MILLWALL couldn’t break down 10-man AFC Wimbledon at The Den on Tuesday night as they registered a scoreless draw for the first time in League One since April.
There were few clear chances in the first half. Chris Robertson should have hit the target in the 18th minute but instead fired over from 10 yards.
Aiden O’Brien had Millwall’s first half-chance but mis-hit his effort from Byron Webster’s knockdown in the box. Four minutes later Shane Ferguson was in space but from a tight angle he couldn’t squeeze the ball past James Shea.
Shaun Williams fired over after the ball had broken to him in the box before Lyle Taylor did the same at the other end after a couple of Millwall defenders let Shea’s long ball forward bounce in the penalty area.
Just after the hour David Worrall saw his free-kick from 20 yards saved at the near post by Shea, before Dominic Poleon should have found Taylor as the Dons counter-attacked only to play the ball behind the attacker.
Tony Craig threw himself in front of Tom Elliott’s shot before Ben Thompson latched onto Worrall’s header but didn’t get enough on his effort as Shea saved. At the other end right-back Barry Fuller moved forward to test Jordan Archer from 30 yards and after the goalkeeper had palmed away Craig had to clear the danger.
In the 76th minute substitute Fred Onyedinma stretched to reach the ball after Robertson had left a header back to Shea short but he could only prod wide. Moments earlier the attacker had skipped past Jon Meades on the right and when the left-back illegally stopped his run referee Graham Horwood produced a second yellow card.
With two minutes to go Worrall found Harry Smith with a cross from the right but, leaning back, the striker couldn’t get enough on his header to beat Shea. Webster had one final chance to break the deadlock but he headed Worrall’s corner over.
This was a first ever league meeting between the sides, after AFC Wimbledon reached the third tier for the first time in their history when they beat Plymouth in last season’s League Two play-off final.
Lions captain Craig wrote in the match programme that their rise from the ashes of Wimbledon over the past 14 years would be too unbelievable a script to be committed to film.
If there had been any scriptwriters at The Den to chronicle their latest progress they might have left at half-time. It was poor as both sides struggled to make anything stick up front or string anything more than a handful of passes together.
Millwall were again missing Steve Morison, while Lee Gregory didn’t recover from the back spasm that forced him off against Bolton at the weekend. Neil Harris paired Smith with O’Brien and at one point they could be seen arguing after Smith had nodded a long ball forward that neither O’Brien nor Ferguson were close enough to profit from.
The best chances came from set-pieces. It was Paul Robinson’s first visit back to the club he was with for almost 14 years and he couldn’t have hoped for a gentler return. He was commanding but hardly overstretched, though at one point he had to be alert to divert away Ferguson’s low cross.
It took an hour for the contest to spark and when it did it seemed like the sides were eager to make up for the lethargy that had gone before. Neither goalkeeper was truly troubled, but Oyedinma did his bit to ensure there would be more space when with one of his first involvements he took on Meades and panicked the defender into making a rash tackle.
Millwall had already been getting gradually on top, though if Poleon had managed to play the ball in front of Taylor rather than behind him then Archer would have been completely exposed. Archer was relieved to see his save fall to Craig rather than an attacker as Millwall struggled to take advantage with the extra man.
When Onyedinma broke and found Mahlon Romeo on the right the defender sliced his cross wide with a frustrated Smith waiting in the box.
Neal Ardley’s side weren’t afraid to commit players forward, either, and Tom Beere’s energy gave them another attacking outlet after his introduction. He was given space to shoot from 30 yards but Archer was comfortably behind it.
Smith had a late chance to win it for his side but it was far from easy as Millwall were held scoreless in the league for just the third time since April.
More significant, perhaps, is that it was the second game in a row they have failed to find the back of the net and that was always the fear without Morison and now Gregory. Those injuries have revealed the areas that lack strength in the squad – and could shape January’s transfer plans.
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