MILLWALL came from two goals down to dramatically defeat Bury 3-2 at Gigg Lane on Saturday afternoon.
A James Vaughan double in the second half looked like it would give Bury their first win in 14 games, before Shaun Williams gave Millwall hope when he scored from the spot.
Calum Butcher levelled with four minutes left before another substitute, Aiden O’Brien, prodded home two minutes into injury-time to hand Millwall their first league win in three games.
Millwall got their first chance after just 12 seconds when Fred Onyedinma was fouled on the edge of the box, but Williams couldn’t keep his free-kick down.
There was a moment of controversy in the 15th minute after Onyedinma clashed in the box with Bury defender Niall Maher, who stayed down. Referee Chris Sarginson pointed to the spot to the disbelief of the home side, before he consulted his linesman and reversed the decision.
Millwall were dominant in the first half but Kelvin Etuhu should have played Vaughan through on goal rather than trickle a weak shot that Jordan Archer easily saved. Neil Danns also saw a drive deflected wide after Bury had forced two corners.
Towards the end of the first half Onyedinma twice got his head to crosses but couldn’t keep the ball down and then David Worrall, against one of his former club, linked up with Harry Smith but fired well wide.
Smith was wide with another header from Shane Ferguson’s corner after the break, before Joe Martin aimed a free-kick from 25 yards towards the top corner that Ben Williams had to tip over his crossbar.
Bury went ahead in the 61st minute when Vaughan’s header from Danny Mayor’s cross hit the crossbar and then seemed to come off Archer before the ball went over the line. Scott Burgess had a chance to immediately double the lead but he fired over from inside the box, before Vaughan’s effort from 20 yards went over.
Vaughan didn’t let the next chance go to waste, as he darted into the centre of the penalty area and finished past Archer.
Millwall got a route back into the game when Maher handled Onyedinma’s cross on the line and was sent off, and Williams beat Bury goalkeeper Williams from the spot.
Butcher equalised in the 86th minute when he headed home Ferguson’s free-kick, before O’Brien broke Bury hearts and extended their losing league run to 10 games – the longest in League One since Stockport County in 2009-10 – when he scored his eighth of the season in the 92nd minute.
Both sides went into the game without key players, but Bury’s squad was far more depleted, with six first-team players out through injury or suspension. Millwall travelled north for the second successive week without Steve Morison, while Lee Gregory was at Gigg Lane but sitting in the stands.
Jimmy Abdou made his first league start since the 2-1 defeat at Walsall on October 1 with Neil Harris seeking to stiffen his midfield. That meant Ben Thompson was on the bench alongside O’Brien, with Onyedinma starting up front partnering Smith.
It was Onyedinma who was the most creative force in the first half and the one who looked most likely to open the scoring. It was perhaps telling that there weren’t too many Millwall protests when Sarginson changed his mind over the penalty, but the away side had enough of the play to at least force Williams into making a save.
Instead, despite sending numerous crosses into the Bury box, Smith or Onyedinma headed off target or didn’t quite read the trajectory of the deliveries, with Ferguson showing his frustration at one point as yet another ball came back out to him.
That was the pattern of the opening 45 minutes: Bury were getting enough defenders in the way to make clean headers difficult, or they were clearing the ball to the edge of the box where Millwall, invited to press high, regained possession and the process was repeated.
Bury had no out ball, and the one time they did break Etuhu showed breath-taking selfishness to try to go on his own instead of slipping Vaughan through. There really was no excuse for it with his side under such pressure and finding it difficult to get out of their own half.
The irony when they did take the lead was that it came after all those Millwall crosses had failed to yield anything. Archer was unlucky but suddenly Bury looked dangerous on the break and after going close twice Vaughan looked like he had finally ended his side’s nine-game losing streak in the league when he finished Burgess’ cross.
Millwall were literally handed a way back into the game after Onyedinma had lifted the ball over Williams and Maher prevented O'Brien from finishing. In front of 442 Millwall fans in the away end Williams emphatically scored his fourth goal of the season.
Harris sent on Alfie Pavey as Millwall played four up front. Butcher had come on for Abdou and connected superbly with Ferguson’s cross to score his second goal for Millwall before O’Brien stole an unlikely three points.
Image source: ©Millwall FC