LEE Gregory missed a late penalty as Millwall came from behind to claim a point against a stubborn Crewe side at The Den on Saturday afternoon.
The Lions looked like they were going to nick it after referee Christopher Kavanagh had awarded his third penalty of the game, but Gregory's spot-kick hit the post.
Millwall should have been in front at the break, but Ben Garratt made impressive saves from Aiden O’Brien, Lee Gregory and Steve Morison and wasn’t troubled by a couple of efforts from long range from Shaun Williams.
Crewe went in front in the 59th minute when Jordan Archer fouled George Cooper in the box and Brad Inman slammed the penalty into the top corner.
Millwall were level just five minutes later, Gregory firing low into the bottom corner from 12 yards after Garratt was deemed to have fouled Byron Webster.
Jed Wallace should have given Millwall the lead with just over 10 minutes left but he was off target after Morison had picked his run out in the box.
Crewe handled in the area with just under five minutes left, but Gregory couldn’t punish them.
This was the second time in his last four games that Archer has given away a penalty but if he was at fault against Gillingham this time he could have legitimate complaint about why his defence left so much space for two Crewe attackers to run into. Cooper beat him to the ball and went down. It looked like the Crewe winger had made the most of it and after Kavanagh had pointed to the spot maybe he sensed the same as he only cautioned Archer.
Five minutes later he evened the score when he penalised Garratt. The decision looked harsh but Gregory didn’t care and confidently slammed home his 15th goal of the season.
The penalty drama wasn’t over, and Gregory was inches away from making it six from the spot this season – but instead had to contemplate a second miss of the campaign.
It was arguably a just result after what looked like another wrong call.
This was the third league game in a row that Harris had named the same side and Millwall took the confidence from three successive league wins into the fixture.
They should have been ahead at the break but squandered a number of chances. One of the features of this Millwall side is they always create opportunities, the best coming in the opening period and the last few moments of the first 45 minutes.
Without being anything like relentless, Millwall managed to carve out three one-on-one chances, the best falling to Morison when perhaps he had too much time to think about what he wanted to do when the best thing might have been to lift the ball over Garratt in the Crewe goal.
Where Wallace was laser accurate with the cross that created the first goal against Port Vale, here he was frustrated as several – still excellent – deliveries were marginally not precise enough for Gregory to get a decisive touch to.
Wallace had a glorious opportunity to put Millwall in front in the 43rd minute. Crewe’s defence had pushed well up to try to catch Gregory offside, but he spun away down the left with Wallace’s run from the right flank spotted by the home crowd and then by Millwall’s top scorer. But the on-loan Wolves player seemed to get his stride wrong and could only awkwardly lift the ball over the bar. It should have been the opener.
In between, Crewe, who were demonstrably growing in confidence, best epitomised by the bright performance of Cooper, could have gone ahead but Archer was at full stretch to parry away James Jones’ drive from outside the box.
After the rapid-fire exchange of penalties either side of the hour mark, Wallace looked like he was finally going to get his first goal for Millwall but after Morison had found him with a delicate pass in the area he again fired over.
Almost 1,500 Millwall fans will travel to Oxford on Tuesday with real hope of turning the tie around. Nine wins in 16 away games this season will only enhance that feeling.
The transfer window will have closed by then and it is unlikely Millwall will have brought in any new additions. In his programme notes on Saturday Harris said he was “delighted with the squad”, pointing to the progress of Jamie Philpot – of whom big things are expected – and the imminent return of Carlos Edwards.
This will feel like a big opportunity missed against a game but limited Crewe side. It was Millwall’s first draw since the end of October – and a similar result won’t be enough on Tuesday night.