Everything you need to know about Middlesbrough's upcoming opponents Millwall.
Now we are coming towards the end of the season, we can see the table starting to solidify and as such most sides are aware of the range of movement they may be able to make or suffer from between now and the end of the season, allowing teams to moderate their expectations and recognise exactly what is needed in the final push. Middlesbrough, sitting in 9th place, will be looking above them at the final playoff spot, speculating whether they will be able to bridge the gap and manage to extend their season before everything comes to a close. Meanwhile Millwall are sitting just outside of these playoff hopefuls, in 10th position, the 12 point gap between themselves and the playoffs, particularly with so many sides between themselves and that goal, has to be seen as very unlikely and as such they will have to settle for a place in mid-table for this season.
The previous Opposition profile, on Preston North End covered a similar situation and there was a projection that they would either come to play their ideal way or they would be flat and lacking in motivation. But it was hard to judge if either of those rung true as an own goal and a red card brought the end of the game as a competitive match.
Millwall Season So Far:
Millwall has retrieved 49 points from 37 games so far this season, equalling 1.3 points per game, that is a stable return for a championship season but is unlikely to threaten for promotion as their current stance in the league indicates. There is nothing shameful about sitting in 10th position, but Millwall fans typically expect their side to be competing for a playoff place up until the last moments of the season and so there will be a certain level of disappointment in the side.
Scoring goals is often considered one of the hardest tasks in football and this difficult side of the game has ultimately been the Lions downfall as they have scored fewer goals than any of their counterparts that sit higher in the league, and of those beneath, in other mid-table places, only Luton have scored fewer goals so far this season. Rowatt will be hoping to fix their offensive issues going into next season in order to improve on their goal a game ratio.
On the other hand, Rowatt’s side has been very solid defensively as they have conceded fewer goals than their other mid-table counterparts, which is how they have found themselves at the top of that pile. In fact, their current defensive record is marginally better than a number of the sides attempting to chase a playoff place, including Middlesbrough, displaying the fact that they have the solid base that is needed to compete at the top end of the table next season.
Form: L W L W L
Neil Warnock recently spoke about the importance for consistency, indicating that it is a component that the side needs to improve on if they wish to be more successful in the upcoming season. This has also been an issue for Millwall in recent weeks as their results have peaked and troughed over the last 5 games; if this recent form is to continue then Middlesbrough will find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreline and so the Teessiders will be hoping to push this inconsistency into a worse run of form. Interestingly, the Lions had been on a good run of form before coming into these last 5 games having not lost any of their last 9 in the Championship, as such, Middlesbrough need to maximise this opportunity to get a result against a side that is always difficult to play against.
Yet they managed to show a slight improvement in their goalscoring average (1 goal per game) during this run of fixtures as they scored 1.2 goals per game indicating that their forward line has been slightly ahead of the curve over this period and as such the side may well have dropped defensively.
The defensive line has gone through a tumultuous period in recent weeks as they have conceded 0.7 goals per game more than their seasons average, showing that the recent solidity has faded a little with the realisation that there is little to fight for in the final weeks of the season.
Top Goalscorer: Jed Wallace (8)
Most Assists: Jed Wallace (4)
Most Yellow Cards: Ryan Woods (8)
Most Red Cards: Murray Wallace (1)
One to Watch: Jed Wallace
There is little surprise about the biggest threat in Millwall’s squad, Jed Wallace, had been earning glowing praise from pundits for a number of seasons and Middlesbrough once attempted to prize him away from the Den. So far this season he has been directly involved in a goal every 3 games as he has topped both the sides assists and goalscoring charts so far this season.
Starting his career in the lower divisions, Wallace was brought to Portsmouth on September 1st 2011 and spent the next two seasons on loan to Farnborough and Whitehawk before breaking into Pompey’s first team. Wallace quickly showed Portsmouth that he was someone that they could depend on and he made twice as many league appearances in 2013/14 as he did in 2012/13 and he continued with his 44 league season appearances in the 2014/15 season. The trust that Pompey instilled in the player saw him make 121 appearances for the South coast side and he repaid this faith by being directly involved in a goal once every 2.5 games.
It was his success at Portsmouth that earned him his only transfer fee as he moved from the South coast to Wolverhampton for £348,000. However, he struggled during his time with the new side, failing to break through into the first team, forcing him to settle for game time with the U-21s. When he was introduced to the first team, just 23 times in 2 seasons, he did replicate similar form to his time at Portsmouth but this was heavily reliant on cup games with him only getting a single assist in 18 league appearances for Wolves.
He did appear to have his foot halfway out of the door during this period though as he went on a series of loans to his current club Millwall (Jan 8 2016 - Feb 7 2016, Jan 19 2017 - May 31 2017). Eventually he made this move permanent on 1 July 2017 but the nature of this move remains a mystery with no indications of whether a fee was paid by the Lions to bring his services to the Den.
The rest of the story is ongoing, with Wallace currently working through a 5th season featuring for Millwall to some extent. So far he has managed made 69 goal contributions in 212 appearances. This equates to a direct contribution to a goal every 2.8 games which is a very good return for a winger and it is little surprise that he garnered Middlesbrough’s interest a few seasons ago.
Wallace is a showman, he likes to isolate his fullback and then get past them with frequent success, allowing him to get into areas that would present a danger from a cross. He isn’t self-absorbed in this desire though as he is happy to use the midfielders and fullback (who he praised when reflecting on their partnership) to have dominant numbers in this area and to allow him to make runs beyond. This teamwork is seen in his general play too as he prefers to help the team to success over his own personal performance, leading to him becoming the adhesive in attack during a season that the side has struggled going forward. He is also a danger from set pieces with the ability to finish central free kicks from almost any distance posing a serious threat that will be exploited if Middlesbrough commit too many fouls; likewise frequently takes Millwall’s penalties and he exudes confidence as he dispatches them into the corners of the net.
Middlesbrough will need to make sure that Wallace doesn’t isolate the fullback and prevent him from getting the space needed to pull the strings for Millwall; while being disciplined in the tackle will be key if Boro wish to prevent the 26 year old from scoring.
Hot Prospect: Dan McNamara
Millwall has a generally experienced squad with an average age of 27.9 and so there are few talented youngsters to pick between for this report, Troy Parrott, once on loan from Tottenham is no longer at the club, 19 year old Billy Mitchell has only made a few short appearances and Tyler Burey has had just enough minutes to equal one full appearance. So, almost by default, Dan McNamara is named as the best young player at Millwall. The 22 year old has played just 530 minutes for the Lions so far this season as he has struggled to break into the right hand side of the team, yet he has an impressive pass percentage and has managed to provide the London based side with a single assist so far this season.
Manager: Gary Rowett
Born in Bromsgrove, England, Rowett has spent 9 years in management following a long playing career.
Millwall’s current manager has had an extensive professional playing career that has spanned over 380 games and he managed to score 21 goals which is a decent return for a defender. He started his career at Cambridge United where he had his most impressive goalscoring from hitting the net 9 times in 63 appearances. His form at Cambridge earned him a move to Everton who paid £252,000 for his services. Yet he failed to break into the Toffee’s side, making just 4 appearances in the North West, before seeing his two year stint at the club come to an end on loan to Blackpool (where he made 17 appearances). Derby County then picked him up for £378,000, giving Everton a nifty profit of £126,000. This was the most settled period of his career, making a total of 105 appearances, scoring 2 goals between 1995 and 1998. A move to Birmingham then followed, with another healthy profit of £882,000 for Derby County. His time with the Brummies ended in 2000 with a £4.05m move to Leicester City having made 87 appearances, scoring 6 goals for the side. Two years at Leicester followed (49 appearances) before he signed for Charlton for £4.73m. Then he finished his career at Burton Albion, making 43 appearances before hanging up his boots in 2007.
He returned to football 5 years after hanging up his boots to manage Burton Albion for 2 years followed by stints at Birmingham City, Derby County, Stoke City and Millwall. His hardworking, defensive stability first philosophy can make his sides hard to beat, while contesting for every ball will mean that anyone that faces a Rowett side will have to be at their best if they want to win.