17th-place and 11 points clear of the drop ahead of the final day of the season, it’s a position that just about every Coventry City fan would have been delighted with back in September.
Not that it makes any difference – there is no extra prize money for finishing position in the Championship – but a win could see the Sky Blues attain their highest league finish since 2006. In the final ‘home’ game at St Andrew’s, it would be nice to underline how improved a position the club is now in compared to the end of its last spell in the Championship.
Mark Robins has stated that, while he won’t experiment with his starting line-up for this game, it will be a youthful bench, with the likes of Jack Burroughs, Fabio Tavares and possibly even Josh Reid being set for a run-out at some point of this game.
As for the starting line-up, there is a good chance of the 3-4-2-1 system that was utilised successfully in the second-half against Huddersfield Town last week will be used again here. Not least, because it was also a system that utterly befuddled Millwall in the reverse fixture back in January.
That should mean another chance for Jordan Shipley and Viktor Gyokeres to stake a claim for involvement next season. In addition, another solid performance from Michael Rose at centre-back, after an injury-hit campaign, potentially shapes Mark Robins’ thinking for next year – even if it’s likely that most of his decisions have already been made.
Elsewhere, there could be a start for Josh Eccles in the offing, probably ahead of Gustavo Hamer. Additionally, Jack Burroughs may start at right wing-back, after Fankaty Dabo was spotted on crutches during the players’ tour of the
Ricoh Coventry Building Society Arena earlier in the week.
Last Time We Met
As mentioned earlier, Millwall struggled to contain the Sky Blues back in January in what was one of the team’s most impressive performances of the campaign. With Mark Robins reverting to the 3-4-2-1 that had been instrumental to promotion last season, Millwall seemed to have no idea how to pick up Jordan Shipley and Callum O’Hare, who floated in between the lines of their defence and midfield.
It was that kind of movement that led to the opening goal, with Callum O’Hare combining well with Fankaty Dabo down the right, before being denied what would have been his first assist of the season after Jordan Shipley scuffed his shot slightly, only for Millwall’s Jake Cooper turned it into his own net.
With confidence building from a fluent, passing performance, Gustavo Hamer was in his element as he orchestrated proceedings in midfield. It was his sheer willpower that seemed to force a close-range free-kick into the back of the net to make it 2-0 before half-time.
After missing chances to kill the game off in the second-half, the Sky Blues threatened to revert to type when Dominic Hyam gave away a penalty to hand Millwall a route back into the game. Tiring as the minutes advanced, a young Coventry City side threatened to throw the game away, before Callum O’Hare drew a second yellow card from Millwall’s Murray Wallace in stoppage time, and that was that.
The Manager – Gary Rowett
Having seen his managerial reputation tarnished via disappointing spells at Derby County and Stoke City, Gary Rowett is proving at Millwall why he had earned such opportunities at the upper end of the Championship. With relatively limited resources, he has twice finished in the top-half since taking over at The Den, occasionally threatening the play-offs.
Having been seen as potential dark horses entering the season, a poor first half to the campaign threatened to have Millwall in the relegation battle. However, a strong run of form since January has seen this resolute and competitive team surge up the table. Perhaps those earlier ambitions didn’t suit a side that tends to look to keep games tight before winning on small margins, but Millwall’s form in recent months has proven why there had been a quiet level of expectation about them earlier in the campaign.
Who To Look Out For
There are two key elements of this Millwall team, the defence and Jed Wallace.
For much of their time in the Championship, Millwall have been able to rely on a resolute defensive unit of Shaun Hutchinson, Jake Cooper and Murray Wallace. Not the fanciest of defenders, they are physically dominant and make few mistakes. Aided by the addition last season of shot-stopper par excellence, Bartosz Bialkowski, Gary Rowett has been able to evolve Millwall’s back-line recently, integrating George Evans – more naturally a central midfielder – and young right-back, Dan McNamara, into the mix.
Reaching double-figures for goals for the second season in a row, attacking-midfielder Jed Wallace is regularly the difference maker for a side that tend to keep games tight. A relentless runner with skill in his locker, Wallace provides the spark in an attack that has otherwise struggled for consistent form.
Elsewhere, youngster, Billy Mitchell, has caught the eye in midfield of late for some all-action performances. Additionally, Ryan Woods has proven over recent years that he is a central midfielder of the quality to consistently run games at Championship level, supplying Millwall with the ability to control matters when they need to.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
With nothing resting on this game, it will come down to which side fancies the win the most – likely coming down to whoever grabs the first goal.
Millwall are likely to be content to allow Coventry City to have a lot of the ball. This will be an opportunity for the Sky Blues to prove that they can play through and break down an opponent in possession, which hasn’t happened too often this year. A resolute Millwall back-line is going to be as good a test as any of that ability – with the caveat being that this is a meaningless end of season game.
The likelihood is that neither side will create much in open play, meaning that this game could well come down to set-pieces. Millwall’s physicality will probably give them the edge, but if the Sky Blues can display the same quality from dead-ball situations as they have shown in recent weeks, it could well go the other way.