Millwall kept themselves alive in the play-off race yesterday afternoon following a second-half siege to record a 3-0 victory over relegated side Peterborough United.
The hosts endured a very dull opening 45 minutes in the English capital, failing to threaten Grant McCann’s side anywhere near enough and deservedly went into the interval without the lead, something that may have unsettled many sides competing for the top six.
Despite this, they responded well after the break and made their breakthrough in the 53rd minute when Benik Afobe fired through a crowd of players on the half-volley to settle the nerves, a breakthrough that was much-needed for Gary Rowett’s men.
Quiz: Which club did Millwall sign these 24 players from in the 1990s?
They doubled their advantage 20 minutes later when Jed Wallace’s cross deflected off Josh Knight and into the back of the net, a moment of misfortune for the latter who did well to keep the Lions at bay during the first half.
And Wallace was involved again for their third, delivering an inch-perfect cross for George Saville to head home and this sealed the game for the hosts who have given themselves a slim chance of forcing their way into the play-offs with Rowett’s side remaining just three points behind Sheffield United.
Looking back though, we have selected three things we clearly learnt about the second-tier outfit following their victory at the weekend.
Wallace will be missed if he goes
Although the Lions managed to score their first without Wallace on the pitch, the wide man made a real impact and showed exactly why he is likely to be moving on to a new club when the summer comes along.
Effectively recording two assists with Knight’s own goal and Saville’s strike via two delicious crosses, he was unlucky not to register a third between the two with a superb corner teeing Jake Cooper up superbly, though David Cornell did well to keep it out.
His end product is superb and he can perhaps count himself unlucky not to have even more assists to his name over the season, having 11 under his belt already with one more league game to go.
Also scoring six times in the process, he will probably go on to be a real asset elsewhere now with the 27-year-old failing to put pen to paper on fresh terms in the English capital, a real shame for the second-tier side who won’t generate a single penny for his services if he leaves on the expiration of his contract.
Their loss will be his new team’s gain – and with his quality on the ball – it wouldn’t be a surprise if he moves to the top tier in the coming months.
Switching formation can pay dividends
Although it could be argued that Wallace was the man responsible for making the game safe, the attacking decision to take off Ryan Leonard for the winger was a shrewd one by Rowett and one he should be commended for.
No one can blame him for wanting to stick to a back five considering how solid his defence has been this year, conceding just 44 goals in 45 league games this term, a record that has given them the platform to go on and challenge for Premier League football.
Betraying that system and switching may have proven costly considering Posh had a couple of decent chances to get on the scoresheet, with Jonson Clarke-Harris’ opportunity in the first half a particularly decent one.
However, a risk was taken to shake things up and it ended up proving to be crucial for the Lions who may have conceded a late equaliser if they hadn’t put the game to bed.
For their sake, they will want this to be a learning curve going into the play-offs but if they don’t make it, it’s certainly something to look for next year. A back five is probably safe to stick with at this stage – but now they know they have the option to switch seamlessly.
They need to recruit Afobe permanently
Again, Stoke City loanee Afobe popped up at a crucial time yesterday and took his goal tally for the season to 11 with this latest strike, not a bad record considering he’s played 36 league games this term.
Proving his worth in the English capital, the Lions’ board simply have to fork out the money needed to get a permanent agreement for the forward over the line with the club probably needing to replace Wallace and his goalscoring contributions in the summer.
That’s just the start of what should be a busy summer at The Den – because their attack needs improving regardless of whether Wallace stays or not and Sheyi Ojo will also need replacing if he doesn’t sign permanently.
The 29-year-old’s contract at the bet365 Stadium expires in just over 12 months though, so there could be an opportunity to negotiate a cut-price deal for his services.