MILLWALL stretched their unbeaten run to six games with a tense 1-0 win over Sheffield United at The Den on Saturday afternoon.
Chris Taylor scored on his first appearance for the Lions after his move from Blackburn Rovers this week to keep their Sky Bet League One promotion drive on track.
Taylor gave Millwall the lead in the second minute when he fired the ball into the top corner from Steve Morison’s cross.
Taylor then almost added an assist when he played a pass through to Lee Gregory but the striker had to stretch to reach it and could only prod the ball wide.
Millwall had two excellent chances to again double their lead in the space of 30 seconds at the half-hour mark. First Ben Thompson and Jimmy Abdou won the ball back in midfield with the latter playing a pass forward to Gregory, but George Long was swiftly off his line to save.
Moments later the goalkeeper was facing down Morison in front of him but he produced the same result.
Sheffield United striker Conor Sammon had the ball in the back of the net as his side pressed but the offside flag had already been raised.
And in added time at the end of the first period, Taylor rose well at the back post but just couldn’t keep his header down from Shane Ferguson’s cross.
After the break Sammon sprinted away from Byron Webster but Mark Beevers did well to read the danger and get across to block the striker’s attempted pass towards Billy Sharp.
Sheffield United upped the ante as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, and Joe Martin had to climb to head away Matt Done's cross to the back post.
The Blades' most likely route back into the contest always looked like it would be through set-pieces, but Jordan Archer's safe handling and the defensive diligence typified by Mahlon Romeo helped ensure a seventh clean sheet in the last 10 games.
Millwall had half-chances to extend their advantage late on. Taylor shot over from the edge of the box and Ed Upson, on for Ferguson, couldn’t keep the ball down when the Blades defence opened up in front of him in injury time.
Taylor makes dream start on second “debut”
There is a sizeable Jed Wallace-shaped void in Millwall’s attack, at least for the next four fixtures, but Taylor was determined it wouldn't be apparent here.
The Wolves winger was involved in half of the 22 goals Millwall scored in the 14 games he played for the club.
It was always going to happen, but there were still 15 more points to play for during his scheduled stay.
Taylor came straight into the side after only training for the first time with his new – and some old – team-mates on Thursday. Perhaps that also says a little bit about the current levels of Fred Onyedinma and Aiden O’Brien, below what they have been at times this season.
Taylor last featured on February 21 when he was sent off playing for Blackburn in the fifth round of the FA Cup against West Ham.
And it took him less than two minutes to banish that memory. He had got his first touch 20 seconds into the contest and drew a foul. Soon after he was running from deep and when Morison’s cross missed Abdou, Taylor was there to emphatically finish past Long. It was the dream start.
And it almost got so much better in the ninth minute. Maybe Taylor will feel that with so much space behind Sheffield United’s defence he put slightly too much pace on the pass towards Gregory. Millwall’s top scorer reached the ball a fraction of a second before Long but his toe-poked effort went just wide of the post.
In the 29th minute Gregory superbly flicked the ball to himself from Abdou’s pass but Long anticipated and spread himself to make the block. Morison’s was arguably the more gilt-edged as he had more time and space, but credit must still go to the goalkeeper for his save.
Just before the hour mark Taylor gave the impression he’d been brushing up on the template of the player the home crowd like when he crunched into a couple of tackles and was then fouled by Done, who was booked.
All in all, it was a seamless transition after the loss of Wallace.
Man of the match
Thompson displayed all the attributes which show why Neil Harris and the coaching staff rate him so highly.
With Thompson, work rate is a given, but then there are all the other little parts in his game. He wins far more headers in midfield, for instance, than his height suggests he has a right to.
Somehow, despite appearing to cover every part of the pitch, he still had the energy in the 82nd minute to drive deep into Sheffield United’s half to win a corner. That added stamina has come as he has racked up the competitive minutes.
This was a hugely physical encounter and Thompson didn't shirk anything.
What was also notable was his mature and patient use of the ball. It was close to the complete midfield performance.