BART Bialkowski is aiming to beat last season’s total of 16 clean sheets when Millwall play Stoke on Easter Monday – but he will likely be missing one important pillar of defence in front of him.
Shaun Hutchinson went off injured in the 1-0 win over Rotherham at The Den on Friday, breaking a run of not having missed a minute of league football this season.
It could be the first time since December 2019 that Hutchinson is not in the line-up for a Championship fixture.
Lions boss Gary Rowett could start club captain Alex Pearce, or drop George Evans back and pick Maikel Kieftenbeld, Shaun Williams or Ben Thompson in midfield. Ryan Woods is unavailable against his parent club, meaning Rowett must make at least two switches after unchanged sides for the last two games.
Bialkowski matched his total of shut-outs from last season after he saved Michael Smith’s 84th-minute penalty against the Millers.
“Obviously I do research before games. I knew he’d missed his last one, he went the same way he did today,” Bialkowski told Millwall’s media.
“It’s a mind game, you’re thinking is he going to try to change it, is he going to go the same way? I picked my side and luckily for me I saved it and I think it was Coops [Jake Cooper] that cleared the ball into the corner.
“There’s definitely a few more clean sheets coming. Well, hopefully. The way we’ve been defending and playing, keeping clean sheets gives you a good platform to win the game.
“We’ve been in the situation before where we’ve had to play so many games, three games in a week. Another game on Monday, it’s a good chance for us to go out and enjoy football and hopefully win the game.”
Meanwhile, Millwall had sold more than 2,000 season tickets for 2021-22 by Friday afternoon.
Bialkowski can’t wait for supporters to return to The Den.
“The last time we had the fans back [in December] it was brilliant,” Bialkowski said. “We went out for the warm-up and to see a couple of thousand people in the stands was brilliant, you had a smile back on your face.
“You’re playing for the fans, for people watching you. It’s so important to have them back and hopefully we’ll have them back next [season]. We miss them so much.
“We couldn’t win at home for a long period, we didn’t play well at home at times. I’m sure our fans wouldn’t have allowed us to play that way.”
The sides are level on 55 points in 10th and 11th in the table. Michael O’Neill’s Potters won 2-0 at Bristol City on Friday.
Possible Millwall starting XI: 5-3-2: Bialkowski; Romeo, Pearce, M Wallace, Cooper, Malone; Evans, Kieftenbeld, Thompson; J Wallace, Bennett.
Match odds: Stoke 6/5 Draw 11/5 Millwall 9/4
Last meeting: Championship (September 12, 2020): Millwall 0-0 Stoke
Image: Millwall FC