It's a return to The Den under the midweek lights as 10th place Millwall look to build on their recent good form when they host Paul Cook's Wigan Athletic in South London.
With three wins in his four games since taking over at the helm, Gary Rowett has hit the ground running and along with the 12 points obtained from a possible 15, the new Millwall gaffer has secured the first away win of the season for the Lions when Jed Wallace's free-kick defeated Swansea City last weekend. On the other side of the coin, Cook will be visiting Zampa Road desperate for a win, as the last time the Latics won three points was against Nottingham Forest on the 20th October.
Considering Wigan were always a bit of a bogey side for the Lions in the past, Millwall are the more successful in the league head-to-heads and have 12 wins compared with Athletic's six and 10 draws between the two. Rowett will be keen to get the home win to secure his side's place in the top ten, but as we know with Millwall, it's normally the teams towards the foot of the table that have been know to be a bit of a banana skin in the past...
Haven't we met before?...
Millwall 2-0 Wigan Athletic, Tuesday 14th April 2015 – All the action in this one took place after half time and saw the game end 2-0 and three red cards shown between the two sides. Ex-Millwall loanee Martyn Waghorn was shown a red card just after the hour mark after lashing out at Dan Harding before Nadjim Abdou opened the opened the scoring for the home side. It was Jason Pearce who was then showed a red following a late lunge on Aiden O'Brien and this was followed by a red for Millwall man Ed Upson after he confronted the former. Magaye Gueye wrapped up the win for the Lions which kept their faint hopes for survival alive.
Goalkeeper Frank Fielding continues to be out for the Lions, as does Ryan Leonard who is also still recovering. Tom Elliott is fighting his way back to full fitness, but will not feature in this game. Jayson Molumby will face a fitness test after his recent international injury and Jason McCarthy is still in the treatment room after his recent toe ligament damage.
Wigan Athletic will be missing Danny Fox as he recovers from his knee injury, but welcome back Cedric Kipre who has served a recent one game ban.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
From a player who has gone from being one of the first picked and club captain under former boss Neil Harris, to left on the bench by caretaker manager Adam Barrett, to starring and making the EFL Team of the Week against Swansea City, it has been a turbulent few weeks for the Millwall defender. Pearce may not be the Carvalho or Beckenbauer who can bring the ball out from the back with grace, but he is a steady defender who on his day is capable of having some of the league's very best in his pocket. The change of away formation saw the centre-half back in the side and his positive display will have left Rowett scratching his head on whether he should start the former Derby County man.
WHO ARE YA?
This week, we sit back down with our friends at The Pie at Night podcast. This week we ask the guys how they think the season is going so far, what fans can expect from their podcast, who Millwall need to look out for and what they think the score will be.
1. It’s been a tricky start to the season so far for the Latics. From a fans point of view, how do you think the beginning of the campaign has been?
On the one hand, Latics fans have to have realistic expectations. We lost our two best players in the summer and replaced them with players who had little or no championship experience. There’s always going to be a risk in that, especially for a club who’s in the lower half of the table in terms of the wages they can pay.
On the other hand, the football hasn’t been great which, couple with a tendency to leak goals that are either soft, late or both, there’s a sneaking suspicion that we could be doing better.
What better looks like is another matter though, the table isn’t that right above us so better form might only see us 2 or 3 places above where we are now.
2. You have scored 14 goals so far in the league, however you have conceded 26 in the same time frame. What would you say the main issue is that needs to be addressed if Wigan are to stay up?
Personally, and it’s not an opinion shared by everyone, I think there’s something fundamentally wrong in the way we play. All too often there doesn’t seem to be any purpose to what we are doing and we come out of long periods where we’ve dominated possession with nothing to show for it. There feels like there’s a note of caution to everything we do and we suffer for it.
It’s easy for me to sit behind my keyboard and say it, but Latics, and Paul Cook in particular, need to find a way to make the most of what pressure we have and start to turn the one goal leads that we have squandered too many times this season into two goal leads and see where that gets us.
3. Tell us more about your podcast, what can the fans expect when they listen in?
When we started off, I don’t think we knew where podcasting would take us, it was something that looked a bit of fun and was worth having a go at. I don’t think any of us expected it to run for more than a handful of episodes and yet here we are, three years and 64 episodes on and we’re still going.
To some extent, everyone involved is from a fanzine background and it was fairly inevitable that we’d end up with a fairly irreverent take on a football podcast, quite often our biggest (self)criticism is when there’s too much football in an episode. It doesn’t always endear us to Latics fans, but I think the biggest thing I can tell you about the podcast is that we get as much, if not more engagement from fans of other clubs than we do our own.
If you’re looking for insightful football analysis then you *might* get it, but what you’re likely to get is the sort of chat that you’d get from four or five fans sat in the pub. Yes, we’re there because of the football, but there’s more to life as well.
4. Paul Cook is an experienced manager and has enjoyed success in previous roles, but do you think he still has the fans’ backing?
It’s difficult, because I’ve never been the biggest fan of Paul Cook as a manager. He’s clearly a good bloke, but his style of play is too pragmatic and cautious, for me, even when we were romping to the League One title a couple of years ago.
That aside, I’ve largely been alone in that view until recently and I’m wary of putting too much emphasis on the anti-cook noises spreading across social media at the moment as it could just be a case of me hearing what I want to hear.
The tone in the stadium does seem to be shifting though and discontent seems to be growing amongst those regular away fans that are often the acid test for a Latics manager. To be honest, I’m not sure what it will take to turn things around for him, but a couple of wins this week, against you and Reading, would be a starting point.
5. Which players do Millwall need to look out for?
You’ll be pleased to hear that, by far, our best player of recent weeks, Joe Williams is out injured. A couple of other absentees in the midfield mean that selection may look a bit random tonight and it could be dangerous for me to second guess what the team is.
Kieffer Moore is in a good run of form internationally, but can’t buy a goal in the league. Part of that is down to the players he’s got around him, part style of play but “being a striker is a confidence game Gary” so hopefully his goal and assist last week for Wales will have done him good.
The same goes for Jamal Lowe too, without the international football to give him a boost. It’s fair to say that our two big summer signings haven’t fired yet, but it must only be a matter of time before that happens, mustn’t it? It could happen to you.
6. What do you think the score will be?
According to Paul Cook, it’s fairly inevitable that we’ll take an early lead that we’ll then fritter away ultimately leading to a 93rd minute winner to Millwall. Who am I to argue with him?
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 2-0 WiGAN ATHLETIC
Millwall are riding the crest of a confidence wave at the moment and Gary Rowett has really solidified the leaky back line. Wigan Athletic are one of the lowest scoring sides in the division and vulnerable in defence, so I can see this being a comfortable win and a clean sheet for the South London side.
Come on you Lions.