Change of tactics and surprise use of Billy Mitchell pay off for Millwall manager Rowett – five takeaways from Millwall’s 2-1 win over Stoke

By Alex Grace

Millwall came from behind to secure back to back wins and their fourth win in five Championship games after Tom Bradshaw’s brace sealed a 2-1 success over Stoke City at The Den.

The Lions were forced into coming from behind yet again though, as Romaine Sawyers gave the Potters a 20th minute lead.

But it would be another second half turnaround as Bradshaw netted twice to leave the Lions outside the top six on goal difference alone.

Here are Alex Grace’s takeaways from the game.

BRADSHAW TAKES HIS CHANCE

Tom Bradshaw was given the chance against Sheffield United on Tuesday night, and due to the absence of Benik Afobe who was ineligible to face his parent club, was given the chance again and he delivered. It was his first brace in 67 league matches – the last coming in a 2-2 draw with Cardiff City in October 2019. He has found his opportunities limited but his style and the way that he presses from the front suits the way boss Gary Rowett plays and the style he wants to move forward with. The Welshman gives you a press that the likes of Matt Smith or Jon Dadi Bodvarsson are unable to do. This fact, along with the brace, means he’s very hard to drop for next weekend’s clash at Huddersfield.

ROWETT BITES THE BULLET AND CHANGES SYSTEM

The Lions were trailing at the break, a first 45 minutes of passive and drab football had the whole ground on tenterhooks. It’s the manager’s choice of formation and cautious approach to home games that has caused ructions within some sections of the supporters. To his credit he made the switch and was rewarded for that change as Bradshaw delivered. There is now a strong possibility that the Lions boss will look at a change to a different system when playing at home.

FOUR WINS IN FIVE 

It’s now four wins in five Championship games for the Lions and they are outside the top six on goal difference only. You still feel there is more to come from this team as well. Should Rowett make the decision to change system from the start for home games and not be so cautious then there is evidence there to show that more aggression and attacking football reaps rewards. Millwall have three more games before the next international break – two of them Huddersfield and Reading are teams that are sitting around Rowett’s men in the league table. Achieve two good results in those and suddenly because of the nature of the Championship, the play-off charge will be very much on.

MITCHELL AND BALLARD STEPPED UP

Gary Rowett admitted he took a risk in starting Billy Mitchell instead of Maikel Kieftenbeld but his risk paid off. Before the game no one knew if it would be Mitchell or Ryan Leonard starting in the right wing-back position. It turned out to be the Lions academy product who took up the role in central midfield, vacated by the suspended George Saville. He did have a hairy moment in the opening exchanges when he clashed with Sam Surridge in the box but thankfully, referee Andy Davies decided against punishing the 19 year-old, who other than that moment was flawless throughout.

Other than Jed Wallace, Daniel Ballard has been Millwall’s most consistent player this season. He continues to excel at this level. After Rowett changed shape he was asked to play at right back – he adapted to that role with ease. Stepping up to the plate when his side needed him to – a manager’s dream.

 

 


 

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