9 March 1996: John Major was Prime Minister while the country was gearing up for Euro 96 football fever and Take That were top of the charts with ‘How Deep Is Your Love’. It’s now been 17 years and 6 months since Charlton have beaten Millwall in a competitive fixture.
Lee Bowyer and Carl Leaburn scored as Charlton recorded a 2-0 victory on a Sunday afternoon.
Since then, managers, players and those behind the scenes have changed on both sides of the South London spectrum but the results, they haven’t. The Addicks just cannot seem to beat the Lions, no matter the circumstances.
Could this weekend be Charlton’s best chance of a victory in this fixture since the mid ‘90s? Millwall appear fragile under the guidance of new manager Steve Lomas. The Lions’ woes came to a head last weekend when Derby put them to the sword when Craig Bryson scored an emphatic hat-trick to complete a 5-1 rout. However, a victory over pacesetters Blackpool in midweek alleviated relegation fears of the fickle.
Online polls seemed to suggest that after the Derby result; around 80% of Millwall fans hoped Steve Lomas would be relieved of his duties but after conducting the same poll post-Blackpool, this figure dropped to below 30% with most content to give the Northern Irishman a chance of turning the corner.
Millwall’s league finish to last season was nothing short of dreadful, picking up only two home wins post-Christmas. Chairman John Berylson recognised the need for a squad overhaul and as a result, is rumoured to have offered Kenny Jackett the funds needed to build a fresh squad. The rumour suggests that Jackett rejected this offer in pursuit of a new challenge and so the opportunity was handed to Lomas.
Lomas has good managerial pedigree, leading St. Johnstone to two top six SPL finishes in successive seasons and gave the Scottish club their first taste of European football thanks to finishing third behind Celtic and Motherwell. Lomas conducted some astute business, bringing in Scott McDonald, Richard Chaplow, old fan favourite Steve Morison as well as ex-Addicks Lee Martin and Nicky Bailey and all without spending a penny on transfer fees. The task Lomas faces in the coming months is gelling those players together into what could conceivably be a play-off challenging side.
The Addicks, on the other hand, have suffered from a second summer of well documented lack of investment. Chris Powell has done his best with the squad he has so far this season and with 3-5-2 appears to have found a formation that complements our squad. That’s despite its failure at Huddersfield in midweek.
The squad at the Valley is thin to say the least. This is highlighted by the absence of any key player and during the week, Kermorgant was sorely missed from the spine of the team. As evidenced, the talismanic Frenchman will be a key piece in Chris Powell’s jigsaw this season and hopefully will be back this weekend to replace the so-far-ineffective and disappointing Marvin Sordell.
Otherwise, I would expect the starting line-up and formation to remain. A narrow away defeat up north is nothing out of the ordinary and isn’t something worth overhauling tactics for. Chris Solly will re-emerge sooner rather later but with Lawrie Wilson performing well at wing back, it would be bizarre to risk rushing the man who is “better than John Terry” back into the fold.
Otherwise, the impressive cameo of winger Cameron Stewart might mean that you can expect him to feature from the bench at the weekend while Joe Pigott will hope to continue his run of appearances from the bench.
Before midweek, it would’ve been easy to predict a Charlton win. Despite Millwall’s obvious talents, they have yet to really perform except against Blackpool’s weak backline. Having said that, history suggests Charlton shouldn’t expect anything from this fixture and on the back of a 3-1 win could the Lions be about to turn the corner?
A draw wouldn’t really suit either side as they look to steer clear of a relegation scrap but a point could be useful to both at an early stage of the season and as such, we could see a cagey affair in front of the SKY cameras. My heart tells me that we could see our first win over Millwall since ’96 but my head honestly cannot call the result, it all depends on which Millwall turns up at 12:15 on Saturday afternoon.