Millwall centre-forward discusses the first-half substitution of Lions skipper against Luton

MATT Smith said any player could have been taken off after Millwall’s poor first-half performance against Luton – and praised Alex Pearce for being a “rock” for the Lions.

Millwall boss Gary Rowett made the decision to substitute Alex Pearce and bring on Tom Bradshaw in the 42nd minute of the contest against the Hatters at The Den.

The Lions switched to 4-4-2 as substitutions proved crucial, with Bradshaw bringing Millwall level and then another replacement Connor Mahoney scoring and assisting Smith.

Smith started up front in a 5-2-3 formation.

“I felt a bit isolated up there, they matched our system which we didn’t really expect them to do,” Smith admitted. “I thought it was a stroke of genius from the manager to change the system.

“Anyone could have been sacrificed, really, we were all that poor. It was unlucky for Pearcey because he’s been tremendous for us, an absolute rock at the back.

“I’ve been taken off in the first half, subbed on and subbed off in the same game. I know how humiliating ultimately it is. But Pearcey is a strong lad. He won’t take it personally – he’ll know it was for the team’s benefit. It could’ve been any of us, we were that poor in the first half. Any of us could’ve been dragged off.

“Pearcey will know it was purely tactical. He’s been around the block before to know it’s not to do with his performance. He’s been an absolute rock at the back for us.

“It was a sacrifice which ultimately swung the game. In the second half I thought we were brilliant. We showed a lot of intent going forward, had a lot more quality in the final third and quality going in the box.

“The manager came in at the break not best pleased, we were a bit disheartened after what we had produced. He just said, ‘listen, stick together, show some bravery in the second half’. We really did that.”

The result moved Millwall into sixth in the Championship.

Smith added: “You don’t want to get too carried away, you start rattling off clichés about one game at a time. We’ve shown so much potential to be right up there at that end of the table.

“Today was a potential banana skin the same way Barnsley was, we knew that. We’ve just got to keep putting points on the board, that’s it in a nutshell, really.

“We’ve shown every bit of quality, potential, to keep ourselves up that end but it’s down to us to put in consistent performances.”

Image: Millwall FC

John Kelly