Millwall manager Gary Rowett said his players would savour their 2-1 victory at QPR today – just like their west London opponents revelled in their three points at The Den earlier in the Championship campaign.
The Lions had not won any of their nine previous meetings with the R’s, a run stretching back to February 1989.
January signings Duncan Watmore and Oliver Burke both scored as Millwall moved up to fifth in the table. And Rowett’s side have matches in hand on the clubs above them in the standing.
But Burke, who came on in the closing stages, rifled the ball in after Zian Flemming’s long throw was flicked on by Charlie Cresswell.
Chris Martin had cut the deficit when he guided home Ilias Chair’s 82nd-minute cross.
The South Londoners dug in defensively in the closing stages and Burke had an opportunity to add a two-goal cushion but drove his strike wide.
“Regardless of how long it was [since Millwall last won at Loftus Road], it always feels like a tough place to come,” said Rowett.
“As a manager, I never seem to win here very often. With the atmosphere and everything else, it always feels like quite a hard place to get three points.
“If you look at the season, when they beat us at our place, they certainly enjoyed it. I think we’ll enjoy it equally as much today. It was a magnificent performance, there were so many sides to our game that we did well. We defended really, really well.
“They are a dangerous side. They get the ball to [Ilias] Chair and [Jamal] Lowe, those little pockets behind in midfield, it’s becomes difficult to stop. We turned them, we tried to get into those spaces.
“You could see it was a game where, particularly down our left, we could play with a little bit of composure and then find Zian. Down our right, we can play two-v-one, double up with the full-back and get into good areas. We started to do that a little bit more as the half went on.”
Watmore signed for the Lions on a permanent basis from Middlesbrough at the end of January.
He thrashed the ball emphatically past Seny Dieng after being teed up on the left of the penalty area by Flemming.
“We scored a very good goal,” said Rowett. “That’s what Duncan is in the team for. We’ve not struggled for goals, but we haven’t had individuals getting to the levels that we need to win more games. He took it really well.
“It was great play by Zian. I thought Z could’ve gone down for a foul, which we spoke about up at Middlesbrough [that he stayed on his feet]. He’s a very honest player, he gets a kick to the calf but carries on, then it’s all about the timing. There’s a couple of moments before where he just tries to release Duncan and waited a little bit too long, maybe Duncan was offside.
“I was right behind it, it looked like he was going to go and aim for the far corner low, but he’s hit it high in the near corner. It was a brilliant, brilliant finish. It would be hard to say we we didn’t deserve it and I was really pleased with that point.
“We caused them some problems with set-pieces. We had a couple of clear headers from corners and maybe should’ve done a bit better, but our delivery was excellent today. We’re always a dangerous side.
“With Zian’s long throw, Cressy did flick it. Their player headed it onto one of his own players and it dropped for Burkey in the right place at the right time. He finishes it really comfortably.
“Not that long after, he could’ve scored one of the best goals you’ll ever see in the Championship. He won the header, he’s landed, he’s gone and got the next one and beaten about three players. That’s what Burkey can do.
“At times, in moments in games, he can be unplayable. I don’t think anyone with those qualities can be unplayable all the time, but in moments he can be unplayable and probably should’ve gone and added another one.
“That [other Burke chance] was actually at 2-1 to make it 3-1, and then we make it a little bit nervy at the end. But you’ve got to say to QPR, they’re not going to give in – it’s their home ground. They are going to keep going. That’s the second wide free-kick, it was the second phase, but that’s the sort of area we conceded.
“It certainly isn’t like us, so we’re a bit disappointed, but we just about saw it out. We had to change formation about three times, but we just about managed to head it out of the box.”
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