LEE Gregory scored twice as Millwall comfortably beat Swindon 2-0 at The Den on Saturday afternoon.
Gregory put Millwall in front in the 10th minute when he spun on the six-yard line and fired a low drive past Swindon goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux.
Millwall created all of the clear-cut opportunities in the first half, but Steve Morison couldn’t beat Vigouroux with an attempted lob, before Shaun Hutchinson’s header from Shaun Williams’ corner in the 31st minute was headed off the line by Robins centre-back Raphael Rossi Branco.
Luke Norris had the chance to pull Swindon level after an hour but with just Archer to beat – albeit from a difficult angle – he screwed his shot wide. At the other end Morison was free at the near post from Williams’ corner but he couldn’t keep his header down.
Millwall doubled their advantage in the 65th minute when Morison’s cross from the right was emphatically volleyed home by Gregory.
With just under 10 minutes left Hutchinson thought he had scored his first goal for the club, but Vigouroux somehow got his hand to the ball to tip the defender's header over the crossbar.
Fred Onyedinma came even closer in the 90th minute, but his effort came back off the post after substitute David Worrall had set Aiden O’Brien free to cross from the right.
Millwall boss Neil Harris was able to name the same team that defeated Charlton last Wednesday. Those three points and the winning margin meant the Lions went into this fixture with the same goal difference and same number of points gathered as at the same stage last year.
The 4-0 win over Southend in their 23rd league game of the season turned a minus goal difference into a plus and they ended the campaign with 24 more goals scored than conceded. Swindon had actually conceded three goals fewer than Millwall before kick-off, but were without a clean sheet since mid-October.
Their defensive reticence was obvious when Gregory got the ball with his back to goal after a fairly subdued start to the game. The striker shouldn’t have been allowed to turn so close in, but he deserved credit for quick decision-making, choosing not to tee up Onyedinma, who was lurking close to him, before he scored his eighth goal of the season.
The first half settled into a pattern of Swindon passing the ball neatly and edging possession towards Millwall’s goal without producing the final incisive pass or cross. The away side were playing 3-5-2, and a couple of times midfielders Sean Murray and Michael Doughty got free a couple of times for shots that didn’t really worry Jordan Archer.
Instead it was Millwall who were comfortable sitting back and hitting Swindon on the break.
When Williams won the ball back in midfield in the 27th minute the away defence was caught off guard. Morison probably could have taken the ball closer to goal instead of trying to lift it over Vigouroux. He didn’t connect as he wanted and the goalkeeper made the save.
Hutchinson then looked like he had done enough to add to the lead when he directed his header back towards the far post, but Rossi Branco stuck out a long leg at the last moment to hook the ball off the line. Five minutes later Swindon right-wing back Darnell Furlong got back just in time to challenge O’Brien as the attacker seemed set to make Millwall’s lead more comfortable.
Moments later Swindon’s defence was again stretched as Gregory tried to weave a way into the box, but Nathan Thompson applied just the right amount of pressure to make the striker take a couple of extra touches and he was dispossessed.
It was just after Swindon’s best chance to get back into the game that Millwall eventually made things more comfortable for themselves. Swindon had been given encouragement by the home side and a period of pressure from the Robins ended with Norris in space in the box, and maybe had he shot with his left foot rather than his right he would have tested Archer.
That acted as a wake-up call for Millwall, and Morison combined with Onyedinma before sending a cross into the centre of the box that Gregory met first time to beat Vigouroux. Questions will again be asked by Swindon’s coaching staff why he was left in so much space.
And had Millwall added a third through Hutchinson Swindon couldn’t have had too many complaints. The former Fulham defender was left with his head in his hands after Vigouroux’s quick reflexes and agile save, but it was at the other end that Hutchinson had excelled all afternoon and Millwall look a much more solid team with him in it.
They also look so threatening going forward, but Onyedinma couldn’t further decorate a superior performance with a third goal.
Image source: ©Millwall FC