AFC Bournemouth will be looking to take a significant step towards securing a play-off place when they visit Championship rivals Millwall on Wednesday (6pm kick-off).
The Cherries moved seven points clear of seventh-placed Reading after extending their winning run to six matches by triumphing 3-1 at leaders Norwich on Saturday.
Jonathan Woodgate’s team would guarantee a top-six finish if they were to beat the Lions and the Royals were to taste defeat against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.
Ninth-placed Millwall held promotion-chasing Brentford to a 0-0 draw at the Brentford Community Stadium on Saturday – the 17th time they have shared the points this season.
Gary Rowett’s team have lost just 11 league games, a record bettered only by the top five, including five at The Den against Huddersfield, Derby, Coventry, Blackburn and Swansea.
Matt Smith’s equaliser cancelled out Dom Solanke’s opener to earn the Lions a 1-1 draw at Vitality Stadium in January, a result which left the Cherries third and Millwall 16th.
MILLWALL IN PROFILE
Manager: Gary Rowett (appointed October 2019)
Club captain: Alex Pearce (pictured below)
Last game: Brentford 0-0 Millwall (Championship)
Leading league goalscorer 2020/21: Jed Wallace (nine)
League position: Tenth
Past six league results: LWWWLD
afcb.co.uk: How would you sum up Millwall’s season?
AG: I would rate it a solid seven out of ten.
It’s very rare that Millwall have two seasons inside the top ten at Championship level but that looks set to be achieved this season.
Too many draws have been the frustration along with not enough goals scored.
Trying to compete with those at the top is hard enough but taking into consideration the effect the pandemic has had that challenge has increased further when you look at things such as budgets and what a team like Millwall can afford compared to the likes of Norwich.
I think you can see that the quality has shown this season with all three teams that came down currently in the top five. Overall, Millwall fans will be very happy with this season.
afcb.co.uk: How do you think Gary Rowett’s tenure in the hot-seat is going?
AG: Superbly. Gary Rowett (pictured above) has done an excellent job since he walked through the door in October 2019.
Neil Harris left him some very good foundations but the biggest job he’s had to do is to shift the mentality of the club.
It’s all about looking up and getting as many points as possible and looking to improve further rather than just being happy with what has already been achieved.
Millwall have lost 22 of Rowett’s 82 games in charge. He has made the side very hard to beat and that is evidenced by the Lions having the fourth best defence in the Championship.
If backed in the transfer market in the summer and with fans back at The Den, I think Rowett’s men will be a team to watch next season.
afcb.co.uk: If you were a betting man, who would your money be on to win the play-offs?
AG: You can never tell with the play-offs, that’s what makes them so great.
My thoughts are the team going into them with the most momentum is always the team to back.
Barnsley have been on fire in recent weeks. I saw them against Millwall and their style of play is one that is very effective but on a bigger pitch like Wembley, they could come unstuck.
If I was a betting man, I have to say my money would be on Bournemouth. They’ve already had their bad run and they are hitting form at just the right time and that will be pivotal going into the play-offs.
afcb.co.uk: Millwall have a league-high 17 draws this season – is that a fair reflection or have they deserved more points from those games?
AG: It’s a lot of draws! However, Saturday’s at Brentford was a first in ten games.
I would say that a fair few of those draws will go down as ones Gary Rowett would have thought ‘we should have won that’.
Games at home to Cardiff and Reading in particular spring to mind where there were big chances that should have been taken.
In most of those draws, there have been chances to win them. I don’t think there are many where Millwall fans will be saying ‘I think we got away with one coming away from this with a point’.
afcb.co.uk: Give us a word on Connor Mahoney (pictured above)?
AG: Frustration. I think that’s the best suited word to describe Connor’s Millwall career to date.
It started so well with an assist in his first game but injuries, lack of form at times and being in and out of the team have contributed to it.
He’s been one that has been badly missed this season. At times, when creativity has been lacking, having someone of his calibre and ability to make something out of nothing has been missing.
We know what he can do. He showed it against Luton (twice) with two excellent displays. It’s just finding a way to give him a regular run and keep him injury free. He could be a very key player going into next season.
afcb.co.uk: Who is Millwall’s one to watch?
AG: There are a couple. Jed Wallace (pictured above) is the obvious one, he’s the top scorer this season with nine goals.
Scott Malone and Danny McNamara are two who are in good form right now and could cause the Bournemouth back line some problems.
afcb.co.uk: Are any first-choice players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?
AG: Yes, there are. It’s been a thorn in Millwall’s side this season.
Ryan Leonard has been missing since the start of February and Ken Zohore’s loan spell has been blighted by injury.
He will miss out as will Ben Thompson and the man who scored the equaliser at the Vitality Stadium earlier in the season, Matt Smith, who is set to miss the remainder of the season.
Perhaps the biggest loss of all though is Shaun Hutchinson who, until Good Friday, had played every minute of the season but he also will not play again this term.
afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?
AG: There is no pressure on Millwall coming into this, all the pressure is on the Cherries who need the points for that play-off battle. I can see the Lions frustrating Bournemouth again with another 1-1 draw.
You can follow Alex on Twitter – @AlexGrace12
Officials: Keith Stroud (referee), Mark Russell (assistant), Sam Lewis (assistant), Gavin Ward (fourth official).