Rae traps the prey for Millwall's young Lions

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The Independent Online
MARK BURTON

Watford 0 Millwall 1

Millwall's young Lions launch into matches with such confidence, slipping so easily into their positive passing style, that the bright red and yellow seats glowing out of the inexplicably large gaps in the Vicarage Road stands were needed as a reminder that they were buzzing around the Hornets' nest. They seemed simply to accept that they would achieve their fourth win in six forays on to foreign fields in the league this season.

In Mick McCarthy they have a father figure who makes sure that the homework has been done properly. His decision to play 4-3-3, as on Wednesday when they won so well at Everton in the Coca-Cola Cup, was a product of his careful consideration of the way that Watford play - three at the back, wing-backs, close passing.

Scott Taylor, an inventive, inexperienced, potentially exciting 19-year- old, was the beneficiary. He did not repeat the goals he scored at Goodison Park after graduating from the bench, but he was encouraged to run, took players on, and produced a couple of sharp shots that might have disguised the lack of finishing skills that both sides showed.

It took Millwall's oldest head, in the footballing sense if not in years, to make sure of the points in a game in which the teams were not as evenly matched as the scoreline suggests. Alex Rae, whose left-foot drive from the right corner of the penalty area went in off the far post, is the rugged rock around which McCarthy's far from ragged rascals run.

Not so much a Rae of sunshine as a flash of lightning, the Scot has thunder in either foot and occasionally in his temper. It is a matter of taking the rough with the smooth, but wasn't that always the way with Millwall?

In Ben Thatcher they also have one of the smoothest. He reads the game remarkably for one so young (he turns 20 next month), is a tough tackler with the knack of staying on his feet and goes forward from full-back with purpose if not always precision. He is the sort of player, like Rae, who warrants a place in the Premiership, and that is the foreign territory they mean to take Millwall into.

Goal: Rae (68) 0-1.

Watford (3-5-2): Miller; Holdsworth, Foster, Millen; Lavin, Palmer, Ramage (Pitcher, 77), Porter, Johnson; Mooney (Bazeley, 85), Moralee (Phillips, 70).

Millwall (4-3-3): Keller; Newman, Witter, Stevens, Thatcher; Bowry, Rae (Webber, 88), Van Blerk; Taylor (Savage, 77), Fuchs (Dixon, 77), Malkin.

Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).

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