Gary Rowett believes that Benik Afobe is still one of the Championship’s top strikers and that he has had to adapt his game at Millwall.
The 28-year-old, on a season-long loan from Stoke, produced his best display of the campaign in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth at The Den. His fourth goal since returning to SE16 earned the home side a deserved point.
Rowett was City boss when they splashed a reported £12million to land Afobe from Wolves.
“He is working for a manager who signed him for a lot of money – that’s because I think he is one of the best strikers in the division,” the Lions manager told the South London Press. “He may not play for a team that create as many chances as some other strikers. But he is up there with the top players.
“He has had five or six really good chances this season and will be disappointed he isn’t on six or seven goals. That would be a really good total when we’re not even halfway through.”
Afobe’s pressure helped Sol Bamba put into his own net in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough. And Callum Connolly was sent off in Blackpool’s 2-1 loss at The Den for bringing down the forward as he went through on goal – in a similar scenario to midweek.
“He is impacting games and he is impacting the team,” said Rowett. “He is performing at a decent level. We’ve shown in some games when we give him the right service he can hurt teams and score goals.
“I’ve asked him to go and pin defenders, be a little more physical and a handful. We’re not a side who are going to be able to put chances on a plate for strikers, regardless of how we play. Sometimes strikers have to earn their chances. He did that on Wednesday night.
“He is a player who needs to get his career back on track. He had a tough time at Stoke – a lot of pressure when he went in there and the changes of management did not help him.
“The season I was there he had six goals before Christmas and if he’d done slightly better in the second half of the season then he’d have been on 15 goals, which is always a reasonable return at Championship level. He has been disappointed that he hasn’t had more opportunities at this level in recent years.
“He makes some really clever runs and sometimes we’ve just not had the subtlety of final pass to find him. A striker is only as good as his service. It’s not always easy, we haven’t got four or five really creative players. Against Bournemouth he showed what he can add to us. I want to see that more often.”
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