Millwall’s imposing center-half Jake Cooper was without a doubt the right thing to do as teammate George Evans pushed a pass in his direction about 25 yards from Sheffield United’s goal in the second minute of time. ‘stop.
Kicking the ball clean and hitting it for the first time – which is exactly what the 6-foot-6 defender did to doom Slavisa Jokanovic’s side to a sixth loss of the season and, in doing so, put the spotlight on a costly flaw in United’s own game. Namely, an inability to score from outside the penalty area.
In 91 league games stretching back to the final weeks of the 2018-19 promotion campaign under Chris Wilder, United have only scored three times via shots fired from 18 yards or more.
David McGoldrick pulled off the feat twice last season, first in the 2-1 loss in October at Arsenal and then again on the final matchday when Burnley was beaten 1-0 at Bramall Lane. Lys Mousset pulled off the same feat in the 3-3 home draw against Manchester United in the previous campaign – and that’s it.
A truly dismal record which was put into context on Tuesday night by Millwall’s two goals coming through this route, with Jed Wallace giving the Londoners the advantage in the first half by beating Robin Olsen with a thunderous effort from the sideline right that may or may not have been deliberate.