LEE Gregory missed two late penalties as Millwall were held scoreless for the second successive League One game after a dramatic 0-0 draw at Oldham Athletic on Saturday afternoon.
Greogry had the chance to win it for his side in the 90th minute, but though he struck his spot-kick relatively well Connor Ripley got down low to his right to make the save.
Minutes later he got another opportunity from 12 yards after Michael Ngoo appeared to handle Shane Ferguson’s free-kick. This time Gregory went to the opposite side and again Ripley made the save.
That was the last action of a game that didn’t really come to life until the second half, but ended in explosive style. Maybe the poor quality of the pitch around the goal mouth was a factor in Gregory's penalties, but this was two more points dropped following Tuesday night's draw at home to Chesterfield.
Earlier in the half Tope Obadeyi twice went close to piercing Millwall’s defence for the first time in eight games but both shots went narrowly wide. The Lions didn’t really spark until Fred Onyedinma came on for Aiden O’Brien in the 57th minute and seven minutes later Onyedinma beat Ripley in Oldham’s goal but not Peter Clarke, who got back to clear the ball off the line.
Oldham were bottom when John Sheridan took over in January but it was difficult to tell from their display that they have struggled so badly.
One of the reasons they are battling relegation is their poor goal-scoring record but Tom King, starting his second successive league game, twice saved from midfielder Olllie Banks as Oldham sensed there was something more in the game for them.
Millwal, meanwhile, badly missed Steve Morison. Their top scorer was here but a groin injury kept him out for a second game in a row.
Harry Smith, who started up front with Gregory, naturally found it difficult against two such experienced centre-backs in Clarke and Brian Wilson.
It is slightly concerning that Millwall have begun to look laboured up front, and the late misses only underlined that point.
This was a remarkable eighth successive clean sheet in all competitions, but on Saturday Ripley wasn’t exactly over-worked until those last three minutes. These are the types of games Millwall can’t afford to drop points in with such big fixtures coming up against sides above them in the League One table.
And even though they stretched their unbeaten run to 15 games there will be a large sense of disappointment that they haven't been able to follow up their FA Cup win over Leicester City by putting away two sides in the bottom five.
There was more than a sense of déjà vu a couple of hours before kick-off when an already muddy pitch took on steady rain raising concerns this fixture would be postponed for a second successive season.
A patch in front of the dugouts was cordoned off, the area from which Jed Wallace instigated the move for the opening goal in the rescheduled game last season that Millwall won 2-1.
Wallace was missing on Saturday with David Worrall keeping his place against one of his former teams and there was a first start for Smith since December 10.
Smith’s presence in the side, and Jake Cooper’s return from suspension instead of Shaun Hutchinson, meant Millwall had significant attacking set-piece threat, with three players 6ft 5ins or over in the side. The frustration was that they had little opportunity to show it.
The first chance from a cross into the box, and indeed the first chance of a game desperately short on quality, didn’t arrive until the 25th minute. Worrall has the ability to strike the ball first time, something Millwall have profited from this season from wide areas, and when he swept a delivery to the back post Smith was there challenging Ripley. Smith beat him to the touch, taking out the goalkeeper in the process, but he could only head the ball wide.
Millwall were happy to stand off Oldham’s midfield, allowing Banks and Aiden O’Neill spray passes out side. Former Lions midfielder Chris Taylor was holding a position out near the left touchline, and when he crossed to the back post in the 43rd minute Paul Green couldn’t keep his header down.
Lions goalkeeper King had had little to do before Calum Butcher gave away a free-kick 30 yards out a minute before the break. Banks shaped like he was going to hit it, but instead it was Taylor who chipped an effort over the wall towards the bottom corner and King did well to hold on to the ball.
The second half brought more chances and, finally, what looked like a breakthrough when Taylor fouled Gregory in the box. But he missed and then saw a second penalty saved as Millwall failed to break back into the top six ahead of Tuesday night’s clash with Peterborough, who have crept up to within two points of a side they defeated 5-1 earlier this season. .
Image: Millwall FC