MILLWALL welcome Brighton to The Den this weekend and FA Cup lover Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) shares his thoughts on the best betting angle.
Millwall v Brighton | Sunday 17th March 2019, 14:00 | BBC
In Millwall and Brighton’s history, they have reached one FA Cup final apiece – on both occasions, they lost to Manchester United by a three-goal margin.
The Lions, of course, got to the Millennium Stadium in 2004, having been slightly fortunate to only face teams outside the top flight during that cup run, before Dennis Wise’s troops – starring current boss Neil Harris up top – lost 3-0 in front of fervent backing.
Brighton, meanwhile, drew 2-2 with the Red Devils at the old Wembley in 1983, with Gordon Smith missing an infamous goalscoring opportunity, before heavily losing the replay.
Since then, the Seagulls have never reached the Semi-Final of this competition – but they now have a presentable opportunity to re-write the records.
Thompson cup-tied for Millwall
If Neil Harris could have picked one player from Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Birmingham to guarantee availability for the next match, it would have been Ben Thompson.
The attacking midfielder played such an influential role at St Andrews and not just because of his two goals – his all-round link-up play was excellent, too.
Fundamentally, he produced a performance that showed Millwall can begin to adjust to life without Steve Morison, understandably declining in stamina at 35, starting every week – and that has been a challenge all season.
Lee Gregory worked hard and made selfless runs into the channels, vacating space in goalscoring positions for Thompson to pop up; that combination worked a treat.
Alas, however, Thompson is cup-tied, having played in this competition while on loan at Portsmouth earlier in the campaign.
Having finally found that winning formula which works for them in open play, it seems a real shame for Millwall that they will not be able to take that forward to test it against Premier League opposition and that could be a sizeable blow.
On the plus side, Alex Pearce is starting to form a sturdy centre-back pairing with Jake Cooper, with Ryans Leonard and Tunnicliffe providing strong protection in front.
Seagulls solid if unspectacular
If we looked at Brighton last season, they were impressive going forward: the deliveries of Pascal Gross, the curlers from Jose Izquierdo plus the evergreen graft and guile of Glenn Murray.
Those displays meant they not only won nine games en route to comfortable Premier League survival, they won four of them by a margin of two or more goals – not to mention a run to the FA Cup Quarter-Finals, too.
This season, Gross and Izquierdo have been affected by injuries while one or two of the summer recruits had taken a bit longer than expected to adjust to a different climate.
Due to a combination of factors, Brighton have not been quite as strong in attack this term, with only one of their nine league wins coming by a margin of two or more goals.
Additionally, Chris Hughton more often this term appears happy for his team to focus on game management with a one-goal second half lead, rather than press further, as they sometimes did in 2017-18.
That mentality might have affected Brighton’s Expected Goals tally; over the whole Premier League season, they are posting 1.10 xGF per game and 1.64 xGA, giving them a ratio of 40.10%, which ranks them lowly in 17th on performance data.
The 1.64 xGA, in comparison with 1.45 actual goals conceded per game, would suggest they have been getting slightly fortunate – and perhaps they rode their luck in a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace last time out.
Equally, however, there have been a lot of second halves in which Albion have been narrowly leading and, in part due to their organisation, the opposition have barely laid a glove.
Plus, when a lot of shots are taken in front of crowded penalty areas and the likes of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy are throwing themselves in front of them, it can be difficult for opponents to find accuracy, even from favourable positions.
The Betting Angle
Our best bet is Betfair’s 4/6 on Millwall to score no second half goals.
With Thompson absent, it is very likely that, if the Londoners are not winning in the second half, it will be a case of them pumping long balls into Morison, which we can expect Brighton’s battle-hardened centre-backs to be quite comfortable with.
Hughton’s side have conceded just 23 second half goals in the Premier League and, outside the established ‘big six’, only Leicester, Wolves and Newcastle have shipped fewer after the interval.
Millwall, without Thompson and short on reliable strikers, might not have the depth to change things up and offer the visiting rear-guard something different to think about.
Millwall v Brighton – Millwall to score Under 0.5 second-half goals (4/6 Betfair)