BY RICHARD CAWLEY
David Livermore reckons there is no single reason why Millwall have found it hard to click into gear on the road – as they look for a fourth straight win on the bounce at The Den against Bolton Wanderers.
The Lions are only outside the Championship bottom three on goal difference with all but two of their 16 points coming in South London.
So the fact they only play once away in their next four fixtures running up until December 8 has to be seen as a bonus.
Bolton have won just once since August 22 and taken one point from a possible 21.
“I don’t think either team would probably want to talk it up too much but in terms of the advantage of us being at home it is definitely a game we feel that we probably need to win,” said the Millwall assistant manager.
“But there is still a long way to go this season, isn’t there? These are the type of games we want to be winning as a football club, so from that point of view there is a pressure we will be putting on ourselves.
“In terms of the bigger picture it is hard to tell whether it will have a big impact or not on where we will finish. We’ll approach it the same way we did as Derby, Middlesbrough or Leeds – it’s like any game in that we want to get the three points.
“The obvious reason [for the good home form] is having 13,000 or 14,000 Millwall supporters there. You feed off the noise of the crowd – that’s enjoyment or even disappointment.
“There is still a certain stigma attached in coming to The Den. If you listen to any opposition manager they will say the same thing – about it being a hostile environment and you need to make sure you quieten the crowd.
“Teams want to slow the game down a little bit and want to take the initial 15, 20, or 25 minutes away from the opposition.
“But it is still a difficult one to explain our away results. This season has replicated the start to the last one and back then we equalled our club record with seven away wins on the spin. We’re still searching for a solution now.”
What Millwall do need to put a halt to is the amount of goals shipped in those opening 17 matches – with only Sheffield Wednesday and Preston (30) conceding more.
The 4-3 loss at Norwich last time out took their own tally to 29.
Millwall only had a point more if you go back to the same stage of the 2017-18 season.
“The obvious difference when you compare the two seasons is the goals conceded column,” said Livermore. “We have let 13 points get away from leading positions – so our season so far could have looked very, very different.
“For some reason it still sticks in my head that we had 19 points after 19 games. We spoke a lot last season, without knowing how we were going to perform in the second half of it, about getting a point per game. We knew if we did we’d put ourselves in a good position to stay in the league.
“Let’s not forget our main objective was to do that and it wasn’t being defeatist – just reality and where we find ourselves; our resources in relation to other teams in the league.
“From that point of view it hasn’t changed much. What has is we finished three points off the play-offs and eighth – there is expectation on us now, even the expectations we put on ourselves are greater.
“We’ve conceded late in games. Is that a tactical thing? A mental thing? A physical thing? At the moment it’s probably all three of those play a part.
“We have played some very good teams and when they do take risks and get more attacking players on the pitch and send more bodies forward it is about standing strong and we haven’t been able to do that enough.”
The fortnight’s break for international matches has allowed the Lions to chew over a late sickener at Carrow Road. Jed Wallace had put them 3-2 ahead in Norfolk with seven minutes of normal time remaining – only for Jordan Rhodes and Teemu Pukki to score beyond the regulation 90.
Asked about whether the squad needed lifting, Livermore said: “It’s not been an issue.
“We have watched the video, looked at the goals and looked at elements to our defending that we stopped doing when we put an extra defender in there [James Meredith coming on in the 89th minute].
“We played further apart as a back five then as a back four. It’s something we have spoken about and looked at taking up better starting positions earlier. We’ve worked very hard on that and our communication.
“What I will say is that over the last three months, since the transfer window closed, the training has been the best in my time as assistant manager.
“They are training with real intensity – that’s a plus for me. If we continue on that path I know that performances and results are not far around the corner.”