Australia striker hopes to drag Millwall clear of danger and boost his World Cup chances while Charlton continue to struggle
Scott McDonald would not have been the first person to realise he was joining a club with an image problem when he signed for Millwall in the summer, but when the Australian made the move he did so with the aim of making the World Cup squad for Brazil next year.
The former Celtic and Middlesbrough striker was discarded from the 31-man training squad before the 2010 World Cup and after slipping off the radar on Teesside, realises that at the age of 30 this is his last chance. Scoring goals is the only way forward and after getting his first for the club on Saturday, a deflected effort from 25 yards, he reflected that he needs a few more. "I've not had many chances so far this year but the ones I have had, I've been disappointed not to have notched."
This one was a source of delight for the team, the 3,000 travelling fans and the manager who signed him, Steve Lomas, a man with his own image problem as far as a vocal minority of supporters are concerned but who was looking forward to enjoying his Sunday morning for a change, after what have been a nervous few days.
Six points out of six have improved the outlook immeasurably, with Blackpool knocked off the top of the table as Lomas's team hoisted themselves off the bottom, and then this deserved win which puts them in 17th and looking upwards.
The former West Ham and Northern Ireland captain, who celebrated with his players in front of the fans after the final whistle, has been the subject of terrace dissent since the first of the pre-season friendlies and with the US owner John Berylson flying in from Boston last Tuesday for a chat, six league games without a win was where the conversation would have ended. "The manager is a strong enough man to deal with things like that I think you have to be as a manager.," McDonald said. "We just carry on and try and work as hard as we can for him That has shown in the past two games."
Lomas was hired as he has a good contacts book following a top-flight playing career and two years in charge of St Johnstone, whom he took into Europe on both occasions, but Berylson has previous and fired Nigel Spackman and Willie Donachie after 10 games apiece in 2006 and 2007.
After Lomas's sixth match, a calamitous 5-1 home defeat by Derby, the fans were close to open mutiny and the manager's future was discussed. The gate for that one had dipped by almost 4,000, or 32%, since the opening day loss to Yeovil, moreover, and left the owner sounding warnings about the prospects for next season, with financial fair play salary-cap restrictions from January 2015 based on the books for this season and turnover dropping like a stone.
It was never going to be easy for any successor to Kenny Jackett after six relatively successful seasons at the Den, the more so for anyone with an Upton Park background, but Lomas could not have chosen more compliant opponents than Charlton to try to achieve back-to-back wins for the first time as Millwall manager.
Low on confidence and playing a brand of get-rid-quickly football that was easy to forget, Chris Powell's side had two shots on target, the first of them after 71 minutes, and there was a modicum of dissatisfaction from the fans at the final whistle, some of it aimed at the manager, the last link with the Premier League days of what in many ways was seen as a model club.
The rot set in when Iain Dowie was hired to replace Alan Curbishley in May 2006 and proceeded to stock up on largely pointless, expensive players and then endured a calamitous six months which saw the club quickly shelve plans to develop the fourth side of their revamped ground as their league position slumped.
They promptly slipped through two divisions with a succession of managers but Powell has taken them to a promotion and survived a season in the Championship since, although they still look a League One side with League One ideas. Only two players arrived on frees in the summer and seven were released. Rumblings about a proposed move away from The Valley to a site on the Greenwich Peninsula add to the sense of unease.
Lomas let half a dozen go and brought in the same number with McDonald perhaps the biggest name among them, even though he reluctantly accepts that Australia's manager, Holger Osieck, will not be coming down to the Den any time soon. "Maybe he doesn't think Millwall's attractive enough. I hope I can shove it down his throat with goals – that's the only way I'm going to get into the team and I'll be trying hard to do that." This one will have done his prospects no harm, even if his turn of phrase could do with a little work.