David Tuttle marked his first home game as Millwall caretaker manager by watching his beleaguered team take a well-earned point against high-flying Watford last night.
Until the last 15 minutes, when the visitors moved through the gears looking for a winner, you would never have guessed that Millwall were rock bottom of the Championship and Watford in the play-off positions.
Showing commendable energy and purpose in midfield combined with gutsy defending, Tuttle's team may have lacked finesse but they more than matched the Hornets and might even have clinched their fourth league win of the season with better finishing.
'Twas ever thus, of course. Millwall have scored fewer goals than any other team in the Football League but Tuttle, appointed by new chairman Peter de Savary just before Christmas and at 33 the division's youngest manager, now finds himself unbeaten in two matches following the 1-1 draw at Leicester on Boxing Day. Hardly an earth-shattering statistic but cause for optimism.
"The boys gave me 110 per cent and I can't ask for more than that, even though we know we need to strengthen," said Tuttle, already developing his own line in manager-speak since taking over from Colin Lee, who moved upstairs to director of football. "At the moment I'm in temporary charge but, hopefully, I'll be here until the end of the season and Millwall will still be in this division. We all know that we need more than draws and the next two games against Brighton and Derby are six-pointers."
A combination of the freezing conditions and early closure of the local rail network kept the crowd down to only a few thousand hardy souls but the diehard home fans saw their side shade the opening half, when Bruce Dyer headed against the post. The second half was more even, though it would have been hard on Millwall had the visitors plucked a winner from their late rally during which Colin Doyle made a couple of smart saves.
Adrian Boothroyd, the Hornets' highly rated manager who has just signed a new deal that will keep him at Vicarage Road until 2010, had stuck to the side that beat Southampton 3-0 on Boxing Day but only during those final frantic minutes did they apply consistent pressure.
Was he surprised, then, by the way the division's bottom club matched his fourth-placed team for drive and industry? "Absolutely not because they are scrapping for their lives," said Boothroyd, only a year Tuttle's senior. "To me this is a big point gained."
Boothroyd, who has an impressive mixture of calmness and straight-talking confidence about him, is clearly relishing his job. "There is a courageous attitude and boldness about my players and if you have that you'll win more games than you lose," he said.
This time last year, strange as it may seem, it was Millwall who were on the edge of the play-off zone with the mouth-watering prospect of pushing for a Premiership place. How fortunes change fast in football. "If they play like that every week, they won't be where they are for long," Boothroyd said.
Millwall (4-4-2): Doyle; Dunne, Robinson, Whitbread, Craig; Cogan, Elliott (Phillips, 76), Morris, Livermore (capt); Braniff (Williams, 56), Dyer (May, 54). Substitutes not used: Simpson, Hendry.
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Doyley, Carlisle, Mackay, Chambers; Devlin, Spring, Mahon (capt), McNamee (Bangura, 42); King, Henderson. Substitutes not used: Chamberlain, Stewart, DeMerit, Grant.
Referee: A Marriner (Birmingham).Reuse content