BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Matt Smith has weighed in to the debate about the way Millwall’s set-plays are being stopped – describing opposition as getting “away with murder”.
The Lions striker felt both he and Jake Cooper were denied penalties as they were manhandled in the box in the last home game against Hull City.
And Millwall manager Neil Harris described Sam Gallagher as using “a rugby tackle” on Cooper in Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Blackburn Rovers.
Smith’s strength in the air was a key factor in the Lions bringing him to The Den in the summer from QPR.
Tomorrow he faces the west London club.
Smith really wants match officials to wake up to the penalty box shenanigans being employed on a weekly basis.
“It is happening in every game. it’s just really, really frustrating,” he said.
“As attackers, in the case of me and Jake, we’re not interested in holding off a defender – we just want to go and attack the ball.
“It seems that the defender has the appreciation they have got zero chance of winning the header, they have just got to put us off in some way.
“Their license to hold, grapple and pull seems at will – because these refs aren’t pulling them up. It is going to take a real swarm of decisions to go against defenders to stop them doing that.
“It seems at the moment they can get away with murder in the box and it is us that suffers.
“We’ve got to work other ways to create space, which we will do, and we’ve had joy off them already. They want to put you off your stride and off your jump.
“It’s not within the laws of the game but it’s grey areas that ref seem to sway in the favour of defenders.”
VAR is used in the Premier League but not in the Championship. So Millwall are reliant on the referee and his assistants paying close attention to the jostling that takes place before the ball comes in.
“You just hope it does get picked up,” said Smith. “If it was the other way around the ref would blow in a heartbeat – because it is an easier decision.
“But because it is a tougher decision the other way then sometimes they turn a blind eye, as was the case with Jake at Blackburn when he [the referee] said: “I didn’t see it, I wasn’t looking’.
“Those two incidents aren’t in isolation. I’m not saying it is hindering us scoring from set-pieces but we should have had a lot more penalties than we’ve got.”
QPR have won their last three Championship matches. Manager Mark Warburton said: “It’s a young group – 15 new players coming in. It’s important that we keep expectations in check.”