MILLWALL are now unbeaten in 17 games but had to work hard for three points against MK Dons at The Den on Saturday afternoon as Lee Gregory’s double gave them a second successive league win.
After his penalty against Peterborough on Tuesday, Gregory was again presented with the opportunity to lift Millwall further towards the automatic promotion places in the 92nd minute, and he beat David Martin from 12 yards to bring his tally to the season to 14 goals.
Gregory had made it two goals in his last two games when he headed home in the 24th minute, before Ben Reeves equalised after half an hour – the first goal Millwall conceded in 14-and-a-half hours of football.
It was the away side that had the chance to win the game in the 86th minute when substitutes Nicky Maynard and Dean Bowditch combined, but the latter couldn’t keep his header down from a couple of yards out straight in front of the goal.
Millwall may have seen their long clean sheet record ended, but boss Neil Harris was more concerned with how they would respond to that, and his players gave him the perfect answer.
There had been very little attacking action in the first half, apart from the goals six minutes apart.
Gregory’s 13th of the season did come after Millwall’s best move of the opening 45 minutes, when Ben Thompson was involved a couple of times in recycling possession.
Gregory had just tumbled under a challenge in the box before Shane Ferguson made space on the right to cross, and Gregory powered his header past Martin from six yards.
That was Millwall’s first goal from open play in four games, and then they conceded their first goal in 10 games as MK Dons levelled without really doing a lot to merit it.
Millwall hadn’t conceded many shots in that nine-game run – the best since 1925-26 – but when Reeves picked the ball up 25 yards out he took his opportunity. The ball looked like it swerved away from Tom King at the last moment, and Millwall had conceded for the first time since January 21.
MK Dons hit the target again in the 48th minute, but it was a tame effort from former Lions midfielder Ed Upson and an easy save for King.
Millwall boss Harris had switched tack in the first half, Aiden O’Brien switching to the wing with Fred Onyedinma moving up front alongside Gregory. It was that combination that opened up MK Dons in the 53rd minute, but Onyedinma couldn’t beat Martin with a curled effort from 25 yards.
Onyedinma had been quiet, and that was his last act as Steve Morison came on after missing the last three games with a groin problem. And Millwall’s top scorer almost made a dramatic impact when the ball fell to him in the box, but he couldn’t steer his left-footed shot on target.
Upson had another chance to test King in the 57th minute, but his free-kick under the wall didn’t catch out the goalkeeper at his near post.
MK Dons were growing in confidence, and Millwall’s efforts to force it too early were summed up when Gregory tried to flick the ball past Joe Walsh on halfway after an hour, but the defender read what he was trying to do.
It was probably that same feeling of trying to lift his side that prompted Ben Thompson to heavily tackle Upson. To his credit Upson didn’t make anything of it, but referee Ross Joyce booked the Millwall midfielder, leaving him one yellow card away from suspension.
After Morison’s header from Gregory’s cross flicked off Walsh for a corner that Millwall couldn’t capitalise on, Harris sent on Jed Wallace for Ferguson.
With 15 minutes left MK Dons had a rare chance for an effort on goal, but Maynard’s shot from distance was straight at King.
Robbie Neilson’s side then gave an insight into their ambitions when goalkeeper Martin was booked for wasting time over a free-kick. Minutes later he was diving full length to tip Thompson’s 20-yard drive around the post, before the home fans rose to applaud Wallace who ran back into his own box to deny Harvey Barnes the chance to shoot when it looked like he was through on goal.
Another substitute, Bowditch, will feel he should have been the one to end Millwall’s long unbeaten run, but with four minutes left he headed Maynard’s cross from the right over King’s crossbar from a few yards out.
But Gregory won the late penalty and made no mistake when he got his chance, and Millwall’s charge towards going up automatically is gathering pace.
Image: Millwall FC