Millwall manager Gary Rowett defiant after Benik Afobe grabs dramatic late draw at Birmingham City

GARY Rowett said Millwall will “keep going and fighting” after their play-off chances suffered a blow as they could only draw 2-2 at Birmingham City on Saturday to fall from one to three points off sixth.

Benik Afobe scored a 98th-minute penalty to grab a point for the Lions after Juninho Bacuna and Lyle Taylor – also from the penalty spot – had twice given Lee Bowyer’s side the lead after the break. Oliver Burke scored Millwall’s first equaliser.

Sheffield United defeated Cardiff 1-0 to go three points ahead of the Lions in sixth with two games left.

Millwall host Peterborough United next Saturday.

“There’s a big boxing match this evening and for the first 45 minutes it felt a little bit like a boxing match,” Rowett said. “It was Birmingham coming out playing very directly, the grass was long, it was very dry.

“We knew it would be a difficult game because they’re going to try to come out and have a reaction for their manager and their team after losing so heavily the last game.

“The first half was scrappy. We didn’t really show enough composure and when we did it looked as though balls over the top could get us into good areas with Burkey’s pace. We just couldn’t quite find the quality to do that.

“I spoke to them at half-time about having more composure. Games like this you’ve got to have a little bit of quality on the ball, a little bit of subtlety, you can’t just keep putting things into areas and hoping something happens – you’ve got to make things happen.

“We started the second half – we’ve done it so many times this season – we’ve started it in the worst possible way, it was dreadful defending from our perspective, we’ve just got to clear the ball, deal with it, and we get in a real tangle. We go a goal down and that gives them a little bit of life.

“We score a very good goal, good from Benno [Mason Bennett]. I thought the changes had some impact today. I think we had to because we had to throw caution to the wind.

“And then to concede – I don’t think either was a penalty, personally, I think both were very, very soft, but the referee set the tone early when he booked Sav [George Saville] for a very good tackle in the middle of the pitch. There was so much grabbing at corners, to pick two penalties out of it, I’m glad he evened it up in the end because it would have felt unjust if he hadn’t have done. He obviously saw a foul in there which he did for Taylor’s one.

“It was disappointing to concede the goals the way we did but we keep going, we keep fighting. We didn’t play with enough quality but we got as many attacking players on the pitch at the end. We’ve got Coops [Jake Cooper] down the middle, we had Burkey at right wing-back, Tyler [Burey] at left wing-back so I don’t think we could have gone for it any more.

“We just about got a little bit of a reward and, you know what, that point keeps our season going. I hope, at least, the fans could see a team fighting and trying to stay in the mix.

“We’ve got to take care of business on Saturday ourselves.”

Image: Millwall FC 

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John Kelly

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