MILLWALL stretched their unbeaten run away from home to six games in all competitions, but they had to settle for a point after being pegged back by a determined Doncaster side.
Steve Morison gave Millwall the lead in the sixth minute when he finished past Thorsten Stuckmann after Paul Keegan had inadvertently headed on Jordan Archer’s clearance.
Former Millwall midfielder Richard Chaplow levelled for Doncaster when he swept home Andy Williams’ low cross.
Morison missed from a yard out from Lee Gregory’s cross five minutes into the second half, before five minutes later Chaplow was lucky to only receive a yellow card for what looked a dangerous tackle on Byron Webster.
In between those moments Gregory could have done better when he found himself through on goal but he couldn’t execute a back-heel past Stuckmann.
Nathan Tyson had a great chance to put Doncaster ahead with six minutes left, but Archer pulled off a superb save to deny the attacker.
Midfielder Conor Grant then could have won it for Donccaster in the fourth minute of injury time only for Archer to deny him with an outstretched leg.
Neil Harris will perhaps look back at that incident when Chaplow seemed to catch Webster late and with his studs as one of the game’s key moments.
It won’t please Millwall fans to hear it but Chaplow played with the kind of aggression and ambition that was often absent during his time at the club.
Millwall started well and when Morison scored looked like they could wrap the game up early as they had done the last time the sides met.
Maybe too much could be read into Doncaster’s results recently. They hadn’t won in seven games but the last time they lost by more than one goal was in a 2-0 defeat to Rochdale back on November 21.
There were plenty of people around the Keepmoat before the game that said results didn’t reflect performances and maybe after the way they finished this contest on top, with Chaplow taking it upon himself to battle in the corner to try to get one final ball into the box, this outcome will add to those feelings.
The early bird…
Fifth, sixth and eighth minutes. Morison has got it done early against Doncaster this season after his two goals at The Den in October. Even though it was so early, it wasn’t a surprise to see Millwall take the lead. Doncaster started with three at the back and two wing backs and if the idea was that they would deny Millwall’s wingers and strikers space it didn’t work initially.
Gregory and Jed Wallace found so much room in those early moments, but it was from route one Millwall got the opener. Keegan was possibly unlucky that Archer’s long clearance skimmed his head and when the Doncaster midfielder spun around he saw Morison in so much space and with so much time to choose his finish. He opted to lob Stuckmann and that should have been the signal for Millwall to go for the jugular against a side winless in seven.
Instead, Doncaster reorganised, but hardly reinvented themselves, and it was they who gathered the momentum as the first half went on. Still, they were perhaps lucky not to give away a penalty when Gregory’s shirt was clearly tugged in the box before Stuckmann saved his shot.
Millwall could also blame themselves for allowing Doncaster’s confidence to grow. In the 37th minute the home fans were frustrated and urging their side to get the ball forward with more urgency. Yet seconds later Williams was bursting into the box and Chaplow arrived at speed to slam the ball into the net against the club he left last summer. The identity of the scorer only deepened the sense of Millwall shooting themselves in the foot.
Morison will look back on the chance he missed at the start of the second half, when Gregory had set him up in front of an open goal, and wonder how he didn’t turn the ball in.
Both sides had chances to win it, with Grant coming closest in the last few seconds.
It gets tougher this Tuesday.
Millwall’s 2-2 draw with Wigan in September left a point between the sides. The Latics have powered up to second in the league and their 3-0 win over Bury was typically comprehensive. They have perhaps the most sophisticated style of any side in the division.
Gary Caldwell has strengthened his squad since that last meeting, Sam Morsy and Ryan Colclough picked up for a small financial outlay from Chesterfield and Crewe and integrated quickly into a side that plays snappy, possession football.
That style of play will test the patience of the home side and the home support; Wigan are well capable of keeping the ball for long spells.
Harris has called this a big seven days, with Blackpool visiting The Den next weekend.
They had to battle for this result, and it could be a valuable point when the totals are totted up in May.