By Brian Stater
Millwall bid to preserve their 100 per cent home record tonight as they take on Lincoln at The Den. And if the results go their way they could be top of the Third Division tomorrow.
Manager George Graham will be hoping that leaders Bristol Rovers slip up at Wigan.
The Lions missed out on top spot with Saturday's draw at York, in which Graham rated defender Lindsay Smith the outstanding Millwall man.
Striker Dean Neal has failed to recover from the groin strain he picked up against Chelsea two weeks ago, so
free-scoring replacement Steve Lovell continues upfront.
Meanwhile midfield man Tony Kinsella is close to full fitness after damaging ligaments in his foot and insists, “I'm not content with reserve team football.”
“I came back to Millwall to help win them promotion and I won't do that if I stay in the reserves.“
Manager Graham said, “Tony will have to force his way back into the side. As soon as anyone has a few bad games they'll be out.”
Former skipper Nicky Chatterton is still struggling to shake off a knee injury, while defender Paul Robinson is undergoing Special Treatment.
by Bill Pierce
Millwall 2 Lincoln 0
Steve Lovell Is bristling with confidence—and goals. So if Bristol City see stubble on the quietly spoken Welshman's chin when they go out to face Millwall at The Den on Saturday, they'll know they are in for trouble.
Lovell, the free-transfer full-back from Crystal Palace whom Millwall manager George Graham has pushed up front to fill the gap left by injury to prolific striker Dean Neal, has hit 11 goals in 13 games this season and eight in the last six - including the double that has put his team top of the Third Division after 2 - 0 home win over Lincoln.
That's razor-sharp finishing by any standards, and Lovell, sporting a four-day growth of beard, said : “I never shave before a match—it's a superstition. And so far this season it's working well.”
“I didn't shave before our 1-1 draw at York on Saturday, when I scored, and with another game last night, I decided I might as well let it grow a bit more. Anyway, I'm telling myself it's a lucky charm . . . perhaps it's really because I'm a bit lazy about shaving".
Millwall fans will confirm, though, that luck and laziness had little to do with turning Lovell into a goal-ace.
Manager Graham said: “He's getting the success he deserves. He's in a hard-working team at a hard-working club."
“I'd better not praise him too; much—he'll be expecting a raise! But, seriously, he's doing a great job for us.”
“When Dean Neal comes back from his groin injury I'll have a nice selection problem, but despite that I'm still looking for forwards to strengthen the squad. It's very satisfying to be at the top and still with a 100 per cent home League record, but there's a long way to go yet and we are bound to, hit a sticky patch or two with suspensions. Injuries and that sort of thing.”
“That's when we'll need depth in the squad and I'll be on the look-out when the right quality of player becomes available.
Lovell, Graham's first signing when he took over at The Den 18 months ago, will almost certainly move back to midfield when Neal is fit.
“l won't mind that”, he says, “I still think it's my best position, even though I've naturally acquired a taste for getting in the box and scoring goals. Whatever happens it will be better than at Palace where they really messed me about. I don't think I played more than three consecutive games in the same position.”
It looked a close shave for Millwall last night, however, when Lincoln outplayed them in the first-half.
Goalkeeper Paul Sansome had to make a couple of brave saves and Graham admitted:
● Steve Lovell is fouled by Lincoln full-back Neil Redfearn for Millwall's spot kick.
“Really, we looked very poor and I had to shake them up at half-time.”
By then, though, Lovell had struck with a penalty after being held down by full-back Neil Redfearn as he tried to jump for a Keith Stevens free kick in first-half injury time.
And Millwall's solid improvement after the break brought him a second goal six minutes from the end thanks to a swerve and a shot by the excellent Anton Otulakowski which keeper Dave Felgate could only parry to Lovell's feet.
Millwall 2 (1) Lincoln City 0 (0)
Lovell (44 pen) (86)
By Maurice Woolf
Steve Lovell is the new darling of Cold Blow Lane. His two goals against Lincoln at The Den, on Tuesday, shot the Lions to the top of the division.
This took his tally to 11 for the season, eight of them coming in the last six games and also kept his side’s 100% home record intact.
But manager George Graham, although delighted with the side’s win and pleased with the knowledge that they’re top of the division, a position they haven’t enjoyed for far too many years said: “I didn’t think we played so well in the first half. They gave us a lot of trouble, but we sorted it out in the second half.”
“We must enjoy our success but must keep our feet on the ground. It’s going to be harder to stay at the top. We’re bound to have one or two lapses against sides.”
“Our team isn’t quite right yet. I’m still after forwards to make more competition for places, and everyone else knows that they are fighting to stay in the team.”
Paul Sansome, who is improving with every game kept the Lions level with a fine save from John McGrindley, who was left unmarked out on the left.
A bad back-pass from Dave Cusack, a rare mistake - had Sansome in trouble, but he managed to turn the ball over the bar from an advancing forward.
Millwall got the break they deserved in injury time. They were awarded a free-kick just over the halfway line. Stevens took it and as Lovell went for the ball he was pushed inside the box by Neil Redfern. Referee Mark Bodenham pointed to the spot.
Lovell dusted himself off, stepped up to the spot and aimed for goal. Keeper David Felgate got his hands to the ball but could only push it against the post and over the line.
Millwall were in complete control in the second-half, but not until the 86th minute did they receive their just reward.
Anton Otulakwoski broke down the right-wing, cut inside and Felgate could only push aside the fierce drive. It fell to Lovell, who seemed to lose his balance, but he recovered after what seemed ages and calmly hit it over the line.
Teams: Millwall — Sansome, Stevens, Roffey, Briley, Smith, Cusack, Lowndes, Bremner, McLeary, Lovell, Otulakowski. Sub: Kinsella.
Lincoln — Felgate, Redfearn, Neale, Shipley, Walker, Thompson, McGrindley, Turner, Fashanu, Strodder, Mair. Sub: McCarrick.
Ref: Martin Bodenham, Brighton. Attendance: 5,607.
Lovell Double as Millwall go top
By Ian Malin
Millwall 2-0 Lincoln
MILLWALL manager George Graham is still looking to strengthen his squad — despite Tuesday's win that took them to the top of Division Three.
The down-to-earth Graham realises that promotion is far from certain for the Lions, who leapfrogged over Bristol Rovers into the top slot this week.
The last time Millwall headed the Third Division was five years ago. At the end of the season they were in 14th place.
Millwall now look better equipped for their promotion assault with a strong squad who have carved out a 100 per cent home record after six League wins.
Last weekend even York manager Denis Smith named Millwall as one of his promotion sides.
On Tuesday Millwall never hit the heights, but made the most of all the luck that was going their way.
Afterwards George Graham said, “I am still looking for forwards in spite of the fact that we are getting goals.
“I want a strong squad of players because we are bound to get injuries and suspensions.”
“It is very satisfying to be on top but we will have to battle hard to stay there.”
Millwall have Steve Lovell to thank for their purple patch. He has turned striker in the absence of Dean Neal and now scored in his last six games.
Lovellwas the pick of the Millwall players who were frustrated in the first half by Lincoln, who looked the more likely side to score.
He might have scored twice in the first half with a shot and header. Then Neil Redfern was judged to be guilty of a foul on the former Palace player and Lovell stepped up to score a penalty that goalkeeper Felgate almost stopped.
Seven minutes from time Lovell was able to
● Penalty: Lovell is pulled down by Redfern
steady himself and crack in a shot from close range after the unfortunate Felgate had parried an Anton Otulakowski effort.
The result was a sweet revenge for Millwall who were beaten by Lincoln at The Den by the same score at the tail end of last season.
MILLWALL: Sansome, Stevens, Roffey, Briley, Smith, Cusack, Lowndes, Bremner, McLeary. Lovell, Otulakowski. Sub: Kinsella.
Referee Martin Bodenham (Brighton), Att: 5.607.
Stand –in striker Steve Lovell last night brought his goal tally to 11 as Millwall went surging to the top of the Third Division, writes Jack Steggles.
Lovell, a crystal palace reject, has switched from full-back because of injury to Dean Neal spectacular results.
He has hit the target in each of the last six games to leave life with the Lions looking rosy.
Lovell, who followed manager George Graham fro Palace on a free transfer, scored with a penalty in first half injury time and grabbed the clincher seven minutes from the end.
Graham said afterwards: “I’m delighted with Steve. He is a good honest pro – and they are a diminishing band.”
“If he keeps playing as he is and scoring regularly he will stay up front even when Neal is fit again.”
The Lions – rock bottom when Graham took over in December 1982 – recovered from a sticky start to win in style and show the pride is back at Cold Blow Lane.
They were second best to lively Lincoln in the first half and got a lucky break with a penalty.
For it seemed harmless enough when Neil Redfearn collided with Lovell and then Felgate got both hands to Lovell’s spot kick but could not prevent it rolling into the net.
Lovell wrapped it all up in the 83rd minute, meaning Millwall have won all six home games to sit proudly on top of the pile.