BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Millwall are only four points behind sixth-placed Preston in the Championship – but Gary Rowett is keeping a level approach to their climb up the standings.
The Lions are unbeaten in six matches and aim to extend their undefeated streak on their travels to four games when they face Derby County on Saturday.
The question is whether Millwall – not one of the lavish spenders in the division – can mount a play-off push. They went close with a storming second half of the campaign after winning promotion via the play-offs but were forced to grind to safety last time around.
Rowett said: “I don’t really take too much stock in the league, because at one point a few weeks ago we went to 10th and we ended up 16th without almost playing.
“It doesn’t really give you any relevance apart from people look at it and go ‘that’s quite nice because we up in the right position and not too far away from things’.
“But we’re mindful that if you don’t maintain what you’re doing you can easily slip six or seven places down in this division. It’s about performance levels and what we do. Sometimes we might get the performance but not win the game.
“But if we improve our performance levels enough then in the end we will do what we’ve done – which is be very competitive and have a chance of winning any game against any team, home or away.
“That’s the key – trying to improve – rather than just worrying about results. If you focus solely on results and start taking shortcuts to get them then that hasn’t got a long-term benefit.”
Millwall have banked 11 points away – seven of those on Rowett’s watch. They are just three behind their total they managed last season on the road.
“I’m not big on totals and targets,” said the Lions manager. “When you look at the away form when we came in it was always going to be a challenge to improve it – if you don’t then you’re putting huge pressure on all your other home games.
“At some point that pressure is going to create a problem for you because no-one is every going to win every single home game.
“It was trying to change the mentality a little bit, give them something different to think about.
“There is a real keenness from the players to do what you’re asking them to do. They really commit to it.
“I don’t necessarily think the plan, tactics, structure or formation is the key thing. It’s the players’ attitude. By changing it [formation-wise to a 5-2-3] it has motivated them more to do well because it’s a different opportunity to get results away from home.
“It feels like a new start and not what you’ve done previously for 10 games. We played well enough at Reading not to feel too downbeat about the performance and the result. Certainly Swansea, the first time we changed formation, gave them a bit of belief.
“That belief manifested itself in that we went to Birmingham with a back four and thought we could get something out of it. So I don’t think necessarily it’s down to formation.”
PICTURE BY KEITH GILLARD
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