Tuesday 2 April 2024

Rotherham United 2-1 Millwall

Rotherham United 2-1 Millwall
Sky Bet Championship
Monday 1st April 2024

Two months ago, Millwall lost 1-0 at Hull City.

On that occasion, the Lions barely mustered a shot on target. They looked like a team on the slide and the apathy amongst the fans afterwards suggested the inevitable was close for Joe Edwards. Two weeks later and he was duly dispatched and replaced by Neil Harris who has breathed a new lease of life into the Lions who’ve eased their relegation worries over the past few weeks.

Although the jitters are still there after this defeat to rock-bottom Rotherham, once the dust has settled and people think with a clear head and keep things in context, they’ll realise that Millwall’s destiny is still in their own hands (even if Saturday’s game at Huddersfield has now gone up a few notches) and the Easter period hasn’t actually been as ‘doom and gloom’ as some might suggest.

When you consider neither Huddersfield Town or Sheffield Wednesday (the teams actually in the drop zone) have picked up any ground whatsoever, then it’s not that bad.

Millwall simply lost this game because they didn’t put their chances away whilst they were on top; with the disguised positive being that at least they’re creating chances now. And, unlike what happened at Hull, when you’re creating chances and getting shots on target, you’re far more likely to score!

The scoreline was thanks mostly to the brilliant saves of Viktor Johansson who got the ‘Man Of The Match’ award, delayed Rotherham’s inevitable relegation until another day, and I suspect he’ll probably be playing in the Championship next season given his form is quite likely to be noticed by bigger clubs. Credit to him as well because he’s a good ‘keeper who is earning his next move!

The game itself can be split into three parts.

In the first 30 minutes, nothing in particular happened. It was all a bit boring, scrappy, there wasn’t much entertainment and the only thing I did pick up on (as I have several times before) was how good Rotherham’s captain, Oli Rathbone, can be - he never wastes a pass and is the best player in this Millers team.

In the 15-minute spells either side of half-time, that’s when Millwall got on top and where they should have established a lead… only for Viktor Johansson to pull off a fingertip save from Zian Fleming, followed by Japhet Tanganga missing a sitter just after half-time with a header, plus a lot of pressure and set-pieces where the hosts looked vulnerable in between.

By the hour mark, you sensed a breakthrough was coming and if Millwall had gone 1-0 up, the likelihood is that the outcome would have been very different by the full-time whistle.

Instead, in the last 30 minutes, the game got a bit ‘yucky’ and it became a bit stretched. Mistakes and gaps started to appear. Rotherham made a couple of changes when Femi Seriki and Oli Rathbone were replaced by Cafu and Shane Ferguson and they got a foothold. A warning sign when Hakeem Odoffin powered a free header wide from a corner wasn’t heeded by Millwall and just a couple of minutes later, Sebastian Revan fired a shot home from the edge of the box - only for Ryan Longman to relatively quickly level things up when questions could be asked about Rotherham’s own defending!

Then, came the winner, as Sebastian Revan was afforded too much space on the Millers’ right-hand side and floated in one-of-those awkward cross-shots that caught a touch off Charlie Wyke and bounced up and beyond the dive of Matija Sarkic. Questions could be asked about whether there was a push in the box as Wyke touched the ball. It wasn’t given and ultimately it proved to be the match-winner. 

Frustrating… but one of those days!

Although the defeat is disappointing - the very fact that Michael Obafemi grabbed the ball following Millwall’s equaliser and immediately sprinted back to the halfway line shows how much they wanted to win and put a big gap between themselves and the teams at the bottom, when the dust has settled and everyone has calmed down, there’s still reasons to be optimistic.

If everyone loses their heads then problems will occur and all the Millwall players can do now in the aftermath is get it out of their system, chew the fat in the post-match analysis sessions and focus on what’s ahead of them - starting with Saturday’s game at Huddersfield Town. 

A win in that game will counteract the frustrations of this defeat which is gone now and can’t be changed! And so long as the team continues creating chances then sooner or later (unless they come up against another six ‘keepers as inspired as Viktor Johansson in their remaining games), that luck infront of goal will change and more points towards guaranteeing safety will be added to the tally.

Quite rightly, people might argue that there’s a big difference between playing at Hull (a good team) and not having any shots on target and creating lots of opportunities against Rotherham (a poor team). However, confidence can be drawn from performances and results such as the one at Southampton where nobody expected anything… and a certain Russell Martin ended up very upset at full-time!

There’s pressure on Millwall just as there’s pressure on all the teams at the bottom and how people respond to that will be critical to who survives, and who doesn’t, over the next few weeks.

And it’s important to remember that Milwall’s destiny remains in their own hands right now!

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