MILLWALL came from behind for the second successive week to claim a point against Coventry at The Den on Saturday afternoon and stretch their unbeaten home run in the league to 13 games.
David Worrall headed wide before Marvin Sordell put Coventry ahead in the 23rd minute when he finished past Jordan Archer from 25 yards.
The home fans thought referee Andy Davies was pointing to the spot in the 32nd minute, but instead he was indicating a goal-kick after Aiden O’Brien had shot wide under pressure.
Neil Harris brought on Shane Ferguson for the ineffective Fred Onyedinma after the break, but it was Coventry who twice went close to doubling their lead through Sordell.
Millwall equalised in the 71st minute when O’Brien deftly flicked Steve Morison’s cross past Reice Charles-Cook.
Calum Butcher, making his home debut, headed over with three minutes left but Millwall couldn’t find a winner.
Just over a year ago Coventry were a slick and classy side with Adam Armstrong a lethal punisher as they thundered to a 4-0 win here in the second game of the season.
It not only highlights how unpredictable League One can be that they found themselves second last in the table coming into today’s fixture but also the false picture of health created when you rely on the loan system: Armstrong had been borrowed from Newcastle, Norwich’s Jacob Murphy came on to help supply the fourth goal, while later in the season Joe Cole and Gael Bigirimana were brought in to temporarily plug gaps.
Bigirimana signed a permanent deal in the summer as Tony Mowbray sought to rebuild to something like the strength they possessed in the first half of the last campaign, and they certainly didn’t play like a side occupying a place in the relegation zone.
Lee Gregory – who missed a penalty in this fixture last year – missed out altogether on Saturday as he struggles to recover from a hip problem.
But Millwall began with the assurance you’d expect of a side unbeaten at home in the league since February. Shaun Williams demonstrated their confidence with an outside-of-the-boot pass to Mahlon Romeo. Moments later Joe Martin lifted a ball into the box from the left that Worrall rose to reach, but his header was off target.
And then as if a switch was flicked the game transformed into the pattern it had taken last year. Coventry suddenly settled into a passing rhythm, with Kyel Reid, who started on the left side of a three-man attack, starting to probe.
Vladimir Gadzhev had the away side’s first effort on goal in the 20th minute, but Archer got down relatively comfortably to save it.
That chance had come after a period of composed passing, and after another period of possession they went ahead. Ruben Lameiras passed infield to Bigirimana who played the ball to the feet of Sordell 30 yards out. The big striker had lots to do but turned before drilling the ball past Archer to give the away side the lead.
The closest Millwall came to an equaliser before the break ironically came after Coventry too riskily tried to stick to their possession game. Lewis Page put a little too much power into his back-pass to Charles-Cook, the goalkeeper’s clearance falling to O’Brien, who drove past a couple of challenges but dragged his shot wide inside the box.
Coventry started with a three-man defence but easily switched between a back four and five as that work Mowbray spoke of doing on the training ground seemed to be paying off.
Sordell was close to putting them two goals up minutes into the second half when he sent a header just wide, before Morison slid a pass to Williams 25 yards out, but the midfielder failed to keep his shot down.
Just after the hour Sordell dispossessed Byron Webster before playing the ball out to Reid and getting it back, only to see his effort deflect off Tony Craig and roll inches wide.
When Millwall’s goal came it wasn’t the result of any real sustained pressure, instead it was two brilliant pieces of individual skill, first from Morison to see O’Brien’s run to the near post and sweep in a low cross that his strike partner cushioned home with the inside of his right foot.
Mowbray brought on the highly rated 18-year-old attacker Jodi Jones and moments after drawing a foul from Martin – which earned the defender his fourth booking of the season – he saw his free-kick towards the top corner brilliantly clawed away by Archer.
Millwall pressed late on and after Butcher couldn’t dig Morison’s pass from under his feet, he headed a difficult chance over Charles-Cook’s crossbar.
Image source: ©Charlie Compitus