Gary Rowett picked out Billy Mitchell and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson for praise after Millwall’s 2-1 win over Preston North End at The Den.
Ched Evans put the visitors ahead early in the first half before a long-distance strike by Scott Malone levelled the contest.
Mason Bennett headed home a typically perceptive Ryan Woods’ pass with three minutes of normal time remaining.
Rowett said: “As tends to happen recently, we did not start as well as we’d like. I don’t think there was a lot in the game in the first 20 apart from Ched Evans’ fabulous strike – the ball gets cleared and he just hits it on the volley early. There wasn’t really a lot Bart could do.
“It knocked a little bit of our confidence and we just started to overplay a little too slowly and go backwards. Preston were set up to nick those poor passes and try and counter attack us at time.
“But from 30 minutes – certainly from the goal and beyond – we were outstanding and by far the better side. We limited Preston to virtually nothing. We’ve had lots of other chances. It looked only a matter of time before we would score again. I was really, really pleased with the final 60 minutes, we were excellent.
“The first goal summed up what we needed to do in the opening stages of the game – the wing-backs were our out ball because of Preston’s formation, they play with quite a narrow frontline that want to go and press central areas really well and counter. We needed to bypass that and get it to the wing-backs, as soon as we did that the game was open. It was then whether we could be aggressive enough moving off the next phase as to whether we’d create chances.
“The goal is the first time that Scottie gets it, drives and we have runners opening up spaces by running off him and it opens up inside the pitch. It’s a fabulous shot to go 1-1. Every time we got into those areas and were a little more positive, when we started to play forward with more aggression and intensity, we were excellent.
“Jon Dadi [Bodvarsson] was a big factor second half. First half he needed to hold the ball up more and he didn’t play with enough physicality. But second half he responded excellently. He started to win the ball and make it so the likes of Billy Mitchell could come on to second balls. As soon as we started to win second balls our wing-backs became so active in the attacks.
“I took a bit of a gamble with Billy. We’ve had to nurse him through after pulling his hamstring twice. It was a little bit of a gamble playing him ahead of quite a lot of senior players who maybe felt they should’ve started tonight. But when you see him in training he has so much energy.
“He’s playing against a player in Jayson Molumby who is highly rated and we know how good he is. Billy was outstanding. He got better and better. He dominated some of those midfield battles. It’s going to be whether he can go again after that. But with the likes of Danny McNamara and Tyler Burey we’ve got some very good young players who can start effecting games positively.”
Jake Cooper also returned to the starting line-up after a three-match absence after suffering a second dislocation of his right shoulder.
Rowett said: “Coops wanted to play. We knew he wasn’t perfect but he said he was – because that’s the type of player he is. He wants to get out there and play. Hats off to him. He had a little bit of a nervous start but grew into the game and was excellent.”
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