Murray Wallace and Mason Bennett scored second-half goals as Millwall beat Cardiff City 2-1 at The Den yesterday.
Here are Richard Cawley’s four takeaways from the Championship match.
MURRAY WALLACE – PLAYER OF THE YEAR?
At the very least, the ultra reliable Scot has got to be in the conversation when it comes to who scoops the individual accolade.
Bart Bialkowski has won the last two Player of the Year awards since arriving from Ipswich Town but my money would be on Wallace at the moment.
He cost £500,000 when then Millwall boss Neil Harris brought the defender to SE16 from Scunthorpe United and has more than paid back his fee – especially with his versatility in terms of playing in the back three, left-back or even left-sided wing-back.
Saturday was his 128th appearance for the Lions and he claimed his 10th goal for them. Wallace has scored five goals this season and the South Londoners have won every single one of those fixtures.
Also won the most aerial duels (10) and was often the one to mark Jordan Hugill when Cardiff went direct to their number nine.
The last defender to win the Player of the Year award was Shaun Hutchinson in the 2018-19 season.
MAIK ME AN OFFER
The Dutch midfielder is out of contract at the end of July and you would have to say he is the only one of the players in that situation – Jed Wallace aside – who Millwall are likely to want to retain.
That’s not to say that Kieftenbeld, who turns 32 in June, is a shoe-in to get offered an extension.
But he has started the last four Championship matches and was picked out post-match by manager Gary Rowett for praise.
Kieftenbeld reads the game well and tends to keep things simple, apart from one lengthy dribble from right to left across the edge of the Cardiff box that had home supporters imploring him to shoot. His last goal was for Birmingham on December 1, 2018 – so it would have been a collector’s item.
If Millwall do bring down the average age of their squad with some of their summer acquisitions, his experience and know-how in the middle of the park could still be of value.
SET-PIECE PAYS OFF
It looked a deliberate ploy for Millwall to mix up their corner kicks and they tried a lower near-post delivery which Shaun Hutchinson looked to flick on in the first half.
It didn’t quite pay off then – but did for the breakthrough goal in the second period. It didn’t appear that Hutchinson got contact on Scott Malone’s corner but it distracted Cardiff’s players enough for the ball to sit up perfectly for Murray Wallace to plant a firm header past Alex Smithies.
HOME IS WHERE THE POINTS ARE CLAIMED
The Lions have lost just one of their last nine Championship matches at The Den and even that reverse – 1-0 to Forest – saw them squander plenty of chances before Lewis Grabban’s late sickener.
Sections of the home support grew restless with Millwall’s play in the first period on Saturday, especially if the ball went backwards when their team were in possession, but once they got in front they quickly gave themselves a two-goal cushion with substitutes George Saville and Mason Bennett impacting the contest – the latter heading home the former’s cross at the back post.
Millwall haven’t always found it easy to get the victories on home turf since winning promotion but 26 of their 40 points this season have been earned at The Den. They are 11th in a table just based on home results but it’s worth adding in that West Brom – fourth in those standings – have only banked three points more.