JED Wallace praised Gary Rowett for a tactical adjustment that reversed Millwall’s form and saved them from a possible relegation battle.
After Millwall’s 3-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest in January signifying just one win in 15 league appearances, Rowett has gone from a 5-2-3 formation to 5-3-2.
Playing in the latter system for the first time this season, the Lions went to Huddersfield and won 1-0, then built the longest unbeaten streak in the championship, nine games.
That streak ended at Barnsley last week, but the Lions have all but banished any fears of relegation.
Wallace admitted he was worried about the fate of the team following the loss at the City Ground.
“After the game against Forest as a group we were not very confident, I think nobody was playing well. After this result, I started to think, ‘where will the next victory come from?’ Said Wallace.
“Although we didn’t lose a lot of games, we had a lot of draws but not a lot of good draws, which always has a negative effect on things.
“But all the credit goes to the gaffer, he tinkered with the training a bit and put three in midfield and two up front rather than the other way around and we looked at what we have been since the gaffer came on. here, which is a top half-championship team.
“If we push to the top half it’s a huge pass for Millwall. But we’re still looking to move forward, we want to finish in the top 12 again this season and it’s been three out of four seasons since we’ve really consolidated and looked like a really good league team. .
“There aren’t a lot of teams in the last 20 years at Millwall that have done this back-to-back in the championship.
“It’s a tough season with the number of games we’ve played and it was important to keep the team running.
“We have a lot of injuries and we are pushing, there are a few of us who have played a lot of minutes. But we don’t have the luxury of other teams to make five or six changes every two games, so it was physically demanding, especially with the pitches.
“We always said Millwall was strong in the second half of the season and you saw it, and that’s to the credit of the manager. He showed why he’s been a good manager at this level over the years, because when we were low on confidence it was only a slight adjustment in the system and we were again a very good team.
“We’ve come back to basics and the absolute minimum we should reach is 0-0, then it’s up to the players to create chances and the center-backs to finish the set pieces.
“As we know in this league, especially for us, a goal is huge anyway.”
Wallace was brought to Millwall by Neil Harris – twice on loan before a permanent move – and has been one of Rowett’s most trusted players.
Wallace has a lot of respect for both men.
He said of Rowett: “He sets the mood.
Wallace added, “I got lucky at Millwall with Neil and Gary when they were cool guys first and foremost. I know it sounds silly, but players respect them as people before managers.
“The guys really liked Neil and they really like screwing him up now, and that’s important because he got us all on board.
“We never doubted we were going to turn the shape around. Confidence is a big part of football and when you draw 1-1 instead of winning it sometimes takes a bit of a prank from you.
“Then we got a little lucky we didn’t have: Huddersfield missed a penalty, Sheffield on Wednesday when we didn’t play well, we got a penalty, Scott Malone produced magic and Thommo [Ben Thompson] hits one and it goes into the net. We had not had these little strokes of luck during the season.
“It’s up to us to turn a couple of those draws into wins and then you talk about little old Millwall competing with clubs like Bournemouth and Watford who have been Premier League clubs for the last three or four years.”
Image: Millwall FC