshaw, Smith.

Millwall (second half): Sandford, Romeo, Hutchinson, Ransom, M Wallace, Burey, Leonard, Thompson, Skeffington, Onyedinma, Elliott (Duncan 55).

Not used: Debrah, Wright.

PICTURES BY BRIAN TONKS

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