MILLWALL are now 11 games unbeaten in all competitions after seeing off 10-man Southend United at a bitterly cold Den on Saturday afternoon.
Fred Onyedinma’s cushioned header secured a 1-0 win over Phil Brown’s men and planted the Lions into the top six of the League One table after a sixth clean sheet in seven games.
Manager Neil Harris was forced to make three changes to his starting XI with Ben Thompson, Lee Gregory and Shaun Williams all ruled out. Williams was absent his wife had gone into labour.
The other change saw Shaun Cummings back in the starting line-up at the expense of Mahlon Romeo, who dropped to the bench.
Steve Morison had the Lions’ first effort on goal when Onyedinma turned his man to send in a low cross to the striker but his effort was hooked over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
At the other end, Simon Cox got ahead of Byron Webster from a long ball forward. Cox went to ground, but referee Andre Marriner waved away the penalty appeal.
Seconds later, Cox was in again but his effort was wayward and flew over the bar.
It was a scrappy start to the game with both sides having a chance each before Millwall started to put pressure on the Shrimpers and the home side soon got on top.
Onyedinma had a few crosses into the box which were turned away for corners before Calum Butcher saw a header cleared off the line from the Lions’ second corner.
Morison had the best chance of the opening exchanges when on 18 minutes he shot wide from close range with the goal at his mercy.
Jed Wallace then picked the ball up on the halfway line and made a marauding run into the box. His shot was blocked and the ball came back to him before he turned and fizzed a cross towards Morison, who stuck out a foot but couldn't divert his effort on target.
Half an hour in Aiden O'Brien almost opened the scoring but he fired over from Onyedinma's cross.
Four minutes later Southend were down to ten men after Will Atkinson was show a straight red card. His tackle on Lions captain Tony Craig was deemed to be high and reckless by referee Marriner.
There was a nervy moment towards the end of the half for Millwall when Lions fan Michael Timlin had a great chance for the visitors to take the lead. A ball in from the right found the midfielder with yards of space but his first -time effort spun wide of any danger.
Wallace had the first meaningful chance of the second half when his low drive was scooped up by Ted Smith in the visitors goal.
Jordan Archer’s blushes were spared when the Lions keeper fumbled a Marc-Antoine Fortune cross, Cummings heading off the line and captain Craig eventually sweeping the ball behind for corner that came to nothing.
Try as they might, nothing came off for Harris’ men until the 62nd minute.
The Lions finally broke the deadlock through Onyedinma, who had a tough afternoon where very little was happening for the stand-in striker.
From a throw-in, Cummings cut in on his left foot and sent in a teasing cross that found Onyedinma at the back post, and his header evaded Smith and a last-ditch attempt to clear by Anthony Wordsworth as Millwall went in front.
Despite taking lead, and with 20 minutes left, Harris’ men were still careless in possession at times, getting into advanced positions before losing the ball cheaply.
Former Millwall striker Theo Robinson was introduced and with five minutes left was floored inside the area. Away fans called for a penalty but Marriner again waved away any protestations as the ball was cleared.
With Southend pushing for an equaliser, in added time Butcher saw a close-range effort saved my Smith after the Lions broke to try to add to their one-goal lead.
Southend rarely threatened as the game petered out to see Millwall replace the visitors in the play-off places ahead of a Valentine's Day clash with Port Vale at The Den on Tuesday evening.