Millwall boss on ‘massive’ week, five at the back – and why he believes there is more to come

GARY Rowett hailed a “massive” week after two wins in pressure games – and believes there is further improvement to come from his side.

Millwall moved from 19th to 11th in the table after 1-0 wins against Bristol City and Barnsley before the second international break of the season.

Rowett said before the fixtures there was pressure on his side to deliver, and they didn’t falter as they moved to within three points of the play-offs almost a quarter of the way into the league season.

“We’ve always had the belief and we knew we weren’t as far away as the table looked. But then going and actually getting the results is massive,” Rowett said.

“They were two big efforts. We played well for many parts of both games and I think we all feel the same way, it was a good way to finish this period before the international break.

“But we all feel that there is a lot more improvement to come. And that’s the nice thing, we feel we’ll get better when we’ve got more options available to us. The players knew that was important, getting players back from injury.

“We’re now [getting players back] from a better position in the league.”

Millwall have also improved defensively, with three clean sheets in their last five league games after none in their first six.

One issue that still persists for Millwall is a relative shortage of goals, with only 11 in 11 games so far.

Against Barnsley last weekend, the Lions regularly got five or six players into the opposition box, though had to wait until the 89th minute for the breakthrough when Murray Wallace headed home Jed Wallace’s corner.

Millwall are becoming more difficult to break down with five at the back, a system that Rowett pointed out has worked for sides previously in the Championship.

“When people think five defenders they naturally think of it that way [defensive],” Rowett said. “But I can think about Sheffield United getting out of this division playing that way, Wolves got out of this division playing that way, West Brom are near the top of this division playing that way.

“You look at Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Juventus – there are so many teams that play that way.

Murray Wallace scored the winner at Barnsley

“It’s not about the formation, it’s how you play it. If you lack creativity it’s because you’re not getting enough players forward or there’s not enough quality when you do get those bodies forward.

“There was a moment first half away from home when Coops [Jake Cooper] goes and joins in on the overlap with Murray and one of the forwards with two or three in the box.

“You’ve got to try and do that. Sav’s [George Saville] given us that from midfield where he’s always in the box. We always to encourage our opposite wing-backs to try to make the back post as well.

“It’s how you play it and it’s about taking your chances. In a lot of these games had we taken more of our chances we would be scoring two or three goals.

“We’ve found that’s probably our biggest challenge.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly