Millwall defender Jake Cooper: We’ll be massively disappointed if we don’t win at least one of our last three matches

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard.cawley@slpmedia.co.uk

Jake Cooper says that the talk on the Millwall coach journey back from Villa Park centred more on their performance, rather than a seismic blow to fellow drop strugglers Rotherham.The South Londoners kicked off at 1pm on Easter Monday and their 1-0 loss to a red-hot Aston Villa – who made it a club-record 10 straight Championship wins – opened the door for the Millers to move level on points.

Millwall defender, Jake Cooper

But Rotherham saw their first-half lead disappear as Birmingham ran out 3-1 winners at the New York Stadium.

Not only do Millwall have an extra game left to play – at home to Bristol City on Tuesday – they can pretty much put the relegation issue to bed tomorrow.

If they match the Yorkshire club’s result at the weekend then Paul Warne’s side would need the Lions to be smashed in their final Den fixture next week as well as losing heavily at Wigan on the final day to even make survival attainable.

“When we were on the coach we were watching all the results come in and keeping a close eye on the Rotherham-Birmingham result,” said Cooper. “It was key that Birmingham got something at Rotherham, that was best for us.

“But I think a lot of the boys just wanted not to think about it too much. We were more focused on ourselves. We know if we get the results that we know we should, then we should be fine.

Millwall defender, Jake Cooper

“We were more talking about the game we had just played, rather than just focusing on Rotherham.

“We’ve got the extra game, which is big for us. We have got two home matches left and we know if we get three points then we should be fine.

That’s the target for us, just take those home games in our stride and get as many points as we can.

“It’s been a difficult season. It’s been a tough ride at times – a few ups and downs. But if we can secure our Championship status then we can start to look towards the future. I don’t want to speak too early on that. It would be nice to get it off our shoulders with a win on Saturday.

“We’ll be really disappointed if we don’t win at least one of our three games left, no matter what other teams are doing. It would be nice to finish our home games this season at The Den in style. If we can make it back-to-back wins there that would be great.”

Millwall defender Jake Cooper

Millwall face Stoke City tomorrow in an early kick-off. The visitors were promotion favourites before the campaign kicked off but Gary Rowett was sacked in January – after less than eight months in charge. At the time they were 14th in the standings and had won just eight of their 26 matches.

Stoke moved quickly to agree compensation for Luton chief Nathan Jones. The former Charlton U23 coach has won three and drawn nine of his 19 league matches at the bet365 Stadium helm.

City are two places lower then when they dispensed of Rowett’s services.

It has been a season of chronic under-achievement for a squad that contains the likes of Jack Butland, Ryan Shawcross, James McClean, Joe Allen, Benik Afobe, Charlie Adam and Tom Ince.

Stoke only have pride to play for, but Cooper is wary of that scenario.

“We played Brentford at The Den last week and it was the same for them,” he said. “It gives them freedom. They can relax and not worry too much.

“Brentford then beat Leeds on Monday. You saw how difficult they made it for us, even when they were down to 10 men.

“Getting a point against Brentford wasn’t as bad a result as people thought at the time.

Millwall defender Jake Cooper

“Stoke is a massive club. They have got some top players who have played in the Premier League. It’s going to be a tough test.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to The Den and getting the result we need.”

Millwall are 20th in a league table for home results – 29 of their total of 43 points being claimed in SE16.

Only Ipswich (two) and Bolton (four) have won fewer. Birmingham and Rotherham have the same amount of victories as the Lions – seven.

What stands out is that Millwall have only lost six – like Bristol City – but have drawn eight. Plenty of sides have arrived at The Den viewing a point as a decent outcome.

“We’ve found this season that teams have worked us out from last season and come with a gameplan to stop our strengths,” said Cooper. “That is a credit to how good we have been there.

“Teams have managed us better this season. It is something we will have to look at trying to improve next time around.”

The run-in has seen Cooper paired with Alex Pearce in the centre of the Millwall defence.

The Derby County loanee is out of contract at the end of June.

Millwall defender, Jake Cooper

It seems a strong chance that the Lions will look to agree a permanent deal, provided they retain Championship status.

“It’s down to the club and what Alex wants to do with his career,” said Cooper, who also played with Pearce at Reading. “He’s been a great addition. I’m sure the club will be trying to get him to stay on a long-term basis. We just needed that little bit of experience to come in and shore things up – he’s certainly done that.”

IMAGES BY BRIAN TONK