CARDIFF CITY 1
J Wallace 63
BY GRAHAM THOMAS AT CARDIFF CITY STADIUM
Gary Rowett insists he is under no pressure to sell Jed Wallace during next month’s transfer window, but may discover the stress is exerted from other clubs rather than his own.
The Lions manager savoured another magnificent goal from Wallace, who clearly enjoys the Welsh air every time he crosses the Severn Bridge.
In November, the attacking midfielder had scored a breathtaking free-kick that proved good enough to beat Swansea City and on Boxing Day he conjured up another that was even better.
The 25-year-old was fully 30 yards from goal when his team were awarded a set-piece just past the hour mark as they trailed to a goal from Cardiff’s Aden Flint.
Wallace tied things up with a dipping, curling strike that could not have been placed more accurately into the top right-hand corner if he had been 20 yards closer.
It was the kind of goal that gets players noticed by clubs in need of something, or someone, inspirational to dig them out of a hole – clubs, like Aston Villa for instance, who are rumoured to be ready to bid for Wallace as they try to move themselves clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
Rowett says he is fortunate that he manages at a club which has put no pressure on him to sell their most valuable player. Owner John Berylson has made no demands that reasonable offers have to be listened to.
But what happens if someone makes an unbelievable one? What happens if Villa – or some other club spooked by the prospect of dropping out of the Premier League – offers £17million or £20m for a player with a rare talent to decide matches?
In that sense, it is not the internal club pressure being put on Rowett that matters so much as the effect of pressure from outside.
The Lions boss conceded in the post-match press conference that he will have to adopt a “wait and see” approach.
If offers come in then the calculation will be how much could that amount of money transform the rest of the squad and secure a level of stability to guard against leaner times that may lie ahead?
Wallace proved again that he has the ability to play at a higher level and you would imagine he could improve at least half a dozen squads in the Premier League.
As well as his goal, he delivered Millwall’s only meaningful shot after a surging run in the first half.
Then, after an uneventful game improved after the break, the former Wolves player carved his way through Cardiff’s defence and produced a cross which should have invited a better finish than the one produced by Shaun Hutchinson, which was blocked by a Bluebirds defender.
Millwall fell behind soon after that opportunity to a goal that was too sloppily conceded for Rowett’s liking.
A flick on from the near post at a corner, was turned in by Flint during a period when Cardiff had managed to raise their own tempo.
Millwall responded with their own dominant period, but it has been the conceding of cheap goals that has so far led to the club chasing the play-off pack, rather than being part of it.
Rowett’s side have conceded 31 goals this season in the Championship, more than any club in the division’s top nine.
On the plus side, they have only lost twice in their last 12 games and if they can convert some of their draws into victories then a surge into the play-off positions is certainly not beyond them.
They must also now look to take advantage of back-to-back home matches – against high-flying Brentford on Sunday and then against low-flying Luton on the opening day of 2020.
Millwall (3-5–2): Bialkowski 7, Hutchinson 6, Cooper 7, Pearce 6, Romeo 6, Molumby 7, Williams 7, Ferguson 6 (M Wallace 73), J Wallace 8, Bodvarsson 7 (Mahoney 72), Bradshaw 6 (Smith 83). Not used: Steele, McCarthy, Skalak, Mitchell.
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