There has been a sense around The Den that Millwall’s performances have not been yielding the results they deserve in the Championship and for more than 70 minutes here it looked like the home fans would be left gnashing their teeth in frustration once again.
Neil Harris’s promoted side squandered enough chances to win seven or eight matches before Aiden O’Brien drilled home a deflected Fred Onyedminma cross from six yards to provide a deserved winner.
Somewhat remarkably, considering what had gone before, it was the first goal Leeds United, who arrived as league leaders but looked anything but, had conceded in 613 minutes of Championship football.
In a decidedly prescient effort to breach the Leeds portcullis, Harris made two switches from midweek, with Onyedminma and O’Brien replacing Shane Ferguson and the suspended Lee Gregory. His opposite number, Thomas Christiansen, made just one change to the Leeds side that beat Birmingham in midweek; Conor Shaughnessy replacing Liam Cooper, with Luke Ayling taking the injured skipper’s armband.
Leeds were made to look very ordinary indeed during a first half in which Millwall’s failure to score seemed little short of astonishing. Yet to get off the mark this season, Steve Morison could conceivably have had a hat-trick against his former club, who were repeatedly let off the hook. After just six minutes, Millwall’s captain had a goal disallowed for offside, rifling into the roof of the net from a tight angle when Leeds goalkeeper Felix Wiedweld spilled a long-range effort from Conor McLaughlin. A downward header two minutes before the break forced Wiedweld to claw the ball around his upright for a corner, but the pick of Morison’s chances had come earlier. The striker looked incredulous upon somehow contriving not to get his toe on a Jed Wallace cross that could scarcely have been more inviting if it had arrived first class in an embossed envelope with a self-addressed RSVP. Wallace was understandably furious.
While Morison must have been wondering what he’d done to upset the football deities, several of his team-mates also went close. Shaun Williams had a free-kick deflected narrowly wide for a corner, before an insoucient swish of his left boot from at least 30 yards sent Wiedweld scrambling backwards to palm the dropping ball over his crossbar.
Leeds manager Christiansen rang the changes at half-time, bringing on Stuart Dallas and Kemar Roofe, but the Millwall onslaught continued in a second half that began at a ferocious lick and rarely let up. No sooner had the second period started when Wallace brought a smart save out of Wiedweld with a surface-to-air screamer at the near post before unmarked centre-half Shaun Hutchinson thumped an inviting effort from eight yards straight at the relieved goalkeeper. Shortly before the hour mark, Wallace popped up again, rattling a low drive against the foot of the post with Wiedweld beaten. The traffic in south London was all one-way and George Saville missed a glorious chance to put the game totally beyond Leeds, blazing over after being played through on goal when scoring looked the simpler task.
Not long after O’Brien had put his side in front with his close-range poacher’s effort, Leeds were forced to play the final 10 minutes a man down, after talismanic centre-half Vincent Jansson was forced off when all three substitutes had been used. Deep in injury time, Millwall survived a scare when a Eunan O’Kane free-kick looked to be dropping invitingly for Pierre-Michel Lasogga, but Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer was on hand to clean up. It ensured victory and was no more than the home side deserved.
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