Things move very quickly in the Championship.

A few games ago, after a run of one win in eight, Millwall’s playoff hopes looked dead in the water.

Rowett had galvanised the side since joining in October. His impact was instant, the side rose from 17th to 7th in a matter of months, losing only two games in 15. Since that run, Millwall had begun to falter, tiredness caught up, momentum was lost and Rowett faced his first tricky patch in the job.

However, after last Friday’s win against Forest, Millwall have shot themselves right back into the playoff discussion. The Lions now sit two points outside of the top six, in eighth, with nine games remaining. 

The Championship is a moveable feast. It can be an unpredictable free-for-all, especially as pressure mounts, with teams at the top and bottom scrambling for crucial points that can make or break their entire campaigns.

There are seven points separating Brentford in fourth and Swansea in 11th and with 27 points still to play for, we can expect plenty of movement, plenty of twists and turns as Millwall try and finish on the right side of the dotted line for the playoffs.

Below, I’m going to have a look at the run in: who Millwall have to play, who our rivals are playing and what Millwall will need to do to get into the playoffs.

Now, I’m not going to be making predictions, bold claims or prophecies. The Championship is not sympathetic to those who dare claim certainties, it’s a league that has made fools of many an expert.

What follows is simply my thoughts on the run in, the path that those chasing promotion have to take.

Does Form Count?

News Shopper:

Like I said, there are a lot of teams still in with a reasonable shout of going for the tip six. Fulham, in third, are four points ahead of Brentford and despite their tricky run in, I’m counting them as one of the four sides who will still be playing after the 46 games.

This leaves three places for eight sides: Brentford, Nottingham Forest, Preston, Bristol City, Millwall, Cardiff, Blackburn and Swansea.

Strangely, at this late point in the season, almost all of these sides are out of form. Millwall are the only side with more than one win the last five games.

Preston, Blackburn and Cardiff have one win in five. Brentford and Forest have one win in six. Bristol City have one in seven, Swansea have just one in nine.

Millwall sit eighth in the form table over the last five games. All of our rivals are in the bottom half. 

Bristol City and Preston, Millwall’s closest rivals are 23rd and 22nd respectively in that form table, picking up only two and three points in the last five games.

Forest, Brentford, Swansea and Blackburn have picked up just six points in that time, Cardiff have picked up five.

So, going by form, Millwall may well be in poll position, even if we have been out of sorts in the last few weeks. Of course, form is changeable, and anyone can surprise you in the Championship. 

But if Millwall can build on their big win on Friday and recover their form from early in Rowett’s tenure, then that momentum could be enough to propel us into the top six.

Who Plays Who?

I don’t mean to start jinxing matters, but on paper, Millwall do have one of the most ‘favourable’ run ins, if there is such a thing in the Championship.

Below is a fixture list, with games against direct playoff rivals in bold:

Millwall Fixtures: 

Derby h, Barnsley a, Swansea h, Charlton a, Boro h, Hull a, Blackburn h, QPR a, Huddersfield h.


Brentford Fixtures: 

Fulham a, West Brom h, Reading a, Wigan h, Charlton h, Derby a, Preston h, Stoke a, Barnsley h.

Nottingham Forest Fixtures:

Sheffield Wednesday a, Huddersfield h, Bristol City h, Derby a, Fulham h, Preston a, Swansea h, Barnsley a, Stoke h.

Preston Fixtures:

Luton a, Cardiff h, Derby h, Huddersfield a, Wednesday a, Forest h, Brentford a, Birmingham h, Bristol City a.

Bristol City Fixtures:

Blackburn a, Wednesday h, Forest a, Cardiff h, Hull h, Boro a, Stoke h, Swansea a, Preston h.

Cardiff Fixtures:

Leeds h, Preston a, Charlton h, Bristol a, Blackburn h, Fulham a, Derby h, Boro a, Hull h.

Blackburn Fixtures:

Bristol h, Wigan a, Barnsley a, Leeds h, Cardiff a, West Brom h, Millwall a, Reading h, Luton a.

Swansea Fixtures:

Boro a, Luton h, Millwall a, Wednesday h, Birmingham a, Leeds h, Forest a, Bristol h, Reading a.

So, Millwall only have two games against two playoff rivals, and two of the lower ones in that. All others have at around four games against promotion chasing sides. 

It would appear that Millwall have a real possibility to take the promotion push into our own hands, by doing something we so rarely seem to do – win games that we are expected to.

Hull, Charlton and Middlesbrough have some of the worst form in the league over the last five to ten games and on paper, those fixtures look highly winnable. 

Barnsley and QPR have both recently improved and will be very tricky away ties.

If Millwall can make the most of home advantage (we play five of nine at home) and combine that with the improved performances on the road that we have seen under Rowett, there is no reason that we can’t get ourselves in a great position.

Points On The Board

News Shopper:

Let’s look at the numbers.

Over the last seven seasons, an average of 74.4 points has secured sides 6th place. 

This means Millwall would need around 20 or 21 more points. That is either six wins and two or three draws, or seven wins from the remaining nine games.

That is a tall order. It would be the best run of form that Millwall have had all season. Our current highest points haul from a nine-game run is 18, dating from Rowett’s first game in charge against Stoke to our 0-1 away win at Derby (Won 5, Drew 3, Lost 1).

It’s clearly not impossible to replicate that form, but it will be a tough test to keep standards and performances high. Millwall cannot afford to drop easy points or miss big chances. 

Should the players need some inspiration however, they just need to look at the Championship table from this time last year.

After 37 games, Aston Villa were in eighth, with 54 points, two points behind Derby in sixth.

Admittedly, Villa were already on a three-game winning run, and had a budget that dwarfs Millwall, but their 10-game winning run gave them the momentum they needed to go on and eventually beat Derby at Wembley, securing promotion.

Millwall are not in an impossible position. The Championship is tight as ever and any slip up can be punished. Luck has helped to get us this far as we approach crunch time. Let’s hope a little more luck, and a lot more hard work, can push us forward.