It may have been ugly, it may have been all about pressing and organisation, all about getting men behind the ball and tackling and blocking, but as far as Ian Holloway was concerned, his stewardship of Millwall had begun on a hugely positive note.
Anyone expecting the former Crystal Palace manager to be deflated after seeing Huddersfield Town pinch all three points in the last minute of the game was mistaken.
A loose header by the back-pedalling Millwall full-back Jack Smith into his own penalty area left goalkeeper David Forde in no-man’s land, and Nakhi Wells, the young Bermuda-born striker signed by the Terriers from Bradford City on Friday evening for a club record £1.3m, nipped in, and from an awkward angle, prodded the ball into the far corner of the net.
Even so, Holloway, dapper and bright-eyed in his well-cut black overcoat, professed himself “exhilarated” by what he had seen. “I was delighted with the effort and the organisation we showed against a half-decent team,” he said, before going on to reference the battle of Agincourt. “We came a long, long way in a short time from last weekend.” Last weekend, the Lions were beaten 4-1 by League Two Southend in the FA Cup, a result that resulted in Holloway’s appointment, and Millwall have now lost six of their last seven games in all competitions.
The other has been drawn, a sequence that leaves them 21st in the Championship, but few could argue they did not deserve more tangible reward from this match.
From the football purist’s point of view, it was an awful game, but that suited Millwall just fine.
True, they needed Forde to make two fine saves, both from Martin Paterson shortly after the half hour mark, but they might even have gone to the break ahead when Scott McDonald’s deflected shot beat Huddersfield’s goalkeeper Alex Smithies, but hit the outside of the post.
In the second half, Holloway sent on Andy Keogh, and the substitute’s first touch saw him shoot just wide after being set up by striker Steve Morison.
“We didn’t pass as well as we usually do, but we controlled the game,” said Huddersfield manager Mark Robins.
“They were always going to come here and make it difficult, get men behind the ball, and play on the counter-attack and it’s tough to play against.”
For Holloway, it was a case of being back in his natural element. “I’m where I need to be. I can get a spirit going here that will make us so hard and so tough to take on.”
Huddersfield (3-5-2): Smithies; Smith, Gerrard, Wallace; Hammill, Norwood, Clayton, Hogg (Holmes, 56), Dixon;: Paterson (Scannell, 87), Ward (Wells, 56).
Millwall (4-2-3-1): Forde; Dunne, Shittu, Lowry, Smith; Bailey, Chaplow; Abdou (Trotter, 72), Martin (Woolford, 62), McDonald (Keogh, 64); Morison. Referee: Paul Tierney
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