Millwall boss makes point about Benik Afobe’s movement and how to get best out of him

MILLWALL boss Gary Rowett said Benik Afobe was “outstanding” against Bournemouth at The Den on Wednesday night – and urged the side to keep giving him quality service.

Afobe’s runs in behind the defence caused the Cherries problems all game. He scored the equaliser against the club that paid £10million for him almost five years ago when he sprinted beyond Gary Cahill from Tom Bradshaw’s flicked header and then fired low into the bottom-left corner past Mark Travers.

Dominic Solanke had put the visitors in front just before half-time.

Millwall had chances to win the game and Cherries boss Scott Parker was pleased not to lose after he said they came under “big pressure” from the hosts in the second half.

Rowett felt his side could have got more than a point.

“Bournemouth are a really good side and they deserve massive credit, they’re one of the two outstanding sides in the division at the minute along with Fulham,” Rowett said. “They’ve got qualities in lots of different areas to cause you problems and win games.

“They’re a really good side, but I think they will be happy, that was my feeling after the game. I think they would have been delighted with a point going home tonight. We’re disappointed we didn’t get all three.

“That encapsulates the performance, I thought it was excellent. To play against a top side like that, we started really well and played 4-2-3-1 at home to try to give us an extra body knowing that we could drop Scotty Malone back and tuck Muzza [Murray Wallace] into a back five. It’s worked okay.

“We started really brightly against Derby when we did it here. It just allows you to press a little bit higher. We did it quite well at times, there were other times when we could have done it better.

“We got into some really good areas first half but seemed a little bit shot-shy for some reason. We got in and around the box and then you just think, ‘pull the trigger’, but we didn’t seem to want to do that.

“I was really pleased with the first-half performance, until the 45th minute. What you can’t do against a good side like Bournemouth is give them a goal. We had a chance to clear it on the edge of our box and get caught. They put a ball into our box and I think Mase [Mason Bennett] just switches off a little bit. Maybe some days he might get a foul for that but I’m not so sure, I think it’s a 50/50 challenge. I certainly wouldn’t complain. Solanke gets a little bit of a rub of the green when it drops down to him.

“To go in half-time 1-0 down I felt was incredibly unfair and disappointing.

Benik Afobe after his equaliser against Bournemouth

“What we’ve done second half is what we’ve done all season, a really good response. We continued to do what we did first half but with a little bit more verve and energy and quality.

“We score a fabulous goal. Bournemouth play with quite a high line and we just felt there were opportunities to try to exploit that. We did.

“I thought Benik was outstanding tonight. For me, that was one of the best No.9 performances I’ve seen in the division this season so far. And certainly from him.

“That’s what we brought him into the club to do, that’s what he can do. I know it’s difficult to do that sort of thing every week but it was fantastic.

“When he created the chance you had no doubt he was going to score it because he’s got that top quality.

“Then we had other moments. Billy Mitchell, great bit of skill and he shot just over. Sav [George Saville] has a shot, Muzza has a header that just flashes wide. Bradders has a chance. I think [Jefferson] Lerma just does enough, great defending, Bradders has a tap-in at the back post.

“It was a great performance and, like I said, I’m disappointed I’m only sat here with a point.”

Billy Mitchell almost scored after a brilliant run

Rowett was asked if he felt Afobe hasn’t always got “the bounce of the ball” this season.

“There are a couple of things,” Rowett sad. “Tonight he earned the bounce of the ball, metaphorically speaking, he worked incredibly hard, he was physical, he won headers, he backed in. He looked a threat every time we got a little bit of possession.

“The second part of that is he makes some great runs in games and we’ve struggled to see them early enough and find those passes. I thought tonight we played with a little bit more quality at times. I still think we can get better.

“He’s a striker that plays on the shoulder and you’ve got to give him service in behind, otherwise it’s quite a difficult game for him.

“There were some really good performances.”

Image: Millwall FC 

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John Kelly