Millwall boss on late 'gamble' – and people mentioning record against Charlton to him

GARY Rowett said he didn’t want to be the first Millwall manager to lose to Charlton in more than 20 years after seeing Matt Smith score an injury-time goal to seal a win over the local rivals.

Substitute Smith headed home Jed Wallace’s corner to keep an unbeaten run that started in 1996 going.

Millwall had taken the lead through Shaun Hutchinson’s first-half header (above) before Jonathan Leko equalised for the visitors in the second half.

“I wouldn’t say I felt pressure but…everyone was talking about something like 20 years since they last beat us, I thought I really don’t need to know that statistic, do I?” Rowett joked. “I didn’t want to be the first manager that loses in 20 years.

“And then the chairman (John Berylson) told me he flew over with his five-year-old grandson so he didn’t want to waste coming all that way on the flight and [us] not performing. So that was the most pressure I have felt.

“It was a good way to end the game. We had to work hard for it. We had to change formation a few times. In three games [the players] have given us every ounce of energy they've got. Neil’s [Harris] built a fantastic group, and a good group to work with. I can only be thankful for that.

“We’re just trying to add our little bits to that. We’ve got a lot of work to do but it’s a positive start.

“I think we just edged the chances, Charlton just edged possession and control. 1-1 was a turning point, I felt if Charlton had put their foot on the gas that momentum would have swung to them. I think they dropped a little bit and did they allow us get back into it or was it our reaction? I’m not sure.”

Rowett sent on Smith and Aiden O’Brien in the 87th minute.

“It’s satisfying but don’t get me wrong, I’m not some sort of genius where in my mind I could see him coming round the back post and scoring,” Rowett said. “At that point there was nothing to lose, just get him on. Sometimes you can think it’s a local derby, I don’t want to lose the game and you maybe make negative changes.

“But sometimes you think it’s a local derby and you know what, we’ve got to see if we can come up with something different.

“We had a 15-, 20-minute spell when we didn’t create as much as we’d like but we always felt that it might be a set-piece. It worked this week but unfortunately I can’t guarantee it’ll work every week or any other week for that matter.

“We’re at home, we’ve got to make attacking changes and try to force the game. That’s the gamble. We put Thommo [Ben Thompson] back into the 10 position to see if we could get more control and get Jed into the game. I felt it was really hard with two strikers to get up to them, we didn’t really keep it for long enough to then give Jed lots of good possession.

“The last throw of the dice was big Matt and Aiden. What I would say is we’ve had really good impacts off the bench in every game so far.

“If you get quality into the box I think Matt is the best in the division in those scenarios. We’ve got to work it, get into better positions and then put the ball into the box.

“It was a fitting way to end the game. It was a little bit harsh on Charlton in some ways but we took the gamble and it paid off.

“All you want is good balls into the box. It’s a fine line because sometimes with Matt’s natural game you lose a little bit of intensity and it allows the opposition a little bit more of a chance to come at you.

“But if you can get balls into the box at that stage of the game he’s fantastic. You see it in training when you’re doing a crossing and finishing session he hardly ever misses. Anywhere within 10 yards he’s such a clinical finisher with his head, he’s such an intelligent guy. He picks up good positions.

“It was a good ball and he just attacks it and shows a little bit more desire than the defender (Naby Sarr). It might look a bit like a foul but I don’t think it was. The defender waits.

“I thought Matt just wanted to score and it’s a fantastic way to finish the game off.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly