MILLWALL dropped two more League One points at home after an FA Cup game as Bury claimed a scoreless draw at The Den on Saturday afternoon.
Tony Craig prevented his side going behind in the first half with a superb last-ditch tackle to deny James Vaughan.
The closest Millwall came to a goal was with nine minutes left when Steve Morison’s headed flick found Lee Gregory six yards out, but the striker saw his low shot cannon off the legs of Bury goalkeeper Joe Murphy.
This was a frustrating afternoon for the home side, and it was a fourth 0-0 draw in the next game after an FA Cup fixture. Charlton, Chesterfield and Walsall had all kept Millwall scoreless after cup wins against Premier League sides, and Bury did the same.
The worry is after all the excitement that cup run generated whether there will be a certain flatness to follow. That was certainly the case here. Craig’s tackle lifted the crowd, but Millwall didn’t build on it and gave too much space to a well-drilled Bury side that were confident on the ball. They certainly didn’t look like they have had such wretched form at times this season.
Millwall’s frustration was summed up in the last minute when after pinning Bury back with a decent spell of possession, it was centre-back Jake Cooper crossing the ball, and it went out of play.
Millwall had lost their 17-game unbeaten run last weekend against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, but they were an impressive 14 league games without a loss and against a Bury side that had turned things around since a 12-game losing League One streak from October to December.
The Shakers arrived at The Den on Saturday with the worst defensive record in League One, but, amazingly given their lowly position, the third most prolific attack.
Lions boss Neil Harris had highlighted the threat of Vaughan. Former Everton and Crystal Palace striker Vaughan had scored 21 goals in 33 games this season, and seemed certain to make it 22 in the 25th minute. It was Byron Webster’s mis-judged jump on halfway that allowed the ball through to Vaughan, who hared away from Webster and Shaun Cummings. Neither of them were going to catch him, and Craig seemed to have way too much ground to make up from left-back. He did it, somehow, sliding in with Vaughan about to shoot and earning loud acclaim from the home fans.
But that was really the most positive thing that happened in the first half from Millwall’s point of view. They didn’t build on the injection of energy Craig’s dramatic intervention should have given them.
Millwall worked Murphy just once in the first half when Morison shot early from outside the box trying to catch the Bury goalkeeper out, but it was a routine save. Earlier, Shane Ferguson’s cross eventually fell to Jed Wallace, but he couldn’t keep his left-footed shot down.
Wary of Vaughan’s pace, Millwall played quite deep, often with six players strung out across their backline. That invited Bury to press, and there were a couple of uncomfortable moments from crosses. Bury were also aware of how threatening Millwall can be on the break, and twice Murphy came off his line to sweep the ball out of play.
Two minutes before the half-time break, Morison and Gregory exchanged passes on the edge of the box, but Morison, with little space, sent a tame shot wide.
Bury were dropping midfielder Paul Caddis deep to stand in front of Morison at goal-kicks, and the striker generally found himself marked by two players any time Millwall got the ball in wide areas, most often at the feet of Ferguson. Bury were succeeding in taking the edge off Millwall’s attack.
The away side were almost caught out five minutes into the second half when Ferguson played a short corner to Wallace whose shot after cutting infield seemed to take Murphy by surprise, but the stopper manged to palm the ball away for a corner. From that, Cooper headed wide at the back post.
Millwall had upped the ante after half-time, but there still wasn’t enough precision in the attacking third. At the other end, Jacob Mellis found Caddis on the edge of the box but Tom King easily held onto his low drive.
Bury were playing with confidence, organised in their 3-5-2 and still Millwall were giving them quite a bit of space to play in and measure their build-ups. In the 65th minute the ball bounced dangerously around the home penalty area before it broke to Vaughan, who fired a half-volley over.
Millwall had the ball in the back of the net after a blistering run from Wallace who took the ball at speed from one box to the other. He delayed his pass a fraction, though, with Morison judged offside just before he finished low past Murphy.
With 12 minutes left Murphy was in the right place to get down low to save Webster’s header from Shaun Williams’ corner. Murphy then saved Gregory’s low shot with his legs.
Millwall stretched their unbeaten run in the league to 15 games, but this point will do little for their top-two ambitions.
Image: Millwall FC