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Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Frank Lampard finding life difficult early in his Derby career

Rams beaten by Millwall

Substitute David Nugent scored in Derby's defeat at Millwall
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship

Millwall 2    Derby 1
Gregory 7     Nugent 73
Williams 20

Why would Frank Lampard put himself through this?

The new Derby manager has won the lot in club football as a player at a time when wealth is presumably not an issue and he was developing into an excellent TV analyst before embarking on this hazardous and sometimes barbaric life as a manager.

What's the worst that can happen in the safe world of punditry? As harrowing as spending all day in the company of Robbie Savage sounds, it's surely not as unpleasant as this.

There's no hiding place, particularly at the Den and even more so as a former West Ham player, and Lampard was subjected to sustained baiting from a jubilant home crowd. 

Lampard will have known what was coming but his team were ill-prepared in a disastrous first half that ultimately cost Derby.

Millwall defender Jake Cooper had already seen an effort cleared off the line when he appeared to get the final touch to another set-piece from a Lee Gregory effort. The striker was credited with the opener on seven minutes and that home advantage was doubled inside the opening quarter as Shaun Williams' long-range effort flew off Fikayo Tomori into Scott Carson's top corner.

Lampard bemoaned a "slow" first half and a "freak" second goal but his ideology of wanting to play out from the back with players who appear uncomfortable in that philosophy was not suited to the fixture.

The hungry Lions simply waited for Carson to go short and pounced. It was a horrible first-half performance from County, perhaps best summed up by the moment when centre-back Richard Keogh dribbled the ball backwards for a Millwall corner.

Derby had the majority of possession, eventually finishing with 72 per cent, but anyone who has read the book Pep Confidential following his first year at Bayern Munich will have noticed County lining up in the U shape Guardiola hates so much.

Author Marti Perarnau observed one analysis session in Munich and wrote: "The whole shape of the ball movement draws out a capital U. It is a horizontal trajectory which takes the team nowhere. The opponent can defend almost effortlessly because Bayern don't break their lines.

Guardiola added: "Gentlemen, this is tiki-taka and it is s***. We’re not interested in this type of possession. It’s totally meaningless. It’s about passing for the sake of it. We need our central midfielder and our defenders to move out with an offensive mentality and break the opposition lines in order to push the whole team high up. The U needs to go."

Derby were too safe, were unable to get playmaker Mason Mount into the game, while wingers Tom Lawrence and Florian Jozefzoon also struggled to make sustained impacts in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Lampard sent his team out early for the second half and they improved considerably, playing at a quicker tempo that broke Millwall's defensive lines as the manager constantly gesticulated for his team to move the ball faster.

Martyn Waghorn's goal was flagged offside in a tight call before his replacement Dave Nugent finished off an excellent move, started by Bradley Johnson to substitute Craig Forsyth whose pass was dummied by Mount to free the eventual scorer.

As Guardiola said: "We need our central midfielder and our defenders to move out with an offensive mentality and break the opposition lines."

That is how Derby scored their goal and must be continued if Lampard is to make a success of his first job.

Forsyth, on for Scott Malone, made a difference at left-back and in a frantic finish Derby forced a few situations which nearly led to an equaliser which Lampard (wrongly) felt they deserved.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the result, at least the second half gave the Rams hope and Lampard needs time. He is just four matches into his managerial career, taking over a side that had a scattergun approach to the transfer window with nine new arrivals this summer.

However, Derby are in a hurry to reach the Premier League and Lampard will have to hope inpatient owner Mel Morris won't be making a U-turn on his risky appointment anytime soon.

The opposition

Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray said his team had been "Millwall-ed" in last week's 0-0 draw with the Lions and despite being a made-up word it perfectly illustrates what also happened to Derby.

Millwall move in unison with manager Neil Harris and his players knowing exactly how to stir the emotions of the crowd, making the Den one of the most intimidating away trips of the campaign.

Fulham were the only top-ten team to win at Millwall last season and few big sides will enjoy the trip even if the Lions were nervous late on, perhaps as a consequence of losing a 2-0 lead on the opening day against Middlesbrough.

Harris sets the team up 4-4-2, nobody is asked to do jobs they are uncomfortable with and they play with a physicality Derby could not get near to in the first half.

They aim balls up to Steve Morison, who combines well with Gregory,  and the midfield two of Williams and George Saville, who missed a sitter to make the game safe, get through copious amounts of work.

Cooper, who caught the eye and is a major threat from set-pieces, and Shaun Hutchinson are robust defenders, perfect for their roles in a well-organised team that is barely changed from last season.

They were eighth in 2017-18 and Sky Bet's 4-5 for the Lions to finish in the top half is a fair assessment of their ability.

Teams - Millwall 4-4-2: Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; Wallace (Ferguson 85), Saville, Williams, O'Brien; Morison, Gregory (Tunnicliffe 84).

Derby 4-2-3-1: Carson; Bogle, Keogh, Tomori, Malone (Forsyth ht); Johnson, Bryson; Jozefzoon (Bennett 67), Mount, Lawrence; Waghorn (Nugent 67).

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The hungry Lions simply waited for Carson to go short and pounced
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