MILLWALL extended their unbeaten run to 14 games and kept their seventh clean sheet in a row but couldn’t break down Chesterfield at The Den on Tuesday evening as they missed out on the chance to move back into League One’s top six.
It couldn’t really be said there was a hangover from the FA Cup win last weekend because Millwall were almost entirely on top. The second half was played almost exclusively in the Chesterfield half but the home side lacked the quality to really prise open a defence superbly marshalled by 35-year-old centre-back Ian Evatt.
Chesterfield were game but limited and Millwall can expect more of these types of dogged performances from sides at the wrong end of the table. Oldham, on Saturday, will be similar and are more resolute under John Sheridan.
Shaun Williams certainly did as much as he could to orchestrate a win, but it was further up the pitch where Millwall failed to really click. Williams was also superb to protect his defence when Gary Caldwel’s side tried to counter, though that was rare enough after the break. They also couldn’t make anything from 11 corners despite the presence in the side of Shaun Hutchinson for the first time in eight games.
Steve Morison was certainly missed, and the hope is it was more a case of giving the striker, who has played 34 times this season, a rest. His regular strike partner, Lee Gregory, had a half-chance to win the game for Millwall with five minutes left but was forced wide and couldn’t get the ball on target. Minutes later he was released by Tom King but Thorsten Stuckmann palmed his shot away as Millwall couldn’t break the deadlock.
There were two glaring omissions from the Millwall line-up for this fixture, with Jordan Archer and Morison not in the match-day squad. That meant King made his league debut in goals among six changes Neil Harris made to the side that defeated Leicester City on Saturday.
King had his captain Tony Craig to thank for preserving Millwall’s record of not having conceded since January 21 when after Reece Mitchell had sprinted into the box on the left and crossed for Liam Grimshaw to stab the ball towards goal the defender got back on the line to clear.
Any concern Millwall would be unable to play with tempo and energy after expending so much of it at the weekend seemed to be lessened not only with those changes but also with their fast start. They forced three early corners but from the clearest opening Byron Webster couldn’t make contact with the ball when any kind of touch would almost certainly have taken it in.
David Worrall started with purpose and initially linked well with Gregory. In the seventh minute Gregory was close to getting to the winger’s cross but was crowded out. Three minutes later the pair played a one-two but from a good position inside the box Gregory blasted the ball over.
Chesterfield, without a win in five games, were well-drilled but offered little up front and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, playing in the middle of an attacking front three, saw little of the ball. When he did he thought he could catch King off his line but sliced off target.
As against Walsall, it felt like a game that needed something to spark it. Fred Onyedinma, again playing up front, seemed to provide it with an impudent piece of skill on halfway to flick the ball around a defender with the intention of collecting possession in behind, but the moment was made irrelevant by the linesman’s offside flag. Moments later he was again picking up possession deep to play Gregory through, but Stuckmann was quickly off his line to save.
It was the Worrall and Gregory combination that almost provided the breakthrough before half-time, but Gregory’s header was tipped over by Stuckmann.
Millwall came out at the start of the second half with renewed drive and they dominated for 15 minutes, without really forcing Stuckmann into making a save. The home side were forcing it a little bit too much, too quickly playing passes forward when a more measured build-up might have carved out better scoring opportunities.
But they were well on top and Gregory and Worrall twice tried to get shots on target but couldn’t get the ball through a Chesterfield defence in which Evatt was having an outstanding game.
And on the occasions Millwall did get through Stuckmann was there for his side.
Harris sent on Harry Smith and Calum Butcher with 11 minutes left and in the last action of the game Smith came close to a header across goal but the near miss summed up the night.
Image: Millwall FC