An own goal from Maxime Colin and a James Tunnicliffe strike, both in the second half, clinched the win for Millwall but Cotterill felt that his side were well on their way to defeat after a first half display in which they failed to match their hosts’ aggression.
Cotterill said: “I thought we were just a bit tentative in everything we did in the first half and if you are like that here – a hostile environment – the way they play they can hurt you with that.
“The first thing we needed to do was stand up to that long ball, diagonal, straight, aerial bombardment. Backing it up, second balls, we never won enough of those. You have to go through that fight to have the right to play.
It’s disappointing, we prepared all week, there has not been any surprises out there on the pitch today. All in all the work we have done I wouldn’t do any different if we played them again next week. We just didn’t get a proper foothold in the game.
“I know the goals have come in the second half but I think we laid the foundations for getting beaten with our first half performance when we were more disappointing.
I know we have conceded the goals [then] but we were actually better in the second half. Our passing was better, we were crisper with it, we won a lot of the first headers and a lot of the second balls, whereas we didn’t do any of that in the first half.
“The players in there are disappointed themselves. I didn’t expect that at all, I thought we would be far better at dealing with Millwall’s threats. I said at half time if we carry on in the same vein 100 per cent we will get beaten today because one of us will make a mistake and they will score a goal,” he concluded.
Birmingham sprung a surprise by beating Cardiff in their first match under Cotterill and seemed to offer their manager a similar level of shock with their lack of application here especially in the first half of a match they must have known would be a battle.
It is one of football’s odd quirks that a team can improve and still end up losing the match in that period but it goes to show how difficult it is to turn the tide against a full-blooded approach, as Manchester United found out in the Premier League yesterday as well.
Cotterill will hope that his players take on board his instructions better in the coming weeks.
Blues fans – do you agree with Cotterill’s verdict? Let us know below…