JOE Edwards believed Millwall fell short on the “basics” as he picked apart the Lions’ 3-0 defeat to Coventry City.
It was Edwards’ first defeat as head coach of Millwall as goals from Matt Godden, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto and Ben Sheaf undid the home side at The Den.
The Lions struggled to make chances of their own and have now lost three in a row at home.
Edwards believed his side were lacking in many elements of their performance.
He said: “Overall, I’d still say we should be pretty disappointed with the performance because I think there a lot of the basics, particularly basics that this team are normally good at, a lot of duels in the middle of the pitch and second balls and people running off us in transition, that is just basic work ethic regardless of what kind of style of play you have as a team.
“We didn’t do well enough and they looked sharper than us. 3-0 is probably a harsh scoreline but at the same time we’ve been on the other end of that in our last game when we were clinical and emphatic and won 4-0, so that is how it can go.
“There’s definitely positives to take. We’ve spoken about being on the front foot and being aggressive here at The Den and that is how we started the game. Albeit there are times when you can look a bit exposed and open from it, that is going to be part of that transition process. You’re going from being a team that is used to defending a bit more conservatively and if you’re higher up the pitch there’s going to be moments where it can look a bit exposed and today they were clinical and they looked sharp.
“The big thing today for me was us with the ball. We had a lot more of the ball than probably the Millwall team would typically have. And at times we looked composed and looked like we had a clear idea of how we wanted to build up in the first part of it. But then in the opponents’ half, and particularly in the final third, we didn’t ask anywhere near as many questions as you need to ask of an opponents’ back four that comes here to The Den. That was the disappointment.”
Edwards was asked at his post-match press conference if Millwall were overplaying at times, with a new emphasis on possession clear in the Lions’ style.
He said: “Oh, for sure. And in terms of a style play and an aim, a heavy focus in the last two days in training and in meetings was how we work the ball wide to then deliver the ball into the box, particularly with this opponent as this is something Coventry have been struggling with.
“So me on the sidelines I probably felt like a lot of people in the stands in that once we got there, we stayed there too long and overplayed and didn’t have as much focus on getting bodies into the box and balls into the box.
“So that’s a big frustration. But from my point of view from a coaching process, I can see we’ve been working for two to three weeks to get that part of the pitch right and you have to understand there’s an element of patience. I don’t think it’s a long-term thing. I can easily expect we go to Ipswich on Wednesday by having more focus on it again, we do it more, but we didn’t well today. Simple as.”
Not for the first time this season, Bartosz Bialkowski was forced to make a number of saves.
On his goalkeeper being forced into action so often, the Lions head coach said: “It’s probably a combination of two things. In our last time out, we were clinical. That was them today. They looked a bit sharper to everything. There’s moments where when your keeper makes a save from a shot from range and the rebound happens to fall exactly where there player is, you can feel a bit hard done by.
“But then there are moments, the second [goal] where you can say their player has reacted quicker. For all the stuff that goes on between both boxes, it gets decided in both boxes. Bart did his job as well as he could but we couldn’t back it up and they were sharper and they were clinical and we have to accept that.”
And Edwards was questioned on Millwall’s unconvincing second half where they struggled to get going after the break despite being 1-0 down.
He said: “I think goals have a huge impact on games. And the way that impacted Coventry and how they were able to approach it. I felt like we at times got kind of stuck between sticking or twisting and we knew we had to come out and do more.
“We’re a team that typically doesn’t have a lot of the ball and now we’re given a lot of the ball and they’re kind of sitting in and asking us what we’re going to do. And for sure at times, it looked laboured, and I spoke to the players about that.
“For anything tactical we could speak about at half-time, I felt the aerial duels, the second balls, the running off people… I felt like Coventry were dominating that more than we would like. So I think physically, sharpness, fitness we can definitely improve. But I do feel like that whole second half and [between] the first goal and the second goal, it was kind of a stick-or-twist. Now we’re not used to having that much of the ball it was a case of ‘okay, what are you going to do with it?’
“And I thought Coventry to be fair as an away team played that well and we kind of got caught in between at times.”