MILLWALL bounced back from Tuesday night’s defeat at Fleetwood in perfect fashion with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Bury at The Den.
Shaun Wiilliams’ goal in the 14th minute was enough to claim the three points for Neil Harris' side and stretch their unbeaten home run to eight games.
Jordan Archer produced a magnificent double save in the second minute to keep out Bury before Fred Onyedinma and Lee Gregory had two chances in quick succession to put Millwall ahead only to be denied by Daniel Bachmann.
Bury shaded the possession but couldn’t break down the Lions, who were disciplined and organised to prevent 12-goal Leon Clarke from adding to his season’s tally.
Millwall dropped deeper into their own half in the last 15 minutes but Harris will be pleased that they never buckled under pressure.
Surprise on the bench
There was an interesting inclusion among the Millwall substitutes as Harris shifted around things with injuries and Joe Martin suspended.
Noah Chesmain is a 17-year-old left-back who has scored a couple of cracking goals for the U21s this season. He was on the first-team bench for the first time this afternoon and came on for Shane Ferguson, who ran himself, or more specifically, was run into the ground by Joseph Dodoo.
There was a bit of chatter on Twitter before the match about the decision to rest Steve Morison, but Harris said afterwards the striker wasn't well enough to start. Aiden O’Brien moved to his favourite position in a front two alongside Gregory. Morison has been Millwall’s primary ball winner up front this season, and is one of the top players in the league statistically in terms of winning attacking challenges.
Morison received applause from the home fans when he went out to warm up, but on the pitch it was O’Brien and Gregory doing their best to put the heat on Bury’s defence.
The away side were leaving quite a bit of space for Millwall’s front two to run into, and Gregory ought to have added to his 10 goals when he picked up his strike partner’s neat no-look pass in the 13th minute. But Bachmann was quick off his line to make a save at the striker’s feet.
He also made a smart stop to deny Onyedinma who had raced onto George Saville’s through ball.
If it looked like Bachmann was about to produce another of those inspired performances from a goalkeeper at The Den, Williams’ snap shot in the 14th minute threw doubt on that. Bachmann seemed to be caught by surprise as he was beaten at his near post by the captain’s shot.
In the second half Gregory and O’Brien, after Morison had come on for Onyedinma, almost conjured the sweetest of counter-attack goals but Gregory’s cross from the right was inches too far in front of his team-mate.
Before all that Archer produced one of the saves of the season to prevent Bury going in front from their first attack.
Most of the crowd had begun to bury their heads in their hands when it seemed as though Peter Clarke’s header from a few yards out was destined for all the space to Archer’s right and the back of the net.
But the former Tottenham keeper somehow changed direction to reach across and palm the ball off the line. As if that wasn’t impressive enough he leapt up to push the rebound away for a corner.
It’s not often a goalkeeper gets an ovation from the stands for a save but The Den crowd were unanimously on their feet to show their appreciation for Archer. It really was a stunning cameo and the perfect tonic for him after he let Bobby Grant’s corner float straight into his net at Fleetwood.
Man of the match
There were a number of clear candidates but even apart from his goal Williams was superb. He wore the captain’s armband with distinction, setting the example with the work he did closing down Bury’s midfield.
He also had to be disciplined and diligent to be aware of threats out wide and with Ed Upson and Onyedinma helped out his full-backs as they were tested by Dodoo and on the other side by the runs from deep of Chris Hussey.
He struck the ball really well for his goal, taking a chance that Bachmann might have left his near post unguarded.
Williams was constantly looking around to see where the danger was as Bury had more of the ball. The midfielder set the tone for what was a victory built on supreme discipline and organisation.