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Millwall v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship

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Fan Focus: Lions fan Alex says that ex-Sunderland captain George Honeyman has been a solid buy

Ahead of Sunderland’s return to the Stadium of Light, Matty spoke to Millwall writer Alex Grace of That Millwall Podcast - what is there to learn about today’s opponents?

Photo by Chloe Knott/Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Many teams have spent the World Cup break in different ways, how did Millwall approach this and do you think the break came at a good or bad time for your team?

Alex Grace: Millwall tried to treat this break just like any other international break, with this game happening this weekend a week earlier than the intended return date I think is a benefit for both sides.

The Lions have played two friendlies to ensure their players have got minutes and seen the likes of Shaun Hutchinson return to the first-team fold.

The break came at a decent time for Millwall, a few senior players were out injured and this break has allowed them to get back fit and ready to play.

MC: Millwall have become an established Championship side and finished just six points outside of the playoffs last season, as you currently sit 6th, are you confident of a playoff finish?

AG: The playoffs was the target set by Gary Rowett before the season started and he will be happy that the wide are currently in those positions.

He will feel like we could have done better and had our away form been just the slightest bit better we could be sitting even higher in the table.

Burnley v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship
Gary Rowett has previously managed Burton, Birmingham, Derby and Stoke before joining Millwall.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

MC: Following disappointing spells with both Derby and Stoke, Gary Rowett appears to have settled at Millwall - how is he regarded amongst your fanbase?

AG: Gary Rowett is an interesting subject with Lions fans, some felt he should have left at the end of last season, some felt he should have left earlier in the season but he seems to have got the fans back onside again now after changing formation to a back four which has seen an upturn in form and results.

MC: Millwall have achieved 22 points at home, but just 9 away from home, what do you think are the factors behind that?

AG: Millwall are a classic side. They have always been traditionally strong at home and struggled away. At home, the crowd plays a huge part in roaring their side to win games. No side likes a trip to The Den.

Away from home, the Lions are happy and content with a point and less adventurous.

Millwall v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship - The Den
Zion Flemming has scored 7 goals so far this season for Millwall.
Photo by Rhianna Chadwick/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: Millwall top scorer Zian Flemming scored a hat-trick against Preston in the last match before the game, what does he possess which has led to him hitting the ground running so well at this level?

AG: He is someone who has taken to the Championship like a duck to water. His technique on the ball is very good, he has so much confidence and is never afraid to have a shot from distance.

That is a breath of fresh air in this league that is becoming more and more technical with sides trying to pass the ball into the net rather than taking a chance.

MC: Former Sunderland captain George Honeyman joined your club from Hull in the summer - how has performed so far?

AG: Honeyman has been a solid buy for Millwall.

He is a player that can slot in anywhere in that midfield and that is very key in this Millwall team, having players that can play in other positions helps massively when you do not have the budget to be able to recruit to that level.

So far he has delivered when needed. He has also opened his account for club with the equalising goal against Coventry back in August.

Derby County v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
George Honeyman scored 15 goals in 97 appearances for Sunderland.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

MC: One player Sunderland managed to beat Millwall to the signing of was Dan Ballard, who unfortunately won’t be available to play, were you not surprised to him start so well on Wearside?

AG: I was a bit disappointed when Millwall failed to sign Ballard. He was a quality addition to the squad last season, he worked very well alongside both Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper.

He is a useful weapon in the opposition box too. I was not surprised to see him settle in well at Sunderland.

Sad to hear about his injury, wish him a speedy recovery.

MC: On the other hand, Millwall did reportedly beat Sunderland to the signing of Leeds defender Charlie Cresswell, who has scored four goals already this season - would you say that he has been an excellent addition on loan?

AG: Charlie Cresswell causes debate. His attacking prowess from set pieces suits Millwall down to the ground.

The Lions are the most prolific team from set pieces and having someone with his physical strength and aerial ability is very important.

His defensive side has been something that has let him down but he has improved that over recent games.

West Bromwich Albion v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship - The Hawthorns
Dan Ballard played 33 matches for Millwall on loan from Arsenal last season.
Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: In terms of tactical approach, what style of play can Sunderland expect to encounter?

AG: I can see it being a cagey opening 20 minutes. The Lions will look to frustrate Sunderland.

The downfall a lot of the time for Millwall away from home has been conceding an early goal and not recovering. They will soak up the pressure and look to hit on the break.

MC: Sunderland are without a win in their last three matches against Millwall, what is your prediction for the final score?

AG: I remember the last game between these two at the Stadium of light. Jordan Archer was in goal for Millwall that day and neither keeper covered themselves in glory. I can see this ending as a 1-1 draw.


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