BY DANIEL MARSH
Gary Rowett praised the “togetherness” of his squad after he successfully tweaked Millwall’s starting 11 for their victory at Wycombe.
The Lions boss handed a first league start of the season to Matt Smith, who was a constant thorn in the side of the Wanderers defence all afternoon. Smith had a hand in both of the Lions goals – he was bundled over for Jed Wallace’s penalty before cushioning Mahlon Romeo’s cross down for Ryan Leonard to finish with aplomb.
Smith was Millwall’s top scorer last season but hasn’t always been assured of a starting place, with the added mobility of Tom Bradshaw and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson being favoured at times in the Lions’ 5-2-3 set-up. The deadline day addition of Kenneth Zohore on loan from West Brom is set to further increase competition for places going forward.
But Rowett was quick to praise Smith’s commanding contribution in Buckinghamshire.
“As a target man, as someone to hit aerially, Matt’s probably the best in the division,” said Rowett. “He’s proven that over a number of years. He’s shown it again today, that given the right service he’ll be very, very dangerous.
“Unfortunately for Matt, he also knows that every now and then we go with a different style that makes it difficult for him to lead the line. But he’s an incredibly important player for us, and today he showed his value.
“I’m the manager and I’ve got to pick which team I think is the right team. I think we’ve got a week of games where we can maybe get an extra attacker on the pitch and see if we can score more goals.
“We certainly created a good few chances today, but again we want that flexibility to flip between both systems. We switched to a 4-2-3-1 today and we don’t want to become too predictable. We’ve got lots of players that haven’t played as regularly as they’d want in the first five games of the season, but they’re going to be just as important [as the players who have played more].”
Ben Thompson is another Lions player who hasn’t featured as prominently as he’d have liked in the early stages of the season. He was linked with a loan move back to Portsmouth earlier this week, but stayed at the club and impressed Rowett with a positive second-half cameo.
“You saw Ben Thompson come on today, there was talk of him leaving the club last week. Thommo comes on and puts in an incredible performance for 10 minutes. He was absolutely brilliant. It shows the power and strength of our group, we’re never gonna just have 11 players which can just win every game. We have to use our squad and we have to use it in the right type of games. There’s certainly a great togetherness.
“Anyone who’s seen us play over the last 12 months, I don’t think our character would ever be in question. I think sometimes it’s can we play with enough quality to get into the areas of the division that we want? That’s what we’ve always said, and we’re working hard on it. We’re working to be a team with a much better balance between defending and attacking and we’ve got players to show that. Our character is nearly always good, it’s our quality that we also want to try to improve.”
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