Crystal Palace. . .0
YOU wonder what some of the old Millwall stalwarts must make of life down the Old Kent Road these days. Senegal Fields, the site of the club's new ground, is barely a Harry Cripps clearance from the Lions' former home in Cold Blow Lane, but a wind of change has been sweeping through this corner of south-east London.
Off the pitch, the New Den is the epitome of the modern football stadium, with smart tip-up seats, a flashy electronic scoreboard and even closed-circuit television for the punters to watch half-time highlights as they queue at the bars during the interval. On it, the team managed by a former Republic of Ireland international, Mick McCarthy, includes an American goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, a midfielder from Surinam, Etienne Verveer, and an Australian international centre-forward, Dave Mitchell.
The latter three all played significant roles in Saturday's victory over the First Division leaders. Keller showed a steady and safe pair of hands throughout, Mitchell led his line with purpose and earned the penalty for the decisive third goal, while Verveer looked the most accomplished player on the field.
Verveer's vision, elusive running and deft touch were encapsulated five minutes into the second half, when he ran on to Alex Rae's pass and cleverly chipped a cross to the far post, where Jon Goodman headed past Nigel Martyn. Eight minutes later his athletic overhead kick increased Millwall's advantage and victory was ensured by Rae's penalty after Eric Young had been fooled by Mitchell's clever turn.
Millwall have recovered well from an indifferent start and have been beaten only once in 11 matches. Compact, neat and well organised, on this evidence they should sustain their promotion challenge.
As for Palace, the result reinforced the view that despite four successive wins before Saturday they have lost their early-season sparkle. They had the best of the first half, but shot too readily from distance and never gave Chris Armstrong enough support in attack.
With Bobby Bowry and John Salako ineffective down the flanks, changes are expected for today's visit by the bottom club, Peterborough United. Andy Thorn, out for two months after cartilage operations, and David Whyte return to the squad.
At least Alan Smith, the Palace manager, kept his sense of humour. 'I took the players to a hotel last night and there must have been a party I didn't know about,' he said.
Goals: Goodman (50) 1-0, Verveer (59) 2-0, Rae pen (61) 3-0.
Millwall (4-4-2): Keller; Huxford, Emblen, Stevens, Thatcher; Rae, Verveer, Roberts, Barber; Goodman, Mitchell (Moralee, 80). Substitutes not used: Beard, Emberson (gk).
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Martyn; Shaw, Young, Coleman, Gordon; Bowry (Osborn, 61), Newman, Southgate, Salako; Armstrong, Williams (Rodger, 61). Substitute not used: Woodman (gk).
Referee: M Bailey (Cambridge).