BY ALEX GRACE
Gary Rowett asked his Millwall side to play with “a little bit more brightness” in the second half of their 1-0 win at Rotherham United on Saturday afternoon.
The Lions were dominated by the hosts in the first half in South Yorkshire and failed to get their game going.
“I just asked them to play with a little bit more brightness,” said Rowett.
“You’ve got to work hard to pass the ball, to move a team like that around, a team that press as well as that, a team that is very organised and gets behind the ball and blocks space.
“You have to work really, really hard to shift them around and what we didn’t do was play with any composure.
“For example the ball goes into Bart, we have a chance to try and work hard to create space and instead we just jog up the pitch kick it, lose it and now we are under a bit more pressure again – so we didn’t play with real intelligence or quality in the first half.
“We are trying to be better at what we do but all in all we’ve played four games this season and won three of them, drawn one and I’m a little bit disappointed with a couple of those performances.
“I don’t think we are arrogant enough or good enough to certainly be too disappointed with that start but I felt at times today we were a bit laboured and made it hard for ourselves at times. Rotherham made it hard for us because they are a side with a lot of energy.”
Millwall kept 16 clean sheets in the Championship last season and have kept two in their first two league games so far this season.
“We’ve played against two direct sides,” said Rowett. “They test you, they don’t play possession-based football, they get balls into your box and make it really difficult with big physical strikers.
“You have to stand up to that and I thought we did that well in both games. Two clean sheets is fabulous. We had a very good record last season defensively and that has to be our base and our foundation for any success. Am I disappointed with the way we passed the ball? Of course I am, was I disappointed with our creativity? Yes, but to come here and win away from home in the Championship, I won’t be disappointed by that.”
It’s also the first time that Millwall have won their first away game of the season since winning promotion from League One in 2017.
“I don’t think the stat has any effect because we won a lot of away games when we came in,” said Rowett. “What’s nice, and the thing that’s most important to me, is that Millwall don’t start seasons quickly and have not started well but what we’ve done so far, I know its only two games in the league but we’ve actually started on the front foot with our results.
“We’ve played two tricky games in the cup and been very comfortable. We’ve played two hard games in the league. We’ve made them feel a lot harder but we are still having to head balls out of our box – sometimes you’ve got to do that to win games in the Championship.”
Ben Thompson was not included in the matchday squad but did travel to The New York Stadium
“He’s fine,” said Rowett. “It was a really difficult decision over what I thought we needed today.
“I felt we were going to need a little bit more control in games so that’s why I put Willo on the bench instead of Thommo.
“There were a couple who missed out today. He will be back involved on Wednesday. It’s horses for courses. We’ve got tough decisions to make. We’ve got 20-21 first-team players.”
PHOTOS: BRIAN TONKS
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