Soccer

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Jackett eager to draw big gun

Published 17/02/2013|04:00

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The build-up to this match was dominated by memories of a shocking riot 28 years ago and talk of a non-league team progressing to the FA Cup sixth round for the first time in 99 years, yet in the end there was only the tamest of goading between rival supporters and a victory for the club from the Championship. Millwall stopped the shock and are now dreaming of going all the way.

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MILLWALL 3

The build-up to this match was dominated by memories of a shocking riot 28 years ago and talk of a non-league team progressing to the FA Cup sixth round for the first time in 99 years, yet in the end there was only the tamest of goading between rival supporters and a victory for the club from the Championship. Millwall stopped the shock and are now dreaming of going all the way.

The omens are certainly encouraging for Kenny Jackett's side, who last found themselves in the final eight of this competition in 2004, the year they went on to face Manchester United in the final. That game, which Millwall lost 3-0, was played at the Millennium Stadium. The target now is Wembley and the south London club will get to play at least a semi-final there should they prevail in the next round.

That is for the future. For now, Millwall should simply enjoy how they performed here, standing up to almost unrelenting pressure from Luton before overcoming their opponents with a display of ruthless finishing.

Three goals were scored from only five shots on target, with this encounter as good as over as a contest after just 36 minutes when Rob Hulse followed the excellent James Henry's close-range finish with an exquisite volley to make it 2-0.

"This was an excellent win for us," Jackett said. "We defended very well, and coming here the first goal was always going to be important."

That was a sentiment shared by Luton manager Paul Buckle, who while proud of the commitment displayed by his players, could not hide his frustration with how they let their opponents go ahead after just 12 minutes, with Janos Kovacs allowing a header from fellow central defender Ronnie Henry to run past him and into the path of James Henry, who took the ball around the Luton goalkeeper Mark Tyler before rolling into an empty net.

From that point on, the hosts were always going to struggle against opponents who sit 67 league places ahead of them, and ultimately it led to the end of an FA Cup run that saw Luton, who are seventh in the Conference, become the first non-league side to beat a team from the top flight in the competition for 24 years when they beat Norwich in the fourth round.

"I'm proud of the team, but the biggest disappointment today is that they never gave themselves a chance," Buckle said. "The early goal was a poor one and it gave Millwall the perfect start. As professionals you go out to do the basics right and we didn't do that."

Buckle's frustration was intensified by the fact that his side had started brightly, pressing Millwall whenever they were in possession and creating chances to score themselves, most notably a near-post drive from the impressive Andre Gray.

After Dany N'Guessan's late finish to make it 3-0 to the visitors, large sections of a hugely supportive home crowd began to head for the exits and the relief for both clubs was that they and the supporters located in the away section did not come close to repeating the dreadful scenes of 1985, when a sixth-round tie between Luton and Millwall at this venue led to a riot in which 47 people were injured.

For Millwall there was only joy. "If we could progress (in the FA Cup) that would be fantastic," Jackett said. "We would like a big Premier League side at home. That would be the preference."

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