Millwall manager Gary Rowett hopes this will be the last time his players have to perform in an ‘eerie’ Den, after they rounded off their home season with a 4-1 thumping of Bristol City.
The Lions’ fans are renowned for their vociferous support and they would have enjoyed this display, as Rowett’s mid-table side showed a ruthlessness in front of goal with the pressure off them.
Young midfielder Billy Mitchell scored his first senior goal for the club in an entertaining and open clash that produced the hosts’ first win in five games.
However, this was not the way to mark the news of manager Nigel Pearson signing a new contract with the Robins, who are now winless in nine.
Rowett said: “I appreciate every set of fans of a club and team will always think that their fans are the most important, but a lot of people I’ve spoken to have said it feels such a weird place at The Den without the fans.
“It’s almost eerie – there are a lot of places that don’t feel quite so bad, but for us it’s just a real emptiness.
“It’s been a challenge, it’s been a difficult season, but I think there have been a lot of positives, a lot of plus points and I think this team has shown a lot of progress over the 18 months since we’ve joined.
“I think next season is a great opportunity for us to take that to the next level, if possible, with our fans there.
“That was a fantastic advert for their attitudes because, right from the off, they made sure their mentality was strong.”
Bristol City were caught on the break as Millwall went ahead after just five minutes, with Jed Wallace burying a shot into the bottom corner after being put through by Jake Cooper’s long ball.
Teenager Tommy Conway then marked his second start for the Robins by equalising, as he rounded Bartosz Bialkowski from Henri Lansbury’s through-ball before rolling into an empty net.
The Lions restored their lead just after the half-hour mark as Danny McNamara’s deflected cross fell for Scott Malone, who fired in off the post.
Mitchell then put the hosts in control early in the second half when he lashed a terrific drive into the top corner and a miserable day for the visitors was summed up in the 58th minute as captain Tomas Kalas lost possession to Tom Bradshaw, who went on to tuck away Millwall’s fourth.
Pearson said: “Another day where we were not good enough.
“There were too many individual mistakes, not enough collective resistance against a side who I thought played really well.
“We had our opportunities, but unfortunately we once again allowed our opponents to score far too easily and that’s a big problem for us at the moment.
“Their first goal comes because we didn’t track runners. If you’ve seen where their runners came from, they came from the other side of our players and they just don’t track runners.
“They bring everybody back from set plays and there’s nothing else to say, apart from players who let people run past them… it’s not good enough.
“We have an opportunity to make changes this year. Days like today help to make your mind up on people.”