MILLWALL won their second league game in four days as they edged out Port Vale 2-0 in an intense contest at Vale Park.
Mark Beevers gave the Lions the lead on 57 minutes before Lee Gregory’s penalty sealed the victory in injury-time.
It was a deserved three points for the away side, but Port Vale missed a glorious chance to level in the second half when Uche Ikpeazu blazed over Jordan Archer’s bar from six yards.
And substitute Gregory made sure that it would be three wins in a row in all competitions when he went around Jak Alnwick to earn his side a spot-kick. Gregory had missed from 12 yards against Coventry but made no mistake this time, finishing low to Alnwick’s right.
Somehow the game had got to half-time scoreless after a flurry of chances in the first 15 minutes could have seen Millwall four up.
First Aiden O’Brien saw an effort headed off the line by Richard Duffy before Ed Upson tested Alnwick from 20 yards. The keeper tipped that over the bar but really excelled himself moments later to somehow palm Steve Morison’s header off the line.
Upson then thought he had scored when he shot from eight yards but Carl Dickinson executed a last-gasp clearance.
Morison went close again when he headed a corner inches wide, this time with Alnwick beaten.
But Port Vale almost snatched the lead at the break when Ikpeazu burst past Beevers to cross for Enoch Andoh whose header from a few yards out was brilliantly tipped over by Archer.
The second half started less frenetically but Millwall slowly built the pressure on Vale and Beevers gave his side the lead when he powered home Shaun Williams’ corner.
Vale had that Ikpeazu chance to eqaualise but the final score didn’t flatter the away side.
Millwall boss Neil Harris kept changes to the minimum despite the squad having just three days to rest after Saturday. Sid Nelson was given every chance to make the starting line-up but hadn’t recovered from bruising to his ribs after picking up a knock at Gresty Road, so Byron Webster started beside Beevers.
Upson was again on the left with O’Brien up front and those two will wonder how they didn’t give Millwall the lead in the first half.
Neil Harris was happy to let Crewe have the ball last Saturday knowing they didn’t really have the firepower to pose a consistent threat to his back four, but it was evident from almost the first moments at Vale Park that this would be a completely different game with both sides committed to almost all-out attack at times.
This was the type of football that Harris spoke about wanting his side to play, and O’Brien is key to that style. He linked up well with Morison, who also attracted the home fans’ derision in the first half after going in hard on Duffy, even exchanging a few words with a section of supporters as he waited to throw the ball back to the home side. It might have been flirting with referee Oliver Langford’s notebook – but that aggression is something Harris wants in his side.
Beevers the leader
Even before he put his side ahead he was a mountain at the back and whatever happens Millwall fans will be glad he is committed to the club after being linked with a move back north some weeks ago.
He was involved in a running battle with powerful Port Vale striker Ikpeazu all evening and never once looked like backing off.
A key feature for Millwall this season, even in defeat, has been the emergence of players at different times. It was Fred Onyedinma in sparkling form in the early parts of the campaign before Archer began showing that he has the capacity to develop into a really top-class keeper.
O’Brien was the deciding element in the game at Gresty Road – and overall that has to be a source of huge satisfaction for Harris.
There’s certainly more of it from Millwall after they appeared ragged against opponents at The Den in August. There’s also more competitive areas in the squad. Ben Thompson did well when he made his first start, but Upson came back in when his form improved.
Shane Ferguson came on again for Onyedinma and he could pressure the 18-year-old’s place this weekend. Webster was also really solid at Vale Park and, with Harris showing he’s not afraid to leave players out if others emerge, Nelson might have difficulty getting back in.
There will be selection dilemmas this Saturday… but that will make a change from worrying about home form.