Max Clayton and David Wheater played 45 and 75 minutes respectively on their return from injury on Monday night. The timing of their returns can't come soon enough, especially in the case of Clayton with Zach Clough picking up another shoulder injury in the Sheffield Wednesday draw last night.
Onto the game and it was quite a comfortable 2-0 win for the young whites. Ross Fitzsimons started in goal with new signing Francesco Pisano, Rob Holding and captain Niall Maher joining Wheater in defence. Everybody's favourite player Liam 'Yaya' Trotter was joined by Jordan Lussey and Channing Campbell-Young in a midfield three and Clayton played just in behind Jamie 'Messiah' Thomas and George Newell.
It didn't take long for Clayton to make an impact. Barely a minute into the game, Maher played a lovely ball over the top which the former Crewe Alexandra frontman controlled superbly and lifted over Millwall keeper Harry Girling with a certain confidence that our frontmen have been lacking this season.
We kept applying the pressure and Trotter won a free-kick in the left channel in the 8th minute. It was taken by Lussey and was whipped with some venom towards Newell at the back post but the Millwall defender just managed to get there before the former Everton man and it went behind for a corner.
Niall Maher picked up an innocuous looking injury on 17 minutes, which was a real shame as he was being a menace down the left flank. With the injury, the captain's armband passed to Rob Holding, perhaps somewhat surprising with all the first team players on the pitch.
George Newell was making a nuisance of himself throughout the game and he picked up a nasty looking whack on the arm for his troubles, which he was holding in agony for quite a while afterwards.
Ross Fitzsimons was called into action properly for the first time on 24 minutes when the excellently named Mahion Romeo's shot from 20 yards out forced a full-length fingertip save from the keeper when it looked destined for the bottom corner.
One thing that was noticeable was how tiny Francesco Pisano was. The Italian was causing havoc down the right hand side, whipping some fantastic crosses into the box and causing all manner of problems. It did cause the rest of our defence to be put under pressure though as Pisano doesn't yet seem fit enough to get back at pace after his forays upfield. Liam Trotter often had to drop into the defence to cover for the ex-Cagliari man.
To Trotter's credit, he covered the ground quite well on Monday night but he was quite sloppy on the ball at times, which is unlike him as usually it's his passing that somewhat makes up for his lethargic style of play.
There was a heart-in-mouth moment on 41 minutes, when Millwall's corner seemed to evade everyone and nearly creeped in at the back post. Luckily Holding was on the line and got down low to head the ball to safety. We also constantly looked a threat from set-pieces with Lussey managing to pick out the towering presence of Newell every time. Newell isn't the tallest but I am impressed with how he puts himself about in the target man role.
On the stroke of half-time, our lead was doubled. Max Clayton - who played with such enthusiasm and was always trying to make something happen every time he received the ball - hit a tame looking effort towards the goal and it was seemingly collected comfortably by Girling but out of nowhere he completely spilled the ball and that boy Jamie Thomas capitalised to score one of the easiest goals he'll ever score, taking his total to five goals for the season.
Clayton was withdrawn for Jon Ceberio at half-time and after that the game went a bit flat. Newell came back out with his wrist/forearm bandaged up, but disappointingly this didn't mean a run-out for U18's goal machine Alex Samizadeh.
On 52 minutes, we almost took our tally to three, Campbell-Young drove forward and tried his luck from outside the area but his low drive hit the outside of the post with Girling completely beaten.
On 75 minutes, David Wheater's evening was over, he didn't really have much to do at all but for him to play three quarters of the match was very encouraging. He was replaced by Chris Cvetko and this saw Liam Trotter drop into centre back. Yes really. Despite this, we weren't really troubled and we held on to win 2-0 and remain unbeaten in the league.