MILLWALL’S unbeaten start to the season came to a brutal end as they lost 5-1 to Peterborough on Tuesday evening.
Peterborough were 3-0 up by the break after goals from Marcus Maddison, Paul Taylor and Gwion Edwards.
They went 4-0 in front in the 52nd minute when Edwards got his second and Nichols made it five 15 minutes later.
Steve Morison got a consolation for Millwall late on, but there were few away fans in the ground by that stage after a chastening evening for them and their side.
This was a result that was difficult to see coming. Millwall were prolific in their first three games, scoring nine goals, but showing some defensive vulnerabilities in the 2-2 draw with MK Dons on Saturday.
Peterborough boss Gavin McCann obviously closely scrutinised that performance and he sent his side out with clear attacking intent.
Neil Harris said after that frenetic first half at Stadium MK his side needed to learn from that period when they gave away two goals in five minutes, but there was little time for lessons between the two fixtures and on Tuesday night they conceded two in a minute and three in the opening 20 against a rampant home side.
There will be a lot of soul-searching to find out what went wrong here but the reality is Peterborough were far slicker, their attacking players combined far more effectively and they could have scored more.
Millwall will have to find answers quickly before Sheffield United visit The Den on Saturday.
Last season in this fixture between the sides there were over a combined 40 attempts on goal and from the kick-off it seemed Peterborough were determined to fill a similar quota on their own.
Harris had altered his starting XI from the weekend with Shaun Williams out with a head injury and David Worrall left on the bench, Joe Martin starting at left-back and Jimmy Abdou in midfield.
Peterborough eschewed the new one-man kick-off to immediately launch a three-pronged attack from the centre circle and within minutes Maddison tried a shot from wide at the right that Jordan Archer nervously watched clear his crossbar.
Peterborough should have gone ahead in the fourth minute when after a swift exchange of passes in midfield Nichols put Taylor through on goal but the forward mis-cued badly wide.
Two minutes later the home side did go in front and it emanated again from the right through Maddison when his cross aimed at the far post cleared everyone and beat Archer who couldn’t get across his goal in time to keep the ball out.
Millwall simply weren’t dealing with the movement of Taylor, Nichols and Edwards and a minute after the opener they fell two behind when Taylor finished after being put through by Nichols.
The Lions were stunned but created a number of first-half chances of their own.
Aiden O’Brien found himself with just Ben Alnwick to beat but was pushed wide and the goalkeeper saved his shot. The ball fell to Shane Ferguson who twisted to try to make space to shoot and when he was crowded out he spotted Jimmy Abdou to his right, but the midfielder lifted his effort well over.
But Peterborough were unrelentingly positive and made it 3-0 in the 20th minute when Edwards headed Nichols’ cross towards goal, Archer getting a touch but failing to keep it out.
In the 35th minute Ben Thompson shot wide from 25 yards before he had to clear the ball off the line after a Peterborough corner.
At the other end Millwall’s luck was summed up when Byron Webster’s volley from Ferguson’s corner seemed to come off Lee Gregory as the ball looked destined for the back of the net.
Harris brought Gregg Wylde on at the break for Martin and it was Millwall who had the first real chance. After Abdou had failed to connect properly with Mahlon Romeo’s cross Gregory swivelled to shoot towards goal but Chris Forrester headed off the line.
But Peterborough, as they had done in the first half, again punished the away side and it was the same protagonists, Nichols this time sliding a ball across goal for Edwards to slam home his second past a stranded Archer.
Peterborough made it 5-0 midway through the second half when Nichols finished to an empty net after Archer had made a sprawling save to block Jermaine Anderson’s close-range shot.
Harris introduced Fred Onyedinma for O’Brien before Morison found room in the box to finish from close range.
But there was one final blow for the Lions when minutes after coming on for his competitive debut Shaun Hutchinson went down off the ball before hobbling off.
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