Millwall boss Gary Rowett gives verdict after Zian Flemming’s first league hat-trick sends Lions into play-off places

Gary Rowett is staying grounded despite Zian Flemming’s first career hat-trick in a league match taking Millwall back into the Championship play-off places.

The Dutchman scored twice to put the Lions into a 2-0 lead at Preston North End today, only for the hosts to haul themselves level before the half-hour mark.

But Flemming, nominated for October’s Championship Player of the Month, showed excellent composure to put Millwall back in front in the 64th minute. Charlie Cresswell headed home at the back post to give the South London club clear daylight once more.

“We’re in a good position but I don’t read too much into that,” Rowett told BBC London. “Our recent form is good – five wins, three draws and one defeat in the last nine games. It’s an excellent haul.

“I got asked the question recently: ‘Are you worried about not scoring for three games?’. No – that’s why. Because it’s the Championship. You can not score for three games and play really well, then play not quite so well and score four goals. It’s a good way to finish before the break.”

Flemming has eight goals in 17 appearances for Millwall since his club record £1.7million arrival from Fortuna Sittard.

“I had a go at the players, probably more than I have for a long time, at half-time because I just felt it was about belief,” said Rowett. “I saw Ched Evans make a run out wide and he didn’t get it, he ran back to feet and didn’t get it, he spun away and didn’t get it and then he ends up making the box and winning the header. It’s that bit of desire and little bit of extra grit that’s going to win someone the game. I told them we needed to match that in the second half.

“Preston started quite well and we grew into the game. We scored a very good goal from Zian. We spoke about him getting in the box a bit more – there’s more goals for him if he gets in there.

“It’s a great touch, he holds it, turns the player – it’s a lovely little bit of skill – and a lovely finish. That’s what he can do.

“We go 1-0 up and then he bangs a free-kick in as well. That’s two great goals for him and suddenly we look like we’re in control of the game.

“Five or 10 minutes later they score a goal that is a set-piece. It’s ironic because they show it on the big screen afterwards and you can clearly see the player holding George Long’s arm and holding him down. I didn’t feel they deserved to score and they got away with that one and it turned the game again. They scored another – a ball across the box and we didn’t deal with it. We looked a bit nervous and were stepping off and not brave enough.

“It’s a great finish from Zian again. We had to ride a little bit of luck for five to 10 minutes and I had to change the formation to a back five. We had to work hard to win the game.

“It was moments of brilliance from Zian that turned the game. We had to ride the storm at times a little bit and I had to change formation three times in the game to make it a little bit more comfortable.”

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