Alex Grace’s big-match verdict on Birmingham 0 Millwall 0 – Lions boss Gary Rowett hasn’t had full squad to choose from for even one Championship matchday squad this season

BY ALEX GRACE

That last time that Millwall drew five consecutive league games was in the 1973-74 season. But the Lions are five games unbeaten and still only four points off the play-offs despite a six-game winless run.

However had victories been achieved in the previous two home games against Cardiff and Reading – both of which Lions chief Gary Rowett would have felt his side did enough to win – then the Lions would be sitting just two points behind table-topping Norwich. So, there is plenty to be positive about rather than negative. Another positive is that only Bournemouth (one) have lost fewer games than Millwall this season (twp). Let’s also remember this is Millwall’s highest points total after 14 games in the second tier of English football since the 2003-04 season when Dennis Wise’s team amassed 21 points from their opening 14 games.

It should be noted that during this run of draws, Millwall have had chances to win each of the games. There was Shaun Williams’s effort that hit the bar at Norwich, Matt Smith’s header at Hillsborough, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s miss against Cardiff and a number of chances against Reading. Murray Wallace came closest at St Andrews’ Trillion Trophy Stadium with an audacious overhead kick that forced a fine save from Neil Etheridge.

All of this is also coming during what is Millwall’s worst injury crisis since their return to the second tier in 2017. Gary Rowett could be without eight first-team players by the time tomorrow’s clash at Ewood Park against Blackburn comes around.

Mahlon Romeo, Billy Mitchell, Connor Mahoney, Mason Bennett and Ken Zohore were all missing at Birmingham and there are doubts over Shaun Williams and Scott Malone going into Wednesday’s clash after both were only be on the bench on Saturday.

Perhaps an ever-bigger blow is that Jake Cooper could also miss Wednesday’s game. The former Reading centre-back has played every minute of the last 136 league games, a run that stretches the whole way to November 2017.

Gary Rowett is yet to have a single matchday this season where he has had his whole squad available to choose from. Mitchell and Romeo both missed the start of the season due to injuries sustained in pre-season. Millwall have always had at least one first-team member unavailable for selection.

Millwall’s lack of bite in the final third of the pitch is nothing new, last season the problem was the same, the chances would be created but not converted. This season has again been frustrating in that department.

The Lions boss saw the problem in the final third in the summer and acted on it bringing in the likes of Troy Parrott and Ken Zohore to boost their attacking options. Adding them to a squad that already contained Smith, Tom Bradshaw, Bennett and Bodvarsson.

But once again injuries have struck. Parrott has only been able to start two league games out of 14, after sustaining an injury in a pre-season win at Southend. He did make a 45-minute appearance against Burnley in the EFL Cup in September but picked up yet another injury – this time ankle ligament damage – that has kept him out until just recently.

On transfer deadline day there was the arrival of Kenneth Zohore, a proven goalscorer at this level. He scored nine league goals in Cardiff’s promotion season of 2017-18 despite missing 10 games due to an ankle injury.

Millwall’s neighbours Charlton had the same issue last season but even worse, at one stage last season Lee Bowyer was without thirteen first-teamers – but unlike Millwall they weren’t able to grind out results. That resulted in a drop down the league table and was a big factor in the resulting relegation. Millwall have managed to avoid this by digging deep and avoiding defeat.

Two thousands fans will be back at The Den on Saturday for the fixture against Derby. That will certainly give Rowett’s Lions a much-needed boost, and hopefully one or two of those injured players will return for the fans’ homecoming on December 5.


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