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Rowett reflects on Birmingham draw, progress and forced changes

The boss gives his thoughts after 1-1 scoreline at St. Andrew's

30 November 2019

Gary Rowett has given a balanced assessment of Millwall's 1-1 Sky Bet Championship draw with Birmingham City at the St. Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium.

The manager returned to his former stomping ground with The Lions who led through a stunning goal from Shaun Williams just after the hour mark, but for Jake Clarke-Salter's equaliser to earn The Blues a share of the spoils.

Rowett explains how his hand was somewhat forced squad-wise, claiming there are plenty of positives to take back to SE16.

"I thought it was always going to be a difficult game after the week we've had - especially as we had about four players go down injured in training yesterday," the boss says.

"Willo probably played about 60 minutes with his hip locked today, for example. It was a brilliant effort and I'm disappointed we didn't win the game - in the first half, we were excellent. For all Birmingham's possession, I think they found it really difficult as we nullified any threat that they had.

"As well as that, we created a lot in the first half. Matt Smith has an unbelievable header from a great Jed ball which Connal Trueman does excellently to save, and we played with a lot of quality."

Rowett tells that the decision to return to a four-man back line in an away trip was enforced, following an injury setback to Shaun Hutchinson.

The manager then praises the team's build-up for Williams' exquisite opener, and gives an honest analysis of the equaliser The Lions later conceded.

"Again, we had to change formation - I didn't want to do that, I wanted to go with the 5-2-3 again away from home - but with Hutch's injury we had four fit senior defenders ready to start. The squad is very thin at present, but we have loads of quality and loads of character.

"In the second half, I feel as if we gave away possession needlessly at times when we countered, and weren't quite as incisive as in the first half, and therefore any team at home will get that period when they put you under pressure. But we score the goal - a very good goal from Willo - and it comes from some excellent passing in the build-up. Finding the spare man is something we've tried to work on, and it's a wonderful finish. We've made seven or eight passes after breaking out from Mahlon's side, and Willo is that spare man who we pick out.

"It's a good point, but frustrating in light of the goal we conceded. We've defended corners really well of late, but get back in a bit too slowly for this corner, and Clarke-Salter ends up getting ahead of one of our defenders - it's a soft goal. They had a couple of further chances although not many, and we did switch off from time to time, but what we've showed again is that when we work really well in our shape then we have the quality to beat any opponent."

The boss continues that progress does appear to be taking place, having taken five points from three Championship games in the past week.

"It was frustrating to have to make so many changes - I'm not making any excuses, but I think we had about 13 fit senior players, and it was a case that the formation and to an extent the team picked themselves.

"We've come here to a difficult place to play, Birmingham win a lot of home games, and they have a much bigger squad with far more riches to sign those players, which I know all about. And, we're disappointed to go home having not won the game. That shows the progress we are looking to build.

"It's been a long week, demanding, and it took us about five hours to get here on Friday - such is the traffic getting out of London! But, five points from the whole week, I'm not overly disappointed with. It gives us a really nice platform to work with."

Hutchison's absence is then updated on by the gaffer, who further updates on Shane Ferguson and Ryan Leonard.

"Hutch has a rib injury. Again, we'll just see how quickly that can settle down, but Pearcey once more showed what he's all about. Pearcey understood that we opted for Hutch in a defensive four in midweek, and whether or not Hutch had been fit for this game, Pearcey would have played - it was planned the two of them would both play in a five before we found out Hutch wouldn't make it.

"Fergie, we'll look at during the start of this week. He is a big miss, because it's like having two players out where he is a two-position player. Ryan Leonard had a slight setback over the past day or two, so he could be a bit longer than we first thought to get back to full training.

"There were two or three carrying injuries here - Jed had a tight calf and got through the game; Willo had a tight hip and got through the game. That's why I made changes as late as I did, because we needed to see who could last the longest as it were. So, we have a few 'walking wounded' and we just need to have a look at them."

Rowett wraps up by again commending the quality of the squad and thanking the travelling support in the West Midlands for their backing of his side.

"Perhaps we just need to believe we have more quality than we previously thought we had, because we do have it.

"Again, we adapted well to the circumstances of players being out and we worked hard again for our fans who have turned up in great numbers and great voice.

"We're grateful that we've been able to give them something at least to smile a little bit about."

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