Daniel Marsh’s big-match verdict on Millwall’s 2-0 win at Plymouth – Hull match could still be defining one for Lions boss Rowett


For a club which has always prided itself on strong home form, Millwall’s inability to perform at The Den has piled the pressure on Gary Rowett in recent weeks.

Off the back of another weak performance in SE16, the Lions rolled into Home Park knowing a response was needed – and eventually, they did just that.

Unlike Millwall these days, Plymouth are pretty formidable at home – in fact, nobody in the top four divisions of English football come close to the Pilgrims, who had won 23 of their 27 home games since the start of last season prior to kick-off.

The League One champions underlined what a dangerous entity they are by plundering six goals past the same Norwich side that pummelled the Lions at Carrow Road a few weeks ago.

With that in mind, perhaps it’s not a total surprise that Millwall had to weather an early storm down on the south coast of Devon. The Lions kept their hosts at bay, though, during an uninspiring first-half before coming to life after the break with the game’s only real moment of quality.

Duncan Watmore, full of endeavour and energy throughout, threaded a deft ball through to Zian Flemming, who kept his cool to dink the ball over Conor Hazard in front of the heroic 606 travelling Lions fans.

The Dutchman was anonymous against Swansea at the weekend, but he was far more involved at Home Park. His 69 touches of the ball were the most of any Millwall player, and he showed superb strength to controversially swat Kaine Hesler-Hayden aside before teeing up George Saville in the seventh minute of injury time to seal a priceless win.

As invaluable as this result will be for Rowett and the Lions in the short-term, it will count for little if Millwall cannot start replicating their performances on the road at SE16.

Fans vented their frustrations with Rowett at The Den last week and the pressure on the Lions chief was palpable ahead of Tuesday night’s long trip west. Not for the first time, though, Rowett has delivered a result at the moment he needed it most.

Speaking before the match, he outlined his desire to see a return of ‘miserly’ Millwall – and he certainly got his wish.

This result was built on the type of resolute defensive performance that had become the hallmark of Rowett’s tenure prior to this season.

The Lions were led by the imperious Wes Harding, who excelled after being handed his first start of the season.

His last-gasp challenge to thwart Ryan Hardie in the penalty area just minutes before Saville killed the game in injury time epitomised Millwall’s defensive display.

Bart Bialkowski deserves credit, too, for the manner in which he bounced back just days after dropping a howler against Swansea. Much like his manager, the Polish goalkeeper should enjoy some respite from his recent critics ahead of this weekend’s meeting with Hull.

Even so, Saturday’s showdown with the Tigers could still be a defining one for the Lions boss.

Rowett has done a fine job since succeeding Neil Harris back in 2019 but, not for the first time in recent months, his position is under scrutiny. The current situation doesn’t exactly feel sustainable, either, given the tension between the Lions chief and the fanbase that has been brewing over the past few weeks.

With that in mind, it will take more than one impressive result and a vastly improved second-half performance to win some fans back around.

However, if Millwall can emulate the levels of grit and endeavor they showed on Tuesday night – two of the qualities that they have been sorely lacking in recent weeks – then perhaps there could yet be some more legs in a marriage which has served both parties well over the past four years.

Whether that turns out to be the case remains to be seen. This is all nothing new – we’ve been here before, and yet, somehow, this time feels different.

Maybe that’s harsh. After all, Millwall are only two points off the top six after Tuesday night’s triumph and are also a point better off than they were after the opening 10 games of the 2022-23 campaign.

Still, it’s felt as though it’s been a case of one step forward and two steps back for the Lions so far this season. And with patience in SE16 arguably at an all-time low, it would not do Rowett or Millwall any favours if that pattern continues heading into the international break.

Wes Harding. The former Rotherham defender was an absolute colossus on his first start for the Lions.

Duncan Watmore’s slick pass and Zian Flemming’s ice cool finish broke the deadlock in style.

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