Carling Cup Preview: Wycombe Wanderers v Millwall
Having recorded a 2-0 win over Morecambe in their opening league game of the season, Wycombe Wanderers entertain Millwall on Tuesday evening in the first round of the Carling Cup.
Both sides played in League One last season, but when the long campaign was finally done and dusted, the Lions celebrated promotion to the Championship at Wembley while the Chairboys fell through the trapdoor and were relegated to League Two.
Mixed fortunes indeed, but anyone assuming that Millwall had the better of Wycombe over the course of their two clashes last season would be totally wrong.
On a damp and chilly afternoon last November, the Chairboys travelled to the New Den having only tasted victory once in their first 16 league games. The previous Saturday, the Blues had been hammered 6-0 at Huddersfield Town and optimism was in short supply, but much to everyone's surprise, goals from Chris Westwood and Kevin Betsy gave Wycombe a well deserved 2-0 win. It was new manager Gary Waddock's first victory as Blues' boss and it also marked Millwall's first home defeat for eight months.
When the Lions visited Adams Park for the return fixture in February, Wycombe completed an unlikely double over the London outfit, winning 1-0 thanks to a goal from loanee full-back Julian Kelly. It was the last thing the Blues had to smile about for a while though, with their next eight games yielding no wins and only five points.
Millwall travelled to Steve Coppell's Bristol City on Saturday for their first game of the season and came away with an excellent 3-0 win thanks to goals from Darren Ward, Danny Schofield and Paul Robinson.
All three goalscorers were with the club last season, but the Lions have strengthened over the summer with the acquisition of the following players:
Steve Mildenhall (Goalkeeper) Southend
Tamika Mkandawire (Defender) Orient
Liam Trotter (Midfielder) Ipswich
James Henry (Midfielder) Reading
Darren Carter (Midfielder) On-loan from Preston
Shaun Batt (Winger) Peterborough
Kevin Lisbie (Striker) On-loan from Ipswich
Only Carter, Henry, Trotter and Lisbie featured against Bristol City on Saturday, but that could well change for Tuesday's cup tie at Adams Park.
Wycombe beat Morecambe on Saturday thanks to a penalty from Scott Rendell and a spectacular long-range strike from Jon-Paul Pittman.
Getting off to a good start was a confidence booster for fans and players alike, and the first-half performance was sufficiently exciting to whet everyone's appetite ahead of what will be a long, hard campaign.
The Blues' lacklustre opening to the second-half wasn't in the script, but manager Gary Waddock has already acknowledged that in his post-match interview and will be keen to ensure that his players don't switch off again on Tuesday.
With three strikers battling for two places up-front, Waddock opted to start with his two new signings on Saturday, but Jon-Paul Pittman refuses to make life easy for the gaffer, and when the substitute scored his ninth goal in eight games to finally kill Morecambe off, he may also have forced his way into Tuesday's starting line-up.
The Blues' midfield is running like a well-oiled engine at the moment, although Waddock may decide to rest Gareth Ainsworth and give Matt Phillips a game, while Kieran Murtagh could also make his first competitive start if Matt Bloomfield fails to recover from whatever forced his substitution against Morecambe.
Perhaps the main concern ahead of the Lions' visit is that despite Saturday's clean-sheet, Wycombe's defence is clearly not yet the finished article, and that a stronger side than the Shrimps (like Millwall for example) are likely to punish it accordingly.
Both full-backs were playing out of position against Morecambe, and it showed. Neither were able to contribute much going forward and both struggled at times with their unfamiliar defensive roles. It will be no surprise if Waddock plays one of his two recognised right-backs in their correct position on Tuesday, but he doesn't have that option at left-back, where the problem will remain until new-signing Andy Sandell recovers from injury.
In 14 previous meetings, Wycombe and Millwall have each won 5 times with the two sides drawing on 4 occasions.
At Adams Park there have been 3 wins for Wycombe, 2 for the Lions and 2 draws.
1996/97 LG1: Wycombe 1 Millwall 0
1997/98 LG1: Wycombe 0 Millwall 0
1998/99 LG1: Wycombe 0 Millwall 1
1999/00 LG1: Wycombe 1 Millwall 2
2000/01 FAC: Wycombe 2 Millwall 1
2000/01 LG1: Wycombe 0 Millwall 0
2009/10 LG1: Wycombe 1 Millwall 0
The Man In The Middle
Tuesday's referee is Trevor Kettle from Lincolnshire who was promoted to the National List of Referees in 2003. His last Wycombe game was the 4-0 defeat at home to Peterborough in last season's Carling Cup first-round. So far this campaign he's issued 4 yellow and 0 red cards in 1 game.
If the Lions can put three past Bristol City's defence, it doesn't bode well for us.
Wycombe 1 Millwall 3