MILLWALL will be without Ryan Woods when they take on Sheffield United in the fourth round of the FA Cup this Saturday – but Gary Rowett has every faith that Billy Mitchell can take his chance against the Premier League side.
On-loan Stoke midfielder Woods made an impressive debut in the 2-0 Championship win over Reading last weekend.
Woods is cup-tied after playing in the Potters’ 1-0 defeat at Brentford in the third round.
Ben Thompson and Ryan Leonard are out, so Mitchell, 18, is likely to start alongside Jayson Molumby in midfield.
Rowett could rest some of his first-choice players, with right-back James Brown also in contention to start. The Lions travel to Elland Road to take on Leeds next Tuesday.
Rowett believes it’s a chance for the younger players to show they can go on and make an impact in the Championship, and will have no problem pitting them against Chris Wilder’s top-flight high-flyers.
“There’s an argument to say, when do you give a young player the chance to step up? Billy’s not much younger than Jayson Molumby, but because Jayson has played games you kind of forget his age and just trust that he’s going to do it now,” Rowett said.
“Billy Mitchell and Browny are both very good players. Sometimes you have to give them the opportunity. There might be the opportunity for those players at the weekend and if they do get it then I’ll be really interested to see how they do.
“Because if they don’t cope with that type of game then you ask are they going to be able to help us in the Championship. If they do cope with that game then fantastic because you’ve got two young players with lots of potential.
“We have to judge them on little bits of the game, you can’t judge them on their whole performance because they’re playing against a Premier League team who have done really well this season. It will be a good test for us.
“It’s always a hard balance. I think it’s a great competition and this football club has had a brilliant tradition in it, turned a lot of Premier League teams over at The Den with great atmospheres.
“We want to try and win the game, but we have to balance it with mixing the team up enough to maintain the performance and make sure we’re in a good place for Leeds on Tuesday. That’s going to take an incredible amount of energy.
“I don’t expect Sheffield United to do it any differently, I’d imagine they’ll be looking at at least five or six of their players to come in and perform.
“My argument is we should be able to change some players and still be able to play well, because if we can’t it means our squad’s not strong enough. It’s as simple as that.
“I think there will be an opportunity for some of the lads. How many of those we’ll wait and see.”
Wilder changed his entire starting XI for their 2-1 win over AFC Fylde in the last round and given their unlikely Europa League challenge this season he is set to give fringe players another run-out.
Possible Millwall starting XI: 5-2-3: Bialkowski; Brown, Hutchinson, Pearce, Cooper, Ferguson; Mitchell, Molumby; J Wallace, Smith, Mahoney.
Match odds: Millwall 2/1 Draw 21/10 United 13/10
Last meeting: 2018-19 Championship: Sheffield United 1-1 Millwall (Madine 51; Cooper 95)
Image: Millwall FC