STEVE Morison’s early double gave Millwall their fourth win in a row at The Den to move the Lions level on points with Sheffield United in sixth place in the Sky Bet League One table.
Only goal difference keeps them out of the play-off places, and only some sloppy finishing against Doncaster prevented them from making a bigger dent in that.
Morison opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he capitalised on a mistake by Doncaster goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann.
The striker had to wait just four minutes later to double the lead when he volleyed in a brilliant second at the back post as the away side gave him too much space.
Millwall should have gone in at the break much more comfortably ahead but Morison, Lee Gregory and Aiden O’Brien all missed good chances against Darren Ferguson’s strugglers.
Doncaster made a far better game of it in the second half and though they did carve out a number of shooting opportunities it was another luckless away performance and they remain in trouble in the relegation zone as the size of Ferguson’s task becomes ever more apparent.
The early bird…
This was Millwall’s sixth game in 24 days and Neil Harris freshened up his side after the energy-sapping win over Sheffield United on Saturday.
Carlos Edwards was restored to right-back following his one-game ban and the Millwall boss decided to start Shane Ferguson in place of Fred Onyedinma, with O’Brien shifting to the right wing.
Maybe after the recent habit of conceding goals in the last 10 minutes of games Millwall were determined to avoid that worry by wrapping this one up early.
They were given a major helping hand towards that objective by a goalkeeper who had conceded four at Peterborough at the weekend when, just four minutes in, he dallied on the ball on the six-yard line to allow an alert Morison nip in to score.
Morison’s second four minutes later owed everything to technique as he tracked Ferguson’s drifted cross to the back post and cracked a superb fist-time volley low to Stuckmann’s right.
If that seemed to set the scene for the floodgates to open, it didn’t quite happen.
And, a few days before Halloween, the away side showed they were capable of delivering a few scares of their own. Nathan Tyson had a couple of half-chances in the box early in the second half and, for a split second, it looked like midfielder Harry Middleton had halved the deficit but it was the outside of the net he had shaken rather than the inside.
That was enough to prompt one worried punter to bark “wakey, wakey” from behind the dugout but, again in a game at home, the away side failed to properly test Archer.
Danny N’Guessan came on and was a magnet for the home crowd’s derision but his flicked header to no one that trickled wide was emblematic of his side’s problems and when efforts from Harry Forrester and Tyson fizzed inches wide of Archer’s right-hand post they probably knew it wasn’t their night.
Plan A obliterated
When Ferguson said before the game he would urge his side to frustrate The Den crowd it’s fair to assume he didn’t envisage a situation where Morison would be on a hat-trick with barely eight minutes on the clock.
Ferguson had set his side up in a 3-5-2 system with Richard Wellens at the base of the midfield. The plan had been to retain possession but Morison’s early double meant they had to push forward and, while they did occasionally threaten in the first half, it was Millwall who could have at least doubled their lead before the break. That was about the only frustrating aspect for most of the 8,294 in attendance.
Most of them would have been scratching their heads, too, wondering how Morison didn’t make it 3-0 in 28th minute when he side-footed wide from Gregory’s teasing cross.
Millwall’s Ferguson was a lively presence in the opening 45 minutes, often adding verticality to attacks when he got on the ball, though admittedly he was aided by Doncaster offering him much too much space.
Morison, again, could have made it three after Ferguson dribbled the ball deep into Doncaster’s half before playing in Joe Martin who had made an astute run from deep. The left-back, growing more and more into the role, produced a beautiful curling cross that the former Leeds striker couldn’t keep down.
Morison’s strike partner Gregory was also guilty when he found space at the back post but Stuckmann was quick off his line to divert the ball away for a corner.
Gregory was the supplier minutes later but this time it was O’Brien’s turn to miss.
Man of the match
Even without his goals Morison was simply unplayable at times.
He has the uncanny ability not only to win his headers but also ensure that generally he directs them to whichever teammate is in his rearview mirror.
There is a growing authority about this side at home and Morison is embodying that as much as anyone at the moment.