Liam Hoden: Battling qualities commendable, but Rovers need to be better for final two

Chris Brown chases down possession at Millwall. Photo: Steve Uttley.
Chris Brown chases down possession at Millwall. Photo: Steve Uttley.

In the immediate aftermath of Abdoulaye Meite’s ludicrous red card at the New Den, my thoughts were not of injustice and ire but rather of disappointment that Rovers had been handed an excuse.

Such a confession may sound harsh given what followed in the second half, when Rovers battled for their lives to secure a point which they fully deserved.

Nothing should be taken away from what was produced in those frantic second 45 minutes when bodies were thrown in front of everything.

Paul Quinn’s last gasp sliding tackle on Mark Beevers seven yards from goal in the dying moments will go down as one of the highlights of the season for this writer.

It was a point earned and one that could be vital by the end of play next weekend.

But it all masked a horrendous first half performance, one that is greatly worrying with just two games to go and vital points still required.

Rovers cannot simply be as bad and lifeless during the next two games as they were in that first half at Millwall.

The hosts put them to shame with their high energy approach and urgency in play.

The Lions looked more up for the fight, more determined to pick up a vital win in their own survival fight.

Rovers had clearly set out in the early stages to contain. There is nothing wrong with that in any game. It is not what you do but how you do it on which you are judged.

Defending in the final third was admirably dogged in the first half as well as the second.

But the desire to keep possession and craft something themselves was simply not strong enough.

Not to criticise either individual but the central pairing of Paul Keegan and Dean Furman did not aid the cause.

Both men, by the nature of their game, will be drawn in deep to defend.

When both central midfielders drop deep, there is no outlet for the back four other than a hopeful long ball forward.

Richie Wellens may not have been as brilliant in recent months as he was in the first half of the season, but his absence is always keenly felt. Of the injured trio who could return, he is the one most needed.

For all their endeavour, Millwall lacked the quality to undo Rovers.

Three days earlier, Derby did not show anywhere near as much drive as Millwall but unlocked Rovers with two pieces of pure quality.

Rovers face two more Derbys in Reading and Leicester, both of whom have the ability to produce something from nothing.

It should be hoped the battling second half was the kick up the backside Rovers need to force them over the safety line.

If not, we are in for a nervy finish.