Neil Warnock lambasts referee after Cardiff draw with Millwall

by Gabriel Sutton / 10 February 2018, 09:25

Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) gives his reaction to Friday night's Championship clash at The Den between Millwall and Cardiff City which ended 1-1.

Millwall stick to their way

Strong challenges, no frills and early balls to the big man. That is the Millwall way and - baring perhaps the two-year identity crisis that preceded Neil Harris' reign - it always has been.

In a performance, in Friday 1-1 draw with Cardiff City, that was otherwise directly in keeping with those core principles, it came as a surprise to see Millwall fall behind in a way that was so, well, un-Millwall-like.

Mahlon Romeo made a mistake the late Harry Cripps might have disapproved of – the youngster dwelt on the ball for too long, giving it straight to Junior Hoilett, who in turn gave Cardiff the early advantage.

Millwall took time to respond to that blow because Steve Morison, initially, struggled to win his aerial duels against Cardiff’s centre-backs. Rather though than employ a Plan B, the Lions merely sidestepped to Plan A: version 2.0. Morison, who saw a sharp close-range strike hit the bar, shifted over to the right channel to draw Bamba out: that was how Millwall both improved their performance and scored their equalizer.

The increasingly influential target man played an inch-perfect ball down the line for Jed Wallace to cut it back to Lee Gregory, whose clever movement under the radar allowed him to get ahead of Bruno Manga and finish expertly.

That piece of play was Millwall at their best, although in the latter stages of the second half, we saw glimpses of why the Millwall way isn't without it's imperfections. The South Bermondsey outfit, reluctant to keep the ball, found it increasingly hard to play at the intensity required to both maintain their shape and get men close to Morison.

With attacking players tiring and substitute Fred Onyedinma guilty of running into traffic, attacks fizzled out and the hosts ceded control. Favourable refereeing decisions and wasteful opposition finishing ensured that Millwall would get a point which was, based on over an hour of prominence, the least they deserved.

The draw means that still, no top 10 side has been to The Den and accrued three points against Millwall, who remain fiercely true to their methods.

Warnock’s wrath

Neil Warnock’s heated interview, after his side’s 1-1 draw at Millwall on Friday night, was dominated by the referee.

With seven minutes of the 90 to go, Keith Stroud blew disallowed a potential winner for Cardiff City on the very second that Sol Bamba acrobatically shaped to shoot, having played advantage a moment previously. What perhaps didn’t help endear Stroud to the Yorkshireman was that after the resultant free-kick, he opted not to award a penalty for Jordan Archer’s apparent foul on Callum Paterson.

While there might be a debate to have over the standard of refereeing, it would be wrong for that to create a narrative that Cardiff were robbed. Their opener had come through luck and a moment of quality more than tactical design: Junior Hoilett capitalized on an early error to produce a superb strike.

For their first 82 minutes, the visitors’ passing and build-up play had consisted of aimless forward balls that, to have any effect, required a selfless centre-forward willing to constantly hassle and harry: in that regard, Gary Madine looked a long way off his usual self.

A far sprightlier figure in Lee Gregory equalized for the hosts, who were the more prominent side for long spells and forced a couple of impressive saves from Neil Etheridge, who looked the more commanding goalkeeper.

Archer, who had flapped at inviting set piece deliveries from Joe Ralls and Junior Hoilett in the first 20 minutes, was not scrutinized again until the closing stages. Cardiff's three substitutes all made a difference: Greg Halford and Loic Damour put themselves about while Zahore offered more mobility than Madine.

The Welsh club could have nicked it had decisions gone their way – or had Callum Paterson had the composure to finish one-on-one in injury-time – but that’s the bad luck they left themselves vulnerable to.

By playing well only in short bursts, there was no guarantee for Cardiff that those positive periods would yield reward.

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