By IAN MALIN
GEORGE GRAHAM has found himself in a position that most Third Division managers would envy. The Millwall boss has a fully-fit squad of players battling for selection as the Lions move into the Third Division's top six.
His selection problems were illustrated in the fact that defender David Martin found himself on the substitutes bench on Sunday morning. Martin had played well enough in the previous game against Reading to suggest he should have been in the Lions line-up. Instead, Lindsay Smith made his debut as Millwall chalked up their third home win in as many matches.
Millwall's squad looks strong enough on paper to make a serious promotion challenge.
Seasoned defenders like Martin and Micky Nutton, new signing Tony Kinsella and Steve Lowndes are all snapping at the heels of those in Sunday's side.
Dean Neal will score a lot of goals this season. The winner in the 37th minute owed much to Colin Foster's Sunday morning sleepiness when he was robbed by Kevin Bremner, but Neal scored expertly.
He could have scored a hat-trick with two more shots going inches wide. But it was Les Briley who caught the eye with a dominant midfield performance.
MILLWALL. Sansome, Stevens, Smith, Cusack, Roffey, Briley, Lovell, Chatterton, Otulakowski, Neal, Bremner. Sub Martin
Referee: Allan Gunn (Burgess Hill)
Battle Stations: Lions ace Anton Otulakowski shrugs off the challenge of Orient's former Palace player Neil Banfield
Only a Dean Neal goal in the 37th minute - his 37th for the club - separated them from neighbours Orient, but they were good value for their win.
The score spotlighted manager George Graham's need for another striker to back up Neal.
Neal's 37th goals have come in 99 games for the Lions-and that's a good average in any division.
Graham said: “We had four or more chances and should have cashed in on Orient's mistakes. We got our goal through a Colin Foster mistake, but they made a lot more and we didn't take advantage of them.”
“It wasn't a good game for the fans. Orient play the Liverpool way, keeping the home fans quiet by holding the ball at the back and not letting opponents bet at it.”
“They did it well in the first half, but weren't so good in the second.”
Orient boss Frank Clark agreed with Graham that it wasn't an attractive match to watch. He admitted Orient were not positive enough. Even so, I thought the first half produced flowing football with former Palace players Barry Silkman and Shaun Brooks providing their attackers with plenty of the ball.
But they were never able to seriously threaten
the Lions, who were well marshalled by skipper Les Briley
Briley headed an Andy Sussex corner off the line in the 10th minute and Kevin Godfrey missed a comfortable chance a minute later.
Play then switched for Rhys Wilmot - on loan from Arsenal for a year - to make the first of a series of fine saves, from Kevin Bremner.
Orient's next let off came in the 29th minute when, in attempting to clear, Neil Banfield hit the angle of the cross bar and the post.
Paul Sansome had little to do, but he was alert to a Silkman effort making a good save. Then came the Lions goal. Neal latched on to a Foster error and ran through to beat Wilmot with a cracking shot from 20 yards.
The home side were well on top in the second half, but Bremner usually the deadliest of finishers, missed an easy chance to make it 2-0.
Neal broke away with Bremner and unselfishly Neal passed to Bremner, who took too much time and fluffed it.
Millwall: Sansome, Stevens, Roffey, Briley, Smith, Cusack, Lovell, Bremner, Neal, Chatterton, Otulakowski. Sub: Martin.
Orient: Wilmot, Hales, Stride, Cornwell, Foster, Banfield, Silkman, Brooks, Sussex, Godfrey, McNeil. Sub: Castle.
Ref: Allan Gunn, (Burgess Hill, Sussex) Att: 5,073.
On the Up: Dean Neal celebrates his 37th goal for the Lions
Millwall 1 Orient 0|
Millwall can thank Orient defender Foster for this victory yesterday.
Foster was robbed by Kevin Bremner who sent Dean Neal away to beat Orient goalkeeper Rhys Wilmot with a rising drive after 37 minutes.
Millwall should have settled the game midway through the second half when Neal and Bremner combined again. But Bremner's shot was saved by Wilmot.
Millwall boss George Graham said. “We had the chances to score three or four, but Orient played some good possession football and managed to frustrate us in the second half.”
Orient manager Frank Clarke admitted. “I was disappointed with our performance.”
Dean Neal was the goal hero once again as Millwall put one over neighbours Orient.|
Neal scored his fourth of the season to give his side three deserved point.
Orient defender Colin Foster was dispossessed by Kevin Bremner and Neal ran on to hit an unstoppable 37th-minute shot past Rhys Wilmot.
George Graham said “We had the chances score three or four goals but Orient frustrated us in the second half.”
Orient manager Frank Clark said: “I was disappointed with our performance, the longer the game went on the less we looked scoring. Colin Foster had one of those spells where everything he did looked indecisive”.
Millwall boss George Graham has pleaded with critics to talk about football, rather than off-the-pitch activities, but his words have fallen on deaf ears.