Gary Rowett has spoken in high praise of opponents Nottingham Forest, as Millwall prepare to host Sabri Lamouchi’s side in the Sky Bet Championship’s Friday night kick-off (7.45pm) at The Den.
Forest sit fourth in the League table with The Lions in 13th heading into the contest, with Rowett lauding the way they have been able to pick up results away from home.
“Forest are a really good side, who have been coached really well by [Sabri] Lamouchi,” the manager told millwallfc.co.uk.
“You can see their great structure, especially away from home. It’s sometimes difficult to gauge a team style between home and away games, because they can be very different.
“From what we’ve seen of Forest away from home, they’ve predominately sat in and counter-attacked, and they have the players to do that very effectively – the likes of Joe Lolley, [Lewis] Grabban and [Joao] Carvalho have that quality in transition. We have to be mindful of that, and maintain our shape really well. But there are other ways in which we believe we can hurt them.”
The boss reflects on his first six matches at the helm, and claims the squad’s flexibility to fresh ideas of late has been “excellent”.
“The six games so far are a small sample size of what we’re hoping to achieve over a long period of time, but what I would say is that it’s been an encouraging start.
“We’ve won three, drawn two and lost one of those games – the defeat being a very close game at Reading where we nearly nicked a point in the last 10 minutes.
“We’re really pleased with the way the players have handled themselves, the way they’ve adapted to different formations, and their flexibility has been excellent as we’ve changed a lot both from game to game, and during games. They’ve had to take a lot of information on board and coped really well. Our aim is to maintain an average of two points a game – it will be a big challenge – but that will constitute a fantastic period.”
Finally, Rowett gives an extensive regular fitness update on his squad, including the progress of Ryan Leonard and Shane Ferguson, and the hopeful imminent return of Shaun Hutchinson following a rib injury which ruled him out of last weekend’s draw at Birmingham City.
“Lenny felt his knee towards the end of a rehab session last week, with the hope that if he’d got through it with no reaction, he’d have been fit to train this week. It will probably be about four weeks for Lenny just to settle it back down. I think for recovering players it’s difficult to come back during this demanding period anyway, so we just have to be sensible on that one.
“Fergie is a difficult one to answer definitively – his injury is like a slight cartilage tear. What the specialist has essentially said is that we should give him an initial period to try and settle it down and improve, as it’s an issue he’s had for about three or four years. Sometimes you can manage those and get through them fine, and in other cases it could blow up worse and require an operation. So, we’ll only really know with him when he’s had a few sessions.
“Another one is Hutch, who is doubtful after missing last weekend, and we’ll assess him for Forest. We have a couple of players who haven’t trained for a couple of days, which is never ideal when you’re trying to prepare for a big game at home against Forest. But it is what it is – it’s more important that the players are available – I don’t think match fitness is a huge issue at this point when we have so many games.