Lampard’s lament in Cold Blow Lane

POOR old Frank Lampard, he didn’t stand a chance. He’s faced Leeds United and Millwall in consecutive weeks and come away with zero points. What’s more, he’s been confronted by two of the most partisan sets of fans in the game and if the reception he received from Millwall’s loyal band is anything to go by, he’s had a rough ride in his first three weeks stalking the technical area.

Millwall is never easy to visit even if you’re the most low profile member of the footballing fraternity, but when you’re a minor celebrity, partnered with a TV figure and you’ve played for clubs like West Ham and Chelsea, not to mention England, you’re a target.

“Lamps” is a decent fellow and never much problem to anyone, but as far as Millwall were concerned, he was a four-letter word that shall not be repeated here. His links with West Ham were enough to earn him a volley of first-degree abuse from the first minute of the game. And, to make matters worse, Millwall do not like Chelsea, either.

Lampard is in his first role as a manager and the jury is still out. Derby County, who missed the boat on promotion from the Championship last season in the play-offs, have not started the campaign very well. When he was appointed, the city of Derby was, apparently, “buzzing”, but few people will need reminding that good players do not necessarily make successful managers. Every setback will, inevitably, be blamed on Lampard’s status as a rookie manager. Steven Gerrard will have the same problem at Glasgow Rangers.

Derby under Lampard started with a last-gasp 2-1 win at Reading, but then came a 4-1 home defeat at the hands of resurgent Leeds United. Millwall, complete with its very hostile atmosphere (it’s a good job they are not a bigger club, can you imagine 40,000 instead of 13,000?) was just what Derby didn’t need after being trounced at home.

Prior to meeting Leeds, Millwall were unbeaten, but they had drawn all three of their league and cup games. A 0-0 draw on the opening day against Middlesbrough suggested Neil Harris has assembled a reasonable, hard-to-beat team, but how would they fare against an expensive unit like Derby?

“People up and down the country will be tipping them to beat us. We have to make sure that the stands and the pitch are in unison again,” said Harris in his pre-match notes. It is fair to say that he got exactly what he was looking for – Millwall’s fans created an intense, intimidating spectacle that must have left Derby’s fans, perched high in the stand behind the goal, quaking. It wasn’t the Millwall of old, the 1970s Lion’s Den that inspired films like Football Factory, but a more confrontational environment you’d be hard-pushed to find in English football. You either love it, or hate it – but it is something rather unique in today’s sanitised football grounds.

Saturday August 18, 2018

Millwall v Derby County 2-1 (2-0) The Den. Attendance: 13,557
Goals: Gregory 7, Williams 20/ Nugent 70

Millwall: Archer, Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith, Wallace (Ferguson 85), Williams, Saville, O’Brien, Gregory (Tunnicliffe 84), Morison
Derby County: Carson, Bogle, Keogh, Tomori, Malone (Forsyth 45), Bryson, Johnson, Jozefzoon (Bennett 67), Mount, Lawrence, Waghorn (Nugent 67)
Referee: Steve Martin

The noise seemed to inspire Millwall, who moved the ball around fast and played with a passion and pace – not to mention a fashionable “high press” – that seemed to upset Derby. Millwall took the lead with a scruffy first goal on seven minutes, Lee Gregory turning the ball home from a Shaun Williams free kick.

Derby, in the opening half-hour, were really not up for a battle. That fight became even more of an uphill struggle on 20 minutes when a long-range shot by Williams, which was arguably heading into the away end, was wickedly deflected past Derby keeper Scott Carson (remember him?) by Canadian-born Fikayo Tomori.

Two goals behind so early on, Lampard was at the mercy of the top deck of the Dockers Stand: “Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning,” came the chorus, which represented a nice change from questioning the parentage of Lampard’s soon-to-be-born baby.

Derby were better in the second half, but it was not until the 70thminute that they pulled a goal back, a swift counter-attack and a tidy finish from substitute David Nugent. Derby continued to pressurise Millwall and Martyn Waghorn had a goal disallowed, but the damage had been done in the first half. Millwall won 2-1 and their fans certainly enjoyed it. Still unbeaten, cue the club song.

And what of Lampard? It’s early days for the former England international but his post-match interview was full of excuses, niggles and complaints. After three games, he looks almost dispirited. He has said that being a pundit was the easy option – he chose the harder road of management. He needs a bedding-in period before people can judge if an excellent footballers can become an accomplished manager. It may take some time.

Photo: PA


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