DAVE Livermore believes scoring the first goal could prove crucial for Millwall when they travel to Cardiff City tomorrow.
The mid-table Bluebirds have nothing left to play for this season whereas the Lions, who beat Wigan in midweek, desperately need another three points in their fight for survival.
With the pressure off, care-free Cardiff could relax and produce their best performance of the campaign – or roll over easily if Millwall come out all guns blazing.
And Livermore, who is assisting interim boss Neil Harris, said: "The key to games like this is generally the first goal – that usually tells you a lot about the teams in mid-table.
"For the ones that don't have anything to play for, if you go a goal behind you quickly find out whether they're up for it or not. That'll be important for us at the weekend.
"Cardiff are a massive club who were in the Premier League not so long ago and they've got some very good players.
"We've seen them recently play with full-backs in wide positions away at Ipswich but we don't anticipate that they'd do that at home.
"Players like Craig Noone and Anthony Pilkington could come back into the fold to give them an attacking threat, so they're a good side.
"The first 20 minutes and possibly the first goal – a bit like in any game – will be really, really important."
Livermore says fitness levels in Millwall's squad are being carefully managed following Tuesday's draining clash with the Latics.
"We need to get as much recovery time into the players as we can," he explained.
"Yesterday they had a second-day recovery session with very, very minimal work outside.
"This morning was a little more tactical and we got some information into the guys regarding Cardiff, but we're mindful of how long we're on our feet.
"We need to be fully-recovered in time for Saturday."