MILLWALL had to settle for a point against Colchester United on Saturday afternoon after a dull goalless draw at Weston Homes Community Stadium.
The result moves the Lions onto 66 points in the table but they drop a place after Bradford’s win over Scunthorpe saw them leapfrog their promotion rivals.
In a first half with few real clear-cut chances Jordan Archer saved when Elliot Lee aimed a shot to the far post. Earlier, the goalkeeper had watched George Moncur’s shot spin wide after the ball had taken a deflection.
Chris Taylor got on the end of Lee Gregory’s cross but couldn’t really trouble Elliott Parish in the Colchester goal. Gregory then raced onto Steve Morison’s flick but was forced to shoot with his left foot and failed to keep the ball down. Gregory also lifted another effort over the crossbar when he perhaps could have found the target.
Neil Harris brought Shane Ferguson on for Aiden O'Brien at the break and Millwall started to look more threatening.
They went close to taking the lead on the hour when Gregory again reacted to another header from Morison but with the angle tight Parish made the save.
Taylor thought he had given Millwall the lead in the 78th minute but with Parish beaten at his near post the ball bounced off the woodwork after deflecting off Tom Eastman.
Millwall pressed for a winner but never really looked like they had sufficient quality to get it.
Colchester’s defensive improvement
Although they had won their last two leagues games, Colchester arrived to this fixture having conceded more goals than any of the other 91 sides in the top four divisions.
They let in four of those 87 goals at The Den earlier this season when their defence was even more porous than the 4-1 scoreline suggested.
But you wouldn’t have guessed they have such an atrocious record based on their first-half display. In truth, both sides looked sluggish but did create a couple of half-chances each in a first half of really poor quality.
In the 10th minute Archer was left flat-footed after Moncur’s shot from 20 yards took a deflection and went just wide. Colchester had started with a 4-3-3 formation with Moncur joined in midfield by Alex Gilbey and Tom Lapslie.
It was Moncur who was the more advanced but in the 22nd minute he was the creator when he slipped left winger Lee in behind Mahlon Romeo. Lee perhaps didn’t catch his shot as he would have wished and Archer got down well to save before Ben Thompson was in the right place to complete the clearance.
Millwall finally constructed a sharp move in the 26th minute. Shaun Williams won the ball in midfield to set Gregory away. The striker crossed from the right but the ball was marginally behind Taylor and he couldn’t get the requisite power on the shot to really test Parish.
Colchester’s new defensive resilience was typified by the performance of Frankie Kent who made numerous important interceptions. He was beaten in the 60th minute when that Gregory-Morison combination again looked to unlock the home defence. Gregory did well to manoeuvre himself into a shooting position but Parish narrowed the angle and got a strong arm to the ball.
Taylor was unlucky to see his shot rebound off the foot of the post but the poor quality was summed up when Moncur played a pass to substitute Drey Wright before he over-hit his cross to the back post.
With just over 10 minutes left Thompson shot from the edge of the box but Parish was comfortably behind it.
Colchester had half-chances of their own when Lee cut in from the left to shoot. But a draw was probably the fair result.
Millwall play Shrewsbury at home next weekend in another game they will be expected to win. But fixtures like this, against opponents desperately fighting to avoid relegation, are likely to be tense and tight.
Colchester discovered a defensive togetherness at the wrong time from Millwall’s point of view. A matter of weeks ago they hadn’t won in 19 games but six points from six had given them confidence and belief.
When they needed to be defiant Kent epitomised it and though the Lions will view this as two points dropped it is another towards their target and keeps them in the top six, four points ahead of Barnsley.