|Millwall 3 v 4 Ipswich Town|
Tuesday, 15th August 2017 Kick-off 19:45
Millwall 3-4 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Tuesday, 15th Aug 2017 22:01
Jordan Spence headed an 88th minute winner as the Blues ran out 4-3 winners of a remarkable game against Millwall at the Den. The Lions went ahead through Jed Wallace in the opening minute, Joe Garner equalised three minutes later before Martyn Waghorn put the Blues in front, Aiden O’Brien levelled for the home side, then Waghorn restored Town’s lead in first-half injury time. Millwall made it 3-3 via sub Tom Elliott but Spence won it with his first goal for the Blues with two minutes remaining.
Mick McCarthy named the expected side with all four of his frontline strikers starting. David McGoldrick partnered Garner up front with Waghorn on the right and Freddie Sears on the left.
Flynn Downes travelled having suffered knocks at Barnsley on Saturday but wasn’t in the 18 with Grant Ward alongside Cole Skuse in the middle of midfield.
At the back, Spence joined skipper Luke Chambers at centre-half with Dominic Iorfa at right-back and Jonas Knudsen on the left. Bartosz Bialkowski was in goal.
Bersant Celina missed out as he is again unwell, while Michael Crowe is the sub keeper with Dean Gerken missing the trip for personal reasons.
With 10 first-team players currently unavailable - Celina, Gerken, Downes, Tommy Smith, Adam Webster, Teddy Bishop, Tom Adeyemi, Luke Hyam, Andre Dozzell and Emyr Huws - Town named a very inexperienced bench with Myles Kenlock having made the largest number senior appearances for the Blues.
Millwall took the lead with the game’s first attack in the 44th second. O’Brien crossed from the left, Knudsen challenged with Steve Morison and the ball dropped for Wallace eight yards out. The former Pompey man was able to wait for it to bounce before hitting a shot which appeared to catch two Town defenders on its way past Bialkowski and into the net.
Millwall’s lead lasted only three minutes. After receiving the ball from Iorfa midway inside the Lions' half Garner struck what looked like a speculative shot from almost 30 yards out which deflected off Shaun Hutchinson and wrong-footed Jordan Archer in the Millwall goal, who dived beyond the ball as it flew past him to his left.
The game continued to be an end-to-end affair, Ward eventually clearing after a minor scramble in the Town box.
On 12 O’Brien turned the ball over the bar when well-placed 10 yards out, the ball having broken to him from the right. The Irish U21 international will feel he ought to have done better.
Ward picked up the game’s first yellow card in the 24th minute for a high boot as he challenged Shaun Williams on halfway.
A minute later, Iorfa blocked a powerful George Saville shot from just outside the area with the Lions having most of the ball and looking the more dangerous of the sides.
On 28 Shaun Hutchinson headed Williams’s freekick from the left over the bar at the far post, Iorfa having fouled James Meredith.
The Millwall left-back was booked a minute later for an obvious dive as he chased a return pass into the area.
Having rarely threatened since their equaliser, the Blues took the lead in the 34th minute. Garner picked up the ball from a loose Saville throw on the Blues’ left and fed the overlapping Ward.
The former Spurs man whipped over a low ball which Waghorn slammed into the net at the near post having run across Hutchinson.
But as with Millwall’s earlier lead, Town’s advantage wasn’t to last too long. Two minutes had past when Bialkowski saved Lee Gregory’s shot down to his left and then scooped the loose ball away when grounded when it appeared Knudsen might have been in a position to put it behind.
Saville subsequently struck a shot from a tight angle on the right which hit the bar and bounced down to O’Brien, who looped goalwards with Spence only able to slam into the roof of the net as he sought to clear.
What had started as an open game had become even more open with both teams looking likely to score every time they went forward. On 37 Garner whipped over a cross from the left which Waghorn just failed to reach.
In injury time Knudsen crossed from the left and Waghorn headed wide at the far post but in the final moments of the half the last week’s signing from Rangers gave the Blues the lead for the second time, via a goal which was mainly down to the skill and persistence of McGoldrick.
The Irish international looked second best to reach Garner’s pass into his path on the right of the area but beat Meredith for strength, then put the ball to one side of Hutchinson and ran the other and took it away from the keeper, before cutting it back to Waghorn, who turned in his third goal for his new club.
Referee James Linington ended what had been a pulsating half soon afterwards with the Town support still cheering the goal.
At times the period had resembled a basketball match with one side scoring at one and and the other doing the same at the other.
Town boss Mick McCarthy will have been delighted with the quality of his attackers’ creativity and goals but equally unhappy and frustrated by the manner in which his makeshift defence had conceded.
Millwall manager Neil Harris will have felt much the same. Further goals after the break at both ends in the second half appeared a certainty.
It was the Lions who threatened first after the restart, O’Brien cutting in from the left and hitting a shot which had Bialkowski scampering across his goal to palm behind.
Match Gallery: 8 photos
Millwall continued to take the second half to Town, Morison seeing a shot deflect wide on the hour after the latest in a succession of corners.
A minute later, Spence blocked O’Brien’s effort at the near post as the winger looked to turn in a cross from the left, then from the resultant flag-kick O’Brien’s near-post overhead kick flew just wide.
Town should have made it 4-2 with their first chance of the half, Garner getting in front of his man but heading over from Ward’s left-sided corner.
Millwall almost got back on terms in the 68th minute when Saville unleashed a powerful strike from distance which deflected off a Town defender and wrong-footed Bialkowski, who just did enough to take the sting out of it before diving on it before it could trickle over the line.
Moments later Garner was booked for an aerial clash with Byron Webster, then on 74 the home side swapped Meredith for Shane Ferguson, then a minute later switched Morison for Elliott and O’Brien for Fred Odyedinma, while Town replaced Waghorn with Danny Rowe.
The Blues had been under pressure for much of the half but had withstood everything thrown at them. However, with 10 minutes remaining the Lions equalised. A freekick from deep wasn’t dealt with and the ball dropped to sub Elliott at close range at the far post from where he made no mistake.
Town finally won it in the 88th minute. Elliott and Ward tangled as they battled for the ball on the Blues’ left following a corner, referee Linington somewhat harshly penalising the Millwall man and booking him.
Ward sent over the freekick and Spence rose highest to nod past Archer at the far post, the former West Ham man’s first goal for the Blues.
Wallace crashed a freekick from a couple of yards outside the area into the Town wall during five minutes of injury time and the Blues had to defend two more set pieces - Gregory heading a chance well wide after a corner - before referee Linington brought a game few will forget to an end, the home fans applauding their side as the Town supporters cheered theirs.
It was probably inevitable that the second half wouldn’t quite live up to the first. With Town having grabbed the lead at the end of the first period, the Lions took the game to the Blues after the bre, who repelled everything thrown at them - although not always entirely confidently - before Millwall grabbed their equaliser.
Town’s winner came against the run of play on the balance of the second half - a draw would probably have been a fair result - but was the type of set-piece goal which the Blues need to score, the sort that was their stock in trade during the play-off season.
Ultimately, the difference between the sides, neither of whom defended particularly well as the scoreline illustrates, while Town rarely kept the ball as well as they have in previous matches this season, was the better finishing from the Blues, who had fewer chances than their opponents but took most of them.
The win was Town’s fourth a row, the first time they have done that at the start of a season since the 1999/00 promotion campaign when they won their first five in all competitions. They last won four on the trot at any time in August 2015.
The result leaves them third in the division on goal difference, a terrific start to any campaign with fifth-bottom Brentford - who drew 2-2 at home to Bristol City this evening - visiting Portman Road on Saturday.
Mil lwall: Archer, McLaughlin, Hutchinson, Webster, Meredith (Ferguson 74), Wallace, Saville, Williams, O’Brien (Onyedinma 75), Morison (c) (Elliott 75), Gregory. Unused: King, Craig, Thompson, Cooper.
Town: Bialkowski, Iorfa, Spence, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Skuse, Ward, Waghorn (Rowe 75), Sears, McGoldrick, Garner. Unused: Crowe, Nydam, Kenlock, Morris, McDonnell. Referee: James Linington (Newport, Isle of Wight). Att: 11,819.
Photo: Action Images
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