‘Wonderful to hear’ – Millwall boss on return of fans plus Gillingham test as Jake Cooper scores late

GARY Rowett said Millwall fans in “full voice” was “wonderful to hear” as the Lions drew 1-1 against Gillingham at Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Kyle Dempsey gave the League One side a 14th-minute lead before Jake Cooper equalised with four minutes left (above).

“I thought it was a really realistic game,” Rowett said. “You come out and our fans are there, our fans were in full voice which was lovely to hear. It’s been a while.

“Every team [Steve Evans] manages are very strong playing forward. They landed on second balls, they played some good stuff as well and at times in the game they were really bright.

“The fans got behind them and I’m sure that helped them early on. There wasn’t much in the game first half. I just wanted us to show a little bit more composure and you saw that in the second half when we started to move the ball and opened the game up a bit better. I thought we then started to see the difference.

“We didn’t do it enough in the game, but, look, it was a really good test physically as well as technically.

“I thought we looked a lot better second half, we passed the ball better and got into some better positions. But for some good saves from their keeper we maybe have scored a bit earlier in the game which would have been nice.

“But we got the goal in the end, it’s another set-piece. So once more we’ve done a lot of things well and some things not so well which gives us something to work on in the weeks ahead.”

Lions fans at Priestfield Stadium

Millwall fans travelled to an away game for the first time since March 6, 2020.

Rowett added: “Brilliant. Anyone that’s involved in football – whether it’s you guys, whether it’s us, players – it’s about the fans, playing in front of an atmosphere, that’s why you do it.

“Otherwise you turn up on a Sunday like everyone else and just play football for the love of it. So it was nice to feel that and to see it and hear people getting excited. I think that’s a massive tick for us.

“I really appreciate them coming down, the ones that travelled. I think there was a lot more of them in the stadium but they probably sat in a lot of the Gillingham seats!

“As soon as you come out, you feel a bit of the atmosphere. I spoke to the players about it and said, ‘listen, for 20 minutes this will be a proper game. We’ve got to make sure we compete and use a little bit of composure to break out of those tight situations to open the spaces up for us.’

“Gillingham did that really well, which I knew they would. So what I liked about it is, you look at all our other games, we’ve had 18 months with no fans, to come and actually play in front of fans again was half the battle.

“It will be interesting to see now having done that when we go to Ipswich – they’ll be the same, they’ll be massively up for the game, their fans will be behind their team, it’ll be a difficult test.

“It’s just different types of games to learn little different things. Then when the season starts I’ll start judging the team in earnest.

“I’m quite pleased with where we are. I would’ve liked us to create a few more chances in the game, of course I would, but that wasn’t the only thing that we’re looking at.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly