Matt Smith is doing everything in his power to secure a starting spot in Millwall’s team – and manager Gary Rowett wants to see Connor Mahoney start doing the same.The Lions head to Birmingham City tomorrow with centre-forward Smith hoping that his equaliser in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Wigan sees him shed his impact sub status.
He came on at the start of the second half in midweek – replacing the quiet Mahoney – to head home his fifth goal of the season.
Smith, signed by Rowett’s predecessor Neil Harris in the summer, has had a bench role since the managerial change.
“As staff it is our job to maximise every player’s ability but what you’re also looking for is players to do that themselves,” said Rowett. “You want them to step up to the plate so that you have to pick them.
“In Matt Smith’s case he is trying to do everything he can to make you pick him.
“That’s something Connor will have to do moving forward for him to play consistently in the team.
“The last two games have maybe typified Connor’s start at Millwall. He was excellent against Swansea and it was the type of game that really suited his skill set.
“But after 20 minutes of the Wigan game – a match where it was a lot of second balls – I started feeling that we probably needed a little more natural aggression. He was struggling to impact on the game.
“The challenge for any player with technical ability is that they have to implement some of the other parts of the game to get consistency. Most Championship games are battles.
“Connor has to try and impact when it is not his natural game or how you want to play.”
Smith has made four substitute appearances since Rowett was appointed Millwall boss at the end of October. He also netted the derby winner against Charlton.
Smith is third highest scorer behind Jed Wallace (seven) and Tom Bradshaw (six)
Rowett said: “We’ve come in with an idea of how we want to play and a system, for both home and away.
“Early in our tenure that has made it difficult for that type of targetman to start.
“That has not been his fault. He has performed really well and has been a victim of what we’ve wanted from the system so far.
“Matt is a very, very unique player with very good skills and most importantly he is scoring goals.
“He is doing what a striker needs to do. He’s been very dangerous and unlucky that he has not had more starts. He has certainly given me food for thought.
“Whether he starts or impacts games, Matt is a hugely important part of what we do.”