Lions’ poor form matched by poor excuses

icon manager pain27 January ~ Millwall take on Reading at The Den tonight knowing that three points will go a long way to boosting their chances of surviving the drop. The result is unlikely to lift the Lions out of the relegation places but for a team that has won only three home games so far this season, victory would go a long way to lifting the spirits of all concerned. It may also keep Ian Holloway in a job.

The enigmatic and often quotable manager has not enjoyed the best of times in south London since he arrived to pick up the pieces of Steve Lomas’s calamitous reign just over a year ago. A brush with relegation last season saw the Lions stay up on the final day for the second year running but after a strong finish and some marquee summer signings – including veteran striker Ricardo Fuller – more was expected this year. However, after a promising start, normal service was resumed post-August and the Lions have only won twice since.

December proved to be a particularly bad month for Millwall fans once again, with the now traditional thumping at home to Middlesbrough, 5-1 this time. This was followed by an equally poor performance against Norwich, who found the Lions in a generous mood on Boxing Day and could have scored more than the six they managed. Any hope of a respite in the FA Cup in the New Year was quickly squashed by League One Bradford City (although the 3-3 draw at home now looks like a decent result).

The poor performances have been matched by the equally poor excuses served up. Many fans have become disillusioned with Holloway and his quirky post-match analysis, and would prefer an explanation for the manager’s inexplicable team selections and bizarre rotation system, particularly in defence. The fact that Millwall have failed to play the same back four in consecutive games may go some way to explain why the team have conceded so many goals this season.

But despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Holloway refuses to take any of the blame. To make matters worse, he has seemingly lost the dressing room too and has clearly been trying to reclaim it, shipping out a number of players in the transfer window and replacing them with loan signings and former signings from other clubs he has managed.

Popular left-back Scott Malone was an early casualty, despite being one of the more consistent performers over the past two seasons, and was unexpectedly singled out for blame for the Lions’ poor league position by chief executive Andy Ambler. Since then internationals Scott McDonald and Jermaine Easter have both had their contracts cancelled in a move many believe has been orchestrated with a view to tightening up the club’s finances in preparation for life in League One. Should Reading come away with all three points, such preparations are likely to continue. Neil Andrews

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