‘Spark it off’ – Millwall boss on Zian Flemming as Dutch attacker opens account in Rotherham win

Millwall boss Gary Rowett has admitted that he was not planning for Zian Flemming to be on the sidelines for an extended period of time after the Dutch attacker was dropped from the starting line-up in last Sunday’s clash against Leeds United.

The Lions fell to a 3-0 defeat at home to the Whites, with Luton Town loanee Allan Campbell playing as the most advanced midfielder.

Flemming, who scored 15 goals last season under Rowett in his first season after joining from Fortuna Sittard, was reinstated into the starting 11 for Wednesday night’s home clash against Rotherham.

The 25-year-old opened his account for the season in the 58th minute at The Den when he collected the ball on the edge of the box and lashed a left-footed effort beyond Millers keeper Viktor Johansson.

Flemming was the subject of multiple bids from Burnley in the summer after their promotion to the Premier League but ended up staying in SE16.

“His all-round performance was excellent,” Rowett told the South London Press.

“Sometimes, with a player who hasn’t quite found their form, you need something to drop for them to spark it off.

“That’s why I decided to make that decision against Leeds. It was always in my mind that I knew he wouldn’t be out of the team for too long, because he’s been a fantastic player for us.

“But he had that extra bit between his teeth today. That showed on the ball as well – he showed some real quality and got us into good areas.

“It was a great left-foot finish. He just took an extra touch to open the space and hit it across the keeper with power and into the far corner.

“It will do him that world of good.

“Zian didn’t need to prove anything. He scored 15 goals for us last year.

“We all know he’s the one player in our squad, out of all of them, that we expect to have interest from bigger clubs.

“It’s rightly so because he’s been fantastic. In a difficult situation, you just need something to drop for you to give you that little bit of extra confidence, whether that be a goal or a good performance.

“He’s no different from any of the other forward players. It [the goal] gives you that little feeling of freedom when you receive the ball and you have that extra zip about you.

“I thought he showed that once the goal went in.”

Goalkeeper Matija Sarkic, who joined on a permanent deal from Wolves this summer, has been ruled out for the next 12 weeks with a quad injury, with 36-year-old Bart Bialkowski coming back into the starting line-up in the recent two outings.

The Polish keeper had spent the past 26 Championship clashes on the bench after George Long claimed the starting spot last season.

But Long, 29, left The Den this summer to join Norwich on a free transfer after Sarkic arrived.

“This is why Bart stayed at the club – he’s a player that I can trust,” added Rowett after Bialkowski kept a clean sheet on Wednesday night.

“He’s been here a long time and he’s been an absolutely fantastic player at this football club.

“He’s got the opportunity to show that all over again.

“Maybe deep down he wondered whether he would get the opportunity to be able to do that, but he’s been fantastic.

“It’s not just a clean sheet for Bart, it’s a clean sheet for the team.

“The team worked so hard to do that and that is what we pride ourselves on.”

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