It’s been a fantastic start to the season for Coventry City and the past two games have demonstrated that early performances have been built on solid foundations. Back-to-back clean sheets and wins against tough, physical opposition have shown that this Sky Blues outfit can overcome different kinds of opponents. The challenge now is to maintain a high standard of performance over a longer period.
A trip to a proverbial ‘tough place to go’ in Millwall is another test for the Coventry City side to pass. The home form this season has been excellent, but, with one win out of three on the road, getting a win here would dispel any assertions that this Coventry City side is reliant on home comforts.
Fankaty Dabo’s suspension means that Mark Robins will be forced into at least one change for this game, with Todd Kane set to slot into the side at right wing-back. While other changes are unlikely, the manager may be minded to recall Coventry City’s last two performances against Millwall, where the Lions struggled to deal with the movement of the Sky Blues’ attacking midfielders in a 3-4-2-1 shape.
It would be a bold call given the form that the team is in right now. The past few performances have demonstrated how much of a benefit it is to have a settled starting XI, with an understanding developing in both defence and attack that has produced increasingly confident performances. Still, it’s a long season ahead and being able to changes things up based on the threats of the game ahead is a useful thing for Mark Robins to have up his sleeve.
Will it actually happen for this game? I’m doubtful.
Last Time We Met
There probably isn’t much to be read into a final day 6-1 thrashing of Millwall back in May. The Lions were clearly on their holidays mentally and had little riposte to the energy and enthusiasm of a Coventry City side playing with the freedom of knowing their Championship status had been secured for another year.
Callum O’Hare played Jordan Shipley to put the Sky Blues ahead in the sixteenth minute, with Kyle McFadzean making it two from a set-piece just before half-time. Millwall rallied briefly early in the second-half, forcing an own goal from McFadzean to halve the deficit. However, Dominic Hyam effectively killed the game off a few minutes later, scoring another from a set-piece situation.
From then on, it was a case of how many more Coventry City wanted to score. The answer proved to be another three, with Matty James, Callum O’Hare and Tyler Walker all getting in on the act.
The Manager – Gary Rowett
A solid Championship manager at a solid Championship side, Gary Rowett has helped Millwall further establish themselves in the second-tier in recent years, occasionally threatening to go a little further than the mid-table position Millwall generally occupy. A man who knows how to organise a defence, Rowett’s Millwall are good at keeping games down to tight margins and are capable of going on strong runs of form when at their best.
It has been an underwhelming start to the new season at The Den. There had been a small amount of hope in some quarters that Millwall could push on this year from mid-table, but four draws out of seven have underlined that there is a lack of attacking spark in this team, despite how resolute they remain at the back.
Who To Look Out For?
With Millwall potentially without as many as eight first-team players for this game, this section is based on who their strongest team might be if everyone was available.
The centre-back trio of Murray Wallace, Jake Cooper and Daniel Ballard is probably the strongest area of this Millwall side. Wallace and Cooper are powerful, established Championship centre-backs, while Northern Ireland international, Ballard, has proven to be of a similar quality having impressed on loan from Arsenal at Blackpool in League One last year. Solid defensively, the trio will also pose problems at the other end from set-pieces.
Millwall are energetic in the middle of the park, with the box-to-box George Saville returning to the club this summer to replace the cultured Ryan Woods in that area of the pitch. If everyone was available, he would probably line-up alongside the similar Ryan Leonard (who could be pushed into defence for this game) but the tackle-lover Maikel Kieftenbeld looks set to be his partner here. In addition, the academy-produced Ben Thompson and Billy Mitchell are the exact kind of tough-tackling midfielders you’d expect from academy-produced Millwall players.
Supplying much of the quality going forward for this Millwall side is Jed Wallace. The attacking midfielder has proved over the last few years that he is a star turn at Championship level, regularly producing around ten goals and ten assists each season. Another hard-worker, Wallace’s ability to ghost into dangerous areas will be important to keep an eye on.
Up front, the addition of Benik Afobe promises to provide Millwall with another good attacking option, however, he is among those likely to miss this game, in addition to the pacey Sheyi Ojo, who could offer another dimension to Millwall’s attack. The hard-running Tom Bradshaw is likely to start in Afobe’s place and is someone who can produce quality in his finishing when at his best. Additionally, Millwall have the siege weapon of the giant Matt Smith to utilise from the bench.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
With Millwall possibly short of a lot of key players for this game, the onus is on the Sky Blues to take advantage of that disruption. Notably, Millwall may well end up utilising Murray Wallace, a centre-back, at left wing-back and Billy Mitchell, a central midfielder, at right wing-back, that presents a big opportunity for Todd Kane and Ian Maatsen to get forward and cause those makeshift wing-backs problems.
Given the key theme of the last two meetings of these two sides was just how much space Coventry City’s attacking midfielders were provided, Callum O’Hare looks set to be an important player in this game. If Millwall take the lax approach to defending the area in front of their defence as they have done in the past, it will be up to O’Hare, with Jamie Allen making supporting runs from deep, to take advantage of that freedom. However, Gary Rowett will surely be wary of that threat and may task George Saville and Maikel Kieftenbeld with keeping O’Hare shackled and disrupting his rhythm with niggly fouls.
Like Cardiff City, Millwall’s biggest threat this season has tended to come from set-piece situations. As well as the Sky Blues dealt with Cardiff on Wednesday night, fatigue and a lack of time to prepare could be factors in Millwall being able to grab themselves a goal from dead-ball situations. With it likely being quite a tight game, that could be enough for Millwall to get the win.