Millwall's Hutch: We owed the fans at Preston – if we perform like that we have play-off chance

SHAUN Hutchinson said he and Jake Cooper are enjoying the "freedom" to go forward Millwall's 5-2-3 system affords them – as he fixed his sights on moving closer the play-off spots by winning at Wigan next Saturday.

Hutchinson scored the only goal against Preston at Deepdale on Saturday when he nodded home from Murray Wallace's looping header.

Cooper had earlier shown his ambition by joining the attack in open play and he was denied a goal by Declan Rudd after an excellent passing move in the 22nd minute.

Hutchinson has five goals this season, doubling his Lions career total so far in his fourth campaign.

"To be honest I don't really set myself goal targets. It's definitely something that the gaffer puts on defenders, to chip in with goals every now and then," Hutchinson said.

"It's five and it's another second phase, the gaffer has mentioned second phase a lot, not only attacking but also defending because we've conceded a few from second phases.

"Murray Wallace did well to keep it alive and I watched my run, I knew where my man was and that he was keeping me onside. It was nice.

"We've done a lot of work on the training ground on that formation. We know it's strong for us, we've played it a lot away from home and got a lot of good results.

"It kind of gives you that freedom because you know you've got the security of the other centre-half coming around. If you can overload the wide areas with the winger, then you've got the full-back and the centre-half and you can put yourself in a good position.

"The two of us really enjoy it, it gives you the freedom to express yourself."

Shaun Hutchinson celebrates in front of the Millwall fans

Millwall could have gone behind early on at Deepdale, but they eventually got control of the contest and had 16 attempts on goal, six on target.

Hutchinson continued: "I'm sure the gaffer mentioned it but the first 10 or 15 minutes we started really slowly, we were leggy and fair play to Preston they hit us hard at the start.

"But I thought we grew into the game as it went on. Credit to the boys to hang in there and as it went on we grew stronger and stronger.

"Come full-time I don't think anyone who watched the game would argue we didn't deserve to win. We probably deserved to win by more goals.

"There's nothing better than a 1-0 win away from home but at the same time they could have nicked one at the end, and if we draw that game it's a disaster for us.

"We should have put more chances away and been two- or three-nil up. It could cost us in the future so we've got to be more clinical in front of goal.

"But, listen, it's such a difficult place to come. I'm a real admirer of what Alex Neil's built, I think they're a great team so it's a fantastic result for us."

It was a first win in five league games for Millwall, and first away from home since the 1-0 victory at Derby in mid-December.

Millwall go to Wigan next Saturday where a win will keep them firmly in the promotion mix.

"We knew with the fixture list, the five games before this one and this one [Saturday], there were real tough sides," Hutchinson added. "It's hit us a little bit how we performed, not only the results but the performances weren't there, especially against West Brom.

"We've done a lot on the training ground, looked at that and we owed a performance even to the fans as well. A lot of them travelled up and we put on a performance and it's another away win.

"We're four points off [sixth] now, we've got Wigan at the weekend and if we go there and get a win you never know, you give yourself a chance.

"If we perform like we did [Saturday] on the road, we're definitely going to have a chance."

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly