BY DANIEL MARSH
Jake Cooper commended his Millwall team-mates for grinding out a result after falling behind against Wycombe Wanderers at the weekend.
The Lions made a slow start in Buckinghamshire and went in at the break behind. Fortunately, a strong second-half performance was enough to see Millwall return to winning ways in the Championship.
“We knew we’d have to come here and dig in,” assessed Cooper.
“We had a difficult game up at Rotherham a couple of weeks ago and we knew it’d be a similar sort of game. [We knew] we’d have to fight first and put ourselves about for second balls and gain possession that way and then try and show our quality when we got into the final third.
“In the first half they made it difficult for us, slowing the game down after they got their goal. Obviously they took loads of time on free-kicks and set plays. But, we came out really strong in the second half. We were brilliant in the first 15, 20 minutes and we really showed our quality.
“The manager’s gone with the [back] four today and I think that’s a real strength for us to be honest, being able to mix up formations. We’re comfortable playing in a four or a five. We’ve really got that versatility to go into each formation and use our strengths against whichever side we’re coming up against.”
Millwall enjoyed a considerable size advantage over their hosts, and it was something that they used to their advantage to turn the game around.
Matt Smith was a handful for the Wycombe defence all afternoon, with a hand in both goals after winning the Lions penalty and then later teeing up Ryan Leonard. The visitors also struck the woodwork on three occasions, as Cooper revealed that their size advantage was something that was highlighted prior to the match.
“We spoke about it a little bit actually at set plays. There’s a big advantage for us in those positions and we had a few chances from set plays today, I think we hit the crossbar in the first half. We haven’t actually scored as many as we’d like to this season yet. It’s something we can work on – once they start coming we’re going to be a real threat for sides.”
Cooper also had praise for the Lions’ match-winner Leonard, who further enhanced his reputation for a spectacular strike with the winner on Saturday.
“It was a brilliant finish,” said Cooper.
“Lennie’s done really well working off Smudge. When balls go up into Matt Smith he’s really good at reading the knockdowns. He’s scored a couple like that now in pre-season and the cup, he’s taken it into the league [with the goal] today so that’s brilliant.”
Leonard’s super strike was enough to seal the points for Millwall, but Cooper almost stole the headlines with an outrageous effort from just inside the Wycombe half which thundered back off the crossbar.
“I thought this has got a chance! It took forever to come down. I saw it going outside the post and then coming back inside, but it just wasn’t to be. It was a good effort but it didn’t go in unfortunately.”
Wycombe keeper Ryan Allsop ended up breaking the net in his desperation to try and stop the spectacular effort, which led to a lengthy delay as staff frantically tried to fix the net.
“[Adebayo] Akinfenwa said let’s abandon it and call it a draw! We were hopeful that wouldn’t happen and that they could fix a goal net! Fortunately they got the game going again.”
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