South London Press Sports Editor Richard Cawley spoke to us previewing Barnsley’s trip to the capital as they face Millwall this Saturday – here’s the view from the opposition camp.
The Reds are back on the road this weekend following two consecutive home games, which saw them pick up an impressive four points out of a possible six.
A draw against Reading was followed up by an emphatic 5-3 win over Queens Park Rangers at Oakwell, as hero of the week, Conor Chaplin hit an inspiring hat-trick to set Barnsley on their way to their second victory in four games.
Further strikes from talisman Cauley Woodrow and a first Barnsley goal for Bambo Diaby secured the win which brought the Reds back within two points of the teams around them in the league table.
As for Millwall, they have been in remarkable form over recent weeks and are unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions.
The Lions return to the Den on Saturday after facing Derby County last weekend. Former Barnsley man Tom Bradshaw scored the only goal of the game in their 1-0 victory at Pride Park, a result which catapulted them to 11th in the table and just two points off the all elusive play-off spots.
South London Press Sports Editor Cawley, believes Millwall boss Gary Rowett should be delighted with the way his team have been performing lately.
He said: “Millwall are in a really good place at the moment, seven matches unbeaten. The last time they had a similar kind of run was actually their first season in the Championship when they went 17 games unbeaten, which saw them finish eighth in the table.
“It’s a real achievement in the Championship because it’s so demanding with the fixture schedule and also the quality of a lot of these teams has risen in recent years. Even the sides that aren’t doing so well in the table, have always got players that can hurt you and produce moments of quality.
“To have that consistency is really pleasing for Millwall. If you look at it, you can argue that their away form has been their strength over the past few weeks which has been a bit of switch around given since they got promoted, what they have done at the Den, has given them a bedrock of results. It still is, but they’ve drawn a few more matches than they would have hoped, however they’ve only lost once at home this season, so I’d say they are still in a good place.”
Despite hitting form at just the right time, Millwall have been through a series of change already this season, as the long-serving Neil Harris departed the club in favour of former Stoke City manager Gary Rowett.
It was during that part of the campaign where the Lions struggled to string any sort of result together.
However, since Rowett’s appointment in the middle of October, Millwall have turned their fortunes around and have been almost unstoppable, losing just one of the last ten matches.
“This season has been sort of up and down and then up again. If you look at the start of the season they began really encouragingly and then they went through a spell where they did struggle to get results and Neil Harris decided it was time to step down after a very successful period in charge of the club.
“It’s no secret that Gary Rowett was their number one choice when they first looked at it. They did the interview process and since he’s come in, you can only really praise what he has achieved so far.
“They’ve only lost once and that was at Reading and apart from that, he’s managed to get results even if the team hasn’t played well, particularly on the road.
“Last year, it took until New Year’s Day for them to win away from home and now, all of sudden, they’ve won three of their last four away games and drawn the other one.
“He’s switched the formation to 5-2-3 and that’s worked really well for the team. Looking at where Millwall are now, two points off the play-offs, if they can get themselves in the mix, it’ll be a really good season for them,” added Cawley.
Under Rowett, Millwall have enjoyed freedom out on the pitch, a far-fetched image from the one Harris painted at the club for so many years during his successful spell in the dugout.
Cawley points out that even though the Harris era was one full of triumph and accomplishment, Rowett has brought in a breath of fresh air just when they needed it the most.
He said: “Millwall were quite direct under Neil and it was a strength. He had a lot of success during his time here, getting to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, getting Millwall promoted to the Championship and then finishing eight the following season, so I wouldn’t knock it at all. However, I think Gary wants the players to express themselves a bit more, he’s talked about the fact they need to not panic in certain situations and keep their heads to get themselves out of trouble rather than going a more route one approach which they have tended to do in the past.
“I’ve seen more confidence in the players, they were at a little bit of a low point when he came in because they weren’t sure what was going on. They’ve got a number of good players, and players which have done well at this level for a couple of years, so there’s no reason at all why they can’t have a good season.”
One player who has stood out in particular under the reign of Rowett, is attacking midfielder Jed Wallace.
The 25-year-old has been a prominent figure for Millwall since his arrival in South London four seasons ago but has really flourished in the past couple of months, with eight goals and six assists to his name.
Sports Editor Cawley said: “Jed Wallace has been playing really well in that number ten position behind the striker. He’s chipped in with so many goals and assists this season and if any player has played more consistently under Gary Rowett, than before under Neil Harris, then it’s definitely him.”
Cawley also highlighted fellow midfielder Jayson Molumby as one of the other players to watch for in this Millwall side.
“Jayson Molumby has been one of Millwall’s surprise players this season. He arrived on-loan from Brighton and had to bide his time a little bit. This is his first loan away from Brighton and he’s getting better and better each week in the centre of midfield. Millwall have a really good player on their hands with him. He’ll be staying on until the end of the season and I’d definitely pick him out as someone who has contributed a lot to the team.”
Bearing that in mind, the South London Press Sport Editor expects Millwall to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Barnsley on Saturday, which allows the midfielders to create opportunities and score goals.
He says the fans have enjoyed watching Millwall play football at the Den this season and hopes they can continue their fine form with another win this weekend.
“I think the fans are enjoying this season. I don’t know what their expectations are, but if you look at budget they have compared to other teams, staying up would be their main goal. However, they are two points off the play-offs, and it would be great to see them get there. I’ll go with a final score of Millwall 2-1 Barnsley.”