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Leonard: “We have to stick together and give Middlesbrough a right go”

Midfielder responds to Blackburn defeat and looks ahead to Riverside trip

14 January 2019

Ryan Leonard has described last Saturday’s defeat to Blackburn Rovers as “hard to take” after conceding two late goals to hand the three points to Tony Mowbray’s visitors at The Den.

With the match heading towards a stalemate, a late double from Joe Nuttall and Adam Armstrong consigned Millwall to defeat, with the midfielder frustrated with a lack of creativity.

“It’s definitely a hard one to take – I don’t think there was too much in the game, to be honest,” Leonard says.

“It was a bit of a scrappy game, I think a point would’ve been a good result for both teams. They created a little bit more quality than us in the final third, and they got the vital goal. We’re disappointed with our own performance more than anything, as we didn’t really produce enough to get us over the line.

“I don’t think anyone played poorly, but neither did anyone play really well – it was one of those games. We didn’t really give the fans enough to shout about after they created a brilliant atmosphere for us, and we weren’t forcing many chances, set-pieces or getting the ball into the box enough. Defensively, it’s disappointing to concede goals at any time. The first one was a little bit fortuitous for them, and with the second one we’ve gone all out with five minutes to go, and they’ve broken forward and scored. To concede two goals so quickly is obviously frustrating.”

The 26-year-old credits the way Rovers pressed and gave The Lions a challenge, and has complimented the steady record the Lancashire outfit have had since their return to the Sky Bet Championship.

“Blackburn came and made it very difficult for us. The gaffer said before the game that they have some really good players, and of course they’ve done very well in their first season back in the Championship.

“They pressed us and made it difficult for us to get into our stride at a tough place to come for opposing sides, so full credit has to go to them.”

The opening stages of the game were marred by a dislocated shoulder injury to Tom Elliott, with Leonard claiming the loss of the striker was a significant blow to Neil Harris’ team.

“It was tough losing Tom – listen, it’s not ideal to lose your focal point up top 30 seconds in, when you’ve worked on certain tactics all week and how you’re going to play.

“It was a bit of a freak injury, but there are no excuses.”

Leonard is now anticipating this weekend’s visit to the Riverside Stadium to take on Middlesbrough – a challenge in which he is confident that The Lions can “give it a right go”.

“There’s no rest. It doesn’t get any easier with Middlesbrough away next, so we have to stick together on the training pitch this week and give it a right go. We need to put the Blackburn result behind us and learn.”

Finally, Leonard has welcomed the return of Millwall’s recent loanees, whom he has himself recently met for the first time in the past week, before touching on being paired with Everton in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round draw.

“It’s nice to have competition, I think it helps you progress and do better. You know that if you don’t perform, there are two other players who are more than good enough to come into the team and play really well. In the long-term, it’s healthy for us.

“The loan players coming back have certainly given everyone a lift on the training ground. I’ve obviously only just met them, but they seem like really good lads and they’ve come back buzzing, having done very well in their loans.

“The lads are buzzing with the Cup draw, it’s a good one for us. Hopefully we can get a big crowd at The Den and give Everton a good game. Hopefully, it can spur us on for the rest of the season.”

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