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  • Writer's pictureBy Kaz Mochlinski

Problems piling up for Edwards as Millwall freefall continues

Picture: KM

Millwall (0) 0

Ipswich Town (3) 4 Broadhead 24, Harding og 32, Moore 45+1, Al Hamadi 90+3 pen

It was a Valentine’s Day Massacre for Millwall, as they were overwhelmingly beaten at home by promotion-chasing Ipswich Town to push the Londoners ever closer to the relegation places in the Championship.

Ipswich scored three goals in the first half to put the result beyond doubt before the break, dropping Millwall down to 21st, just one place and four points above QPR in the relegation zone.

Many home fans vented their fury, turning the atmosphere increasingly toxic, as Millwall’s terrible recent run stretched to seven games without a win in all competitions.

In the league they are now winless in six matches since a 1-0 success at Bristol City on January 1. And they have lost five of those six games to leave them in growing danger of the drop.

Among all the Championship clubs, only the bottom side Rotherham United are at the moment on a worst sequence of results than Millwall, who are under serious threat of joining them in League One next season.

The prospect of facing fourth-placed Ipswich was made more daunting by the continuing disruption to the Millwall squad, as late on in the day Joe Bryan was added to their extensive absentees.

The left-back, signed last year from Fulham, admitted a FA charge of violent conduct and received a three-match suspension, after appearing to strike Coventry City’s Tatsuhiro Sakamoto in the face with his forearm during last Sunday’s away fixture.

Millwall manager Joe Edwards was already without his new Republic of Ireland striker Michael Obafemi. Brought in on loan from Burnley in January, he missed out on the matchday squad against Ipswich through illness.

Having Aidomo Emakhu, Kevin Nisbet, Shaun Hutchinson, Brooke Norton-Cuffy, and Ryan Longman also all currently ill or injured, it meant that Edwards’ available options were further depleted.

With four changes to the starting line-up from the weekend defeat at Coventry, the Lions began brightly as they pushed Ipswich back in the early stages of the match on a blustery night in SE16.

It was all Millwall attacking at the outset, forcing a series of corners and free-kicks in the opening minutes and bringing a string of saves from Václav Hladky in the visitors’ goal.

Ipswich had been on a poor run of results themselves lately, with just one win in nine league games, dropping them out of the automatic promotion places, in addition to being eliminated from the FA Cup by Maidstone United.

Millwall sought to exploit that fragility, as Ryan Leonard shot sharply just over the bar and then had another effort stopped by Hladky, who also denied George Saville, and Zian Flemming from a free-kick.

But, like they have done repeatedly in recent weeks, Millwall were unable to sustain that early promise, and fell apart completely after conceding the opening goal in the 24th minute.

Nathan Broadhead provided the finish with a clever back-header of a right-wing cross from Omari Hutchinson. And Broadhead then supplied the assist for Ipswich’s second goal, eight minutes later.

It was his left-wing run and low ball across the area which caused such panic in the Millwall defence that a twisting Wes Harding lost his balance and got his feet so tangled he ended up turning the ball into his own goal.

Just before half-time, Hutchinson was again involved as Ipswich put the match beyond Millwall, returning a neat one-two to Harry Clarke for a perfect left-wing cross, inviting Kieffer Moore to head it home.

Chelsea fans will be delighted with Hutchinson’s impressive contribution as the catalyst for Ipswich’s three-goal blitz, playing in a number 10 role just behind Moore as the sole striker.

Still only 20 years old and already a Jamaican international, he has seemingly benefited from his season-long loan away from Stamford Bridge, and he showed at The Den that he possesses plenty of promise.

The London boy revelled in being back in his home city, watched from the stands by his family, and the result must have been particularly pleasing for a footballer famously discovered by local rivals Charlton Athletic when playing in their club car park.

For Millwall it only made a bad evening worse. The second and third goals seemed to almost happen in slow motion, especially with Moore’s header down into the ground before bouncing up into the net.

Thereafter, it was only a case of damage-limitation and avoiding humiliation, which Edwards helped to be achieved by switching formation from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 as well as making personnel changes off the bench.

Flemming, and Tom Bradshaw twice, both tested the Ipswich defence in the second half, as Millwall once more began well before yet again the efforts petered out and it was the visitors who added a fourth goal at the end of the game.

Substitute Ali Al-Hamadi, signed by Ipswich from Wimbledon in January, was brought down by Murray Wallace on the edge of the box, and, although the challenge was initially made outside the area, referee Sam Barrott gave a penalty.

Al-Hamadi got up to take the spot kick, and sent Millwall goalkeeper Matija Šarkić the wrong way to score his first goal for Ipswich in front of the sold-out away section in the North Stand at The Den.

Following Moore’s third goal in his three games for Ipswich so far since the start of his spell on-loan from Bournemouth, it made for an excellent evening for the Tractor Boys’ strikers.

Millwall may point out that of the four goals they conceded, one was an own goal and another was from a penalty. Additionally, two of Ipswich’s goals were scored in stoppage time, one at the end of each half.

But nevertheless Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna’s 100th league game in charge finished up as the club’s biggest win of the season, taking them to within one point of third-placed Southampton.

For Millwall, it is now three defeats in a row and they are unquestionably in crisis, with Edwards unable to deny that they are facing a desperate relegation battle for the rest of the season.

The change in manager last year from Gary Rowett has not yet yielded the hoped-for improvement, as another club wanting to see a better style of football finds that it can come at a crucial cost in terms of results.

Lions: (3-4-2-1) Sarkic - Leonard, Harding (De Norre 45), Cooper - McNamara, Honeyman (Mitchell 71), Saville, M Wallace - Esse (Mayor 71), Flemming - Bradshaw (Watmore 71)

Ipswich: (4-2-3-1) Hladky - Clarke, Woolfenden, Burgess, Davis - Morsy, Luongo (Travis 76) - Burns (Jackson 86), Hutchinson (Chaplin 67), Broadhead (Sarmiento 67) - Moore (Al Hamadi 76)

Attendance: 15,890


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