THE Den will breathe a huge sigh of relief this weekend – if Stoke City are successfully put to the sword in South Bermondsey.
It won’t be fully mathematically guaranteed but if the Lions defeat Nathan Jones’ side then Rotherham would have to hope Millwall lose their final two games of the season, they win theirs, and there’s at least a 16-goal swing. Millwall fans are often fatalistic about their side but even they would surely admit that latter outcome is extremely unlikely.
Stoke have little left to play for but pride, though they did draw 2-2 with Norwich last Monday, a result that leaves the Canaries waiting to confirm promotion to the Premier League. Jones has a lot of top-flight quality in his squad, and as Brentford showed over the Easter weekend sides that can play with freedom are a danger.
Stoke haven’t quite got the bounce they would have hoped for after appointing Jones in January. They were eight points off the play-offs, and 13 points above the bottom three when they sacked Gary Rowett. They are still 13 points above the relegation zone, but the gap to sixth has grown to 14 points.
Jones had guided Luton Town to promotion from League Two in 2017-18 and to second in League One before Stoke came calling.
But Wales international midfielder Joe Allen is a fan of his boss, who he says is trying to implement a particular style of play at the Potters.
And the midfielder was pleased after his side came from behind to grab a point against Norwich.
“The gaffer gave us a lift, the rocket that we needed really, to get back out there and do the things that we had been working on in training,” Allen said.
“As a group we were passive in the first half and allowed them too much possession of the ball, which is what we didn’t want to happen because that is when they are at their best.
“We had to limit that, and the way of doing that is by keeping the ball ourselves, and we were far better at that in the second half.
“They are chasing promotion, and the title, and after the break we really took the game to them, and deservedly got our reward for that.
“It has been frustrating for the manager in many ways that players haven’t quite been capable of doing the things he wants doing quicker.
“But I have to say that he and his staff have been great since they came in here, and there is an enormous amount of groundwork being put in place.
“From my point of view we are really close to getting to where we expect and need to be at on a consistent basis.
“Norwich are the blueprint for many clubs because last season they had the same inconsistencies as ourselves, but they have really worked hard together and moved forward this season.”
“Every player is a cog in that machine and you can see that in the way that they play. They are a top side, who deserve promotion, and we would love to follow suit next season.”
Millwall probably have different ambitions, if they stay up, but they can make Allen less positive about his own club’s future this weekend.
Neil Harris is unlikely to be able to call on Ben Thompson, who was having a scan this weekend on a hamstring injury he picked up against Brentford.
The big decision over the formation is whether to continue with Lee Gregory up front as a lone striker, or pair him with Tom Elliott or Steve Morison.
Shaun Williams could also be pushing for a recall, while Harris might decide to move Shane Ferguson to left-back in a more attacking line-up.
Millwall go into their defining games of the season, with Lions fans ready to celebrate this Saturday and not have to worry about Rotherham’s result later in the day.
Possible Millwall team
Martin; Romeo, Pearce, Cooper, Meredith; Marshall, Tunnicliffe, Leonard, Ferguson; Wallace; Gregory.
Millwall EVS Draw 23/10 Stoke 5/2
Stoke 1-0 Millwall (Berahino, 61).
Millwall: 4-4-2: Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith (O'Brien, 71); Wallace, Leonard (Karacan, 88), Tunnicliffe, Ferguson; Elliott (Morison, 69), Gregory.
Stoke City (H)
Bristol City (H)
Wigan Athletic (A)
West Brom (A)
Prediction: Millwall 1-0 Stoke
Image: Millwall FC