By BRIAN STATER
MILLWALL manager George Graham has drawn up a short-list of wanted strikers. The Lions boss has been on the look-out for a front runner all season, but the quest has taken on fresh urgency since the groin injury to star striker Dean Neal. Graham said, “I've compiled a list of the people I'm interested in and they are mainly playing for clubs in higher divisions.”
I understand that Graham has little ready cash available, so will probably restrict his moves to players who cannot command regular first team places. Graham has long argued that he need another forward as cover for the regular duo of Neal and Kevin Bremner
Meanwhile Steve Lovell, the two-goal stand-in who clinched the points that took Millwall in to second spot in the Third Division against Brentford on Saturday, will continue in the Lions attack. And that means there's no place for youngster Teddy Sheringham, who initially replaced Neal.
Graham admitted, “Sheringham is only 18 and he has still got to bridge the gap up to first team football. He's definitely got the ability, but he has had a problem making the transition.” Neal's groin strain is likely to Keep him out of the side at York on Saturday, but midfield men Tony Kinsella and Nicky Chatterton are close to recovery.
• Millwall's two Milk Cup games with Chelsea netted the club around £40,000.
STEVE Lovell has made George Graham's search for another striker less urgent. The former
Palace player has emerged in recent weeks as a prolific goal scorer,
sharing the top Millwall scorers spot with Dean Neal with eight
Yet, during his stay at the Palace Lovell only scored three times and found the net just eight times for the Lions last season. Graham gambled in moving the 5ft 9ins player up front, where he still manages to out jump lanky defenders for winning headers.
Graham said: “Anyone I buy will have to be as good, if not better, than the players I have. What pleases me is that the gamble with Steve came off. He loves going forward and I've given him the freedom to do so. Nicky Chatterton went to see a specialist on Tuesday and may return a lot quicker than we had hoped for.”
The club report record receipts for the Chelsea second leg Milk Cup-tie, taking in £38,626.50 with a gate now revised to 11,300. This Saturday the Lions travel to York, who are just two points behind them. On Tuesday they are at home to Lincoln and should maintain their 100 per cent home record.
IT'S fingers crossed for Carl Cowley.
The teenage Millwall defender is nearing the end of a two-year injury nightmare — but his biggest test has yet to come. He must prove he can make a first-team comeback.
Cowley, rated as one of the most promising players at The Den, is nearing fitness after a heart-breaking series of operations on his left foot.
He is currently undergoing strenuous work-outs at a North London rehabilitation centre. Cowley said, “The physio is delighted with my progress and reckons I could definitely be ready to start again inside a month.” The 19-year-old is on a monthly contract at Millwall and the club will consider a long-term deal if Cowley can prove his fitness
Cowley said, “The whole problem dates back to December 1982, when I fractured the foot in a reserve match.”
“I had operations to have the bones screwed together, and another to take the screws out. When that failed I had a bone graft from my hip in May this year.”
Also at the Camden centre is fellow defender Paul Robinson, who is out of plaster after breaking his leg in a pre-season friendly at Colchester.
He will need at least six weeks of treatment before he can consider a return.
Meanwhile manager George Graham takes his second-placed outfit to York tomorrow for a crunch Third Division outing. Millwall are two points ahead of third-placed York and one behind leaders Bristol Rovers, who are at home to Doncaster tomorrow.
● Cowley Hopeful
Graham said, “Things I are going very well at the moment but we mustn't get carried away. Obviously it would be encouraging to win at York, but it wouldn't be a catastrophe if we lost.” Leading scorer Dean Neal is still sidelined with a groin strain, so stand-in striker Steve Lovell will spearhead the attack.
Midfield duo Nicky Chatterton and Tony Kinsella are ruled out with injury, though Kinsella is approaching full fitness after ligament trouble in his ankle.
The former Irish Under-21 international came through Tuesday's reserve clash with Crystal Palace that saw Millwall win 2-0, with axed defender Micky Mutton grabbing both goals.
Millwall are almost there
Promotion-hunting Millwall came within six minutes of gaining their fourth win in a row but were denied by a Rick Sbragia equaliser in a 1-1 draw at York.
Millwall grabbed a 21st minute lead after a fine run by Anton Otulakowski ended with Steve Lovell's strike. Lindsay Smith and Dave Cusack were outstanding in defence as Millwall soaked up second halt pressure
York 1 Millwall 1
A Formidable Millwall team, full of commitment and strength at the back, were denied victory by an equaliser six minutes from time. Rickie Sbragia produced the face-saver to avoid a fourth defeat on the trot for York.
The Londoners led from the 21st minute. Anton Otulakowski, their outstanding player, started a run from midfield, beating two men before pushing- through a perfect pass for Steve Lovell to shoot under the body of Roger Jones as he came out.
Millwall, going for a fourth. win in succession, strung four men across the middle, and tied up York, who kept stumbling into one tackle too many.
York City (0) 1
Millwall (1) 1
MILLWALL didn't manage to go top of the Third Division table on Saturday - but they won't have to wait much longer. That's the view of York chief Denis Smith who rated the Lions as certainties to lead the pack after Saturday's draw.
Smith's outfit denied Millwall top spot with a last-gasp goal, but he afterwards insisted that George Graham's line-up are in line for promotion. Millwall had come close to chalking up a fourth win in a row as their resolute defence suffocated York's free scoring attack.
York's leveller, following a corner, came in the 84th minute after Steve Lovell had fired Millwall into a first half lead following brilliant work by Anton Otulakowski.
The real winner was a near gale force wind which made a mockery of efforts to display skill although the sides served up an entertaining top three clash.
George Graham said, “It was disappointing to concede an equaliser so late but with the wind we had anything could happen. It made the game a bit of a freak.”
Central defenders Lindsay Smith and Dave Cusack were outstanding for the Lions.
Millwall's goal followed a touch of class by Otulakowski whose skill was a constant threat. He beat two defenders in a run deep into the York half before pushing the ball through for Lovell to shoot past Roger Jones.
Lovell has proved the perfect understudy for injured striker Dean Neal, scoring in each of the last two games and showing an aerial
power that will continue to unnerve Third Division defences.
York piled on the second half pressure but Millwall goalkeeper Paul Sansome pulled off two fine saves from Gary Ford and Keith Stevens blocked a Houchen shot.
But the pressure finally told as Walwyn knocked down a corner and Ricky Sbragia crashed in the equaliser.
Otulakowski was among the three players booked, the others being York's Hay and MacPhail.
York: Jones, Evans, Hay, Sbragia, MacPhail, Hood, Ford, Hasslegrave, Walwyn, Houchen, Pearce (Butler).
Millwall: Sansome, Stevens, Roffey, Briley, Smith, Cusack, Lowndes, Bremner, McLeary, Lovell, Otulakowski.
Ref: J Ball (Leicester)
MILLWALL, second from top, came within six minutes of winning their fourth successive match at Bootham Crescent on Saturday. Their boss George Graham, said: “The conditions were bad for football, but I'm not sure it would have been a better game in perfect conditions bearing in mind the importance of the occasion.”
“I thought we were going to hang on to three points, but in all honesty I can't begrudge York a point because they put us under a great deal of pressure.”
Ricky Spragia, back after a three-match absence through injury, celebrated his return with an 84th minute equaliser which gave York their deserved share of the points. Up till then it had looked as though the Lions were going to send third placed York to their fourth successive defeat.
Millwall showed why they are strong promotion candidates with a well organised team performance. They created just one chance in the match, scored from it and then put up such defensive resistance that York must have thought they would never score
Then, with time running out, former Orient striker, Keith Houchen had a shot parried for a corner by Paul Sansome.
Alan Hay took it and Keith Walwyn headed across goal after Houchen had seen a shot blocked by Keith Stevens on the line, Sbragia was there to crack in the rebound.
Millwall had taken the lead after 21 minutes, the industrious Anton Otulakowski beating Gary Ford and Chris Evans before providing Steve Lovell with a chance to slot the ball past the oncoming Roger Jones, for his ninth goal of the season.
Thereafter it was the fine defence of Millwall, with centre backs Lindsay Smith and Dave Cusack outstanding, - plus two brilliant saves by Sansome - which kept York at bay.
York: Jones, Evans, Hay, Sbragia, MacPhail, Hasselgrave, Ford, Hood, Walwyn, Houchen, Pearce (Butler. 75 mins)
Millwall: Sansome, Stevens, Roffey, Briley, Smith, Cusack, Lowndes, Bremner, McLeary, Lovell, Otulakowski Sub: Nutton.
Ref: J. Ball Att: 4,774