Mark Bonner made nine changes to the starting eleven as former U’s legend Gary Rowett bought his Millwall side to town in the Carabao Cup.
With the game kicking off a week before the rest of the first round ties due to a request from United it was a much-changed U’s side that took to the field with debuts for Saikou Janneh, Brandon Haunstrup and Zeno Ibsen Rossi, as well as a long-awaited return to the side for captain Greg Taylor. There were also starts for Will Mannion, Liam O’Neil, Lewis Simper, Shilow Tracey and Jack Lankester, whilst George Williams and Joe Ironside were the only players to keep their place from Saturday.
We’ll be honest, bar an almost immediate injury to Millwall striker Bradshaw after he shanked the ball over the NRE with his first touch and a little flare up after George Honeyman pulled back a breaking Shilow Tracey (earning himself a booking in the process) there wasn’t much of note in the first half; Millwall had the upper hand overall and the better of the few chances, but United were enough of a match for them to see the half out.
At half-time George Williams made way for Jubril Okedina, and his impact was immediate, showing his class and getting down the wing on the overlap with Shilow Tracey causing no end of havoc for the Millwall defenders. On the opposite flank, Saikou Janneh was playing with the same kind of enthusiasm and verve that we saw in his short cameo on Saturday. In short, United were flying, playing some lovely football, and it was only a matter of time before that happened.
On 59 minutes Tracey played a short ball to Simper who then passed to Okedina on the wing. Okedina played it forward to Tracey, who timed his run perfectly, cutting the ball back to Lankester on the edge of the area. His path blocked, he sent it across into space just in time for Liam O’Neil to lash it into the net from outside the D. 1-0 United, and a sixth United goal for O’Neil, four of which have been winning goals.
Minutes later Janneh put Millwall under pressure, winning the ball and sending Lankester free until Honeyman stupidly pulled him back right in front of the ref to earn himself an early bath. Millwall’s best chance came shortly after that, Okedina’s back pass only reaching Ibsen Rossi who was unable to control the ball but Will Mannion made a great save at the feet of the advancing striker.
United had a chance to double their lead with substitute Brophy teaming up with Lankester to break clear, Brophy’s pass to Smith should have left him with a simple finish, but he shot over into the NRE.
Is there much to take from this then? Millwall made six changes to the side that beat Stoke on the weekend, but we made nine. It’s far too early to know how the season is going to pan out, and there’s still a hell of a lot of football to be played, but we’re certainly looking like a stronger team with more depth than last year. Okedina is developing into a real Rolls-Royce of a player, and it’s almost a given that he won’t be playing at this level for much longer. Ibsen Rossi looks like a calm head in defence too, and Mannion made some decent saves between the sticks. We know what Simper and Worman can do, both played with a maturity ahead of their years, although Bonner has said he’s looking for a loan for Worman to enable him to continue adding minutes to his game. Janneh and Tracey looked class and they’re going to be a real handful, whilst Taylor and O’Neil were the old heads adding experience to the side.
Man of The Match: The sponsors gave it to O’Neil, and whilst he had a good game and took his goal well we’re going to give it to Janneh – never stopped running, never stopped causing problems. On that showing James Brophy must start to be a bit worried for his place. Shout outs go to Tracey, Okedina, Taylor, O’Neil, Lankester and Simper. All of them really…
Soundtrack of the Match: Wideboys – Sambuca