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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Millwall

John Kelly of the Southwark News previews The Lions

28 December 2019

Millwall are on the charge up the Championship at present and a 2-1 loss to Barnsley on 21 December was the only time they have tasted defeat in the last nine games. Just how positive an effect has the appointment of Gary Rowett had in south east London?

It’s been a very, very positive start and he’s got them playing a little more football than they were under Neil Harris. They just needed a new voice, or a couple of new voices, in the dressing room, a few new ideas, different ways of training because a lot of the group have been together quite a while. It all looked a bit stale so Rowett has come in and they are playing a bit more football. I think possession stats were similar, the last time I checked anyway, but I guess it’s the type of possession, if you look into it further. He’s played a few different formations, which have worked particularly away from home and the players have really bought into what he wants to do. He’s a character that commands respect, he’s very assured of himself and assured in what he does. The defeat to Barnsley was a bit of a set-back and the first real, proper disappointment, if you like.

As we’ve spoken about in the past, they narrowly missed out on reaching the play-offs two seasons ago, but do you think they are better-equipped to challenge for that now?

I’m not quite sure. That season they had George Saville, who was probably one of the best midfielders in the Championship at the time and they had Steve Morison, who dominated defenders even at the age of 34. His partnership with Lee Gregory was really good and something defenders weren’t used to coming up against: A traditional front two. At the back they were also very solid, too. During that season, the same team was named 11 times in a row, so that will tell you how settled it was but I think Gary Rowett is still looking for the formula. Do they play two up front or one up front, with an attacking midfielder just behind? That season they got on an unbelievable roll, after Christmas particularly, and Neil Harris said they were like a steam train. I really don’t see that this time, even though they aren’t a million miles away from it, though it also depends on what happens in January.

Jed Wallace has been at the heart of everything good for Millwall this term and has been linked with a move away from the club recently. How hard will it be to keep hold of him when the transfer window opens?

I mentioned Saville and you’d have said he was happy at the club, but then Middlesbrough came in with this big bid for him and better wages than he was getting at Millwall and then you can’t blame him because, at that point, Boro were looking very good for promotion to the Premier League. I spoke to Jed Wallace recently and, of course, when you speak to players about their future, you are getting the club answer, so I don’t know. If a big bid came in with an offer of improved wages, from a club in the top six looking good for a Premier League challenge, what would you do as a player? He’s saying he’s fully committed and you can see that he is because he’s not a player who’d drop off with a bit of interest, but I couldn’t say for certain that, if a bid came in, that he wouldn’t leave.

Further to that, where should Rowett be looking to strengthen next month?

Right now, and for the last six weeks or so, they’ve really only two players for the full-back positions, with injuries and things like that. So I’d imagine they’ll want a full-back, even though they’ve got players to come back, as a minimum. I think they could really do with a No 10; a player who can get the ball into feet in tight spaces, turn and make something happen. I know these aren’t easy players to get, but they’d benefit from a properly quick striker who can really stretch teams because they have a couple of mobile strikers, but not ones with real pace who, once they get beyond someone, are gone and aren’t going to be caught. I’d say those three positions and then they will react depending on injuries and other transfer business.

How much are the Lions likely to set up?

They’ve been going 5-2-3 away from home and Gary Rowett would have gone 3-5-2 against Barnsley but for a couple of injuries. If they have three central defenders fit, I think it’ll be 3-5-2, which may be as follows; Bialkowski in goal, Hutchinson, Pearce and Cooper in a back three, Romeo and Murray Wallace the wing-backs, Molumby and Williams in midfield, with Jed Wallace off Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Tom Bradshaw. The five or three at the back has worked well for them so if they have those players available, I think that formation might work well against Brentford.

Brentford have only ever tasted victory once at The Den, back in November 2014. What’s your score prediction for this one?

The form has turned recently and it’s better away from home than it is at The Den, so I might go for a score draw. 1-1.

Supporters will be able to pay by cash or card at the North Stand Ticket Office situated next to the away turnstiles on Sunday.

 

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