MILLWALL are back into the top six in League One after they came from behind to draw 1-1 with Gillingham.
Gillingham took the lead in the 67th minute in controversial circumstances when goalkeeper Tom King appeared to be fouled. Instead a corner was given and Joe Quigley fired home.
Substitute Lee Gregory had the chance to level moments later but with an open goal in front of him he got his feet in a muddle and shot wide.
The miss didn’t upset the away side, and after their best move of the game Steve Morison calmly finished following goalkeeper Tomas Holy’s save from Jed Wallace’s shot.
This wasn’t the result Millwall wanted, though it was one that meant achieving a play-off pace with four games left is back in their hands.
This was a feisty and frenetic local derby against a side fighting for survival. There were plenty of talking points and Millwall will certainly feel hard done by after the decision to award a corner-kick rather than a free-kick before they went behind.
But they will at least be pleased with their response.
It was a repeat of the glorious sunshine in which this fixture was played last season, when with the last kick of the ball in the regular League One season Gregory secured a fourth-place finish for the Lions.
Gills boss Ady Pennock said in his programme notes this was “an important match for Millwall but it’s even bigger for us”.
It was certainly a big game for Joe Martin, who made his first start since the defeat at Scunthorpe in December. Tony Craig was out injured, which broke his run of having been involved in every game this season – 52 – before this fixture.
Neil Harris had promised Millwall would be “ultra-aggressive” and that was an accurate general description of the first half. It was summed up in Lee Martin – who left the Lions to join Gillingham last summer – catching David Worrall with his studs and getting booked.
Ben Thompson crashed into Ryan Jackson and somehow both players escaped injury after the shuddering force of the impact.
Gills’ Martin, who was playing left-wing back, was involved in the other controversial incident of the opening 45 minutes. As he waited to take a corner – the home side won eight before break – he stopped before stooping to pick an object up off the ground. The game was held up for a couple of minutes as referee Charles Breakspear handed the object to his linesman and Millwall will hope they are not in the dock again at such a crucial stage of the season.
Millwall’s Martin headed over early on after Aiden O’Brien had snatched at a first-minute chance. In the ninth minute a neat exchange saw Wallace flick the ball inside to Morison in the box, but perhaps he was too deliberate in trying to place the ball into the far corner, and Holy read his intentions to save.
In the 24th minute Shaun Williams was inches away from challenging his own entry for goal of the season. It was a pre-planned move, Worrall finding the midfielder from a corner but Williams volleyed first-time over the crossbar.
Millwall’s other best chances were falling to Morison, thought they weren’t clear-cut. He shot into the side netting in the 29th minute before Holy held onto his drive inside the box.
The Gills looked dangerous in the moments after they had won back possession, but King wasn’t tested in the opening 45 minutes. He was thankful when one Cody McDonald shot flicked off a defender’s heel with the ball heading towards the bottom corner.
The second half was hardly offering any more quality but in the 53rd minute Thompson snaked his way into the box to set up a shot. It was obvious he doesn’t find himself in those kinds of positions much, though, and he pulled his left-footed effort wide at the near post.
Corners number nine and 10 came and went for Gillingham and still King didn’t have a save to make.
But from their 11th they went ahead, after a real moment of controversy. King appeared to be pushed over the line as he collected a long ball forward. But the linesman signalled a corner, King protested and got booked, and though he produced a brilliant reaction save to deny Harry Cornick he couldn’t keep out Quigley’s follow-up.
Gregory should have equalised but Morison made no mistake when he scored his 16th goal of the season.
Millwall forced a number of late corners, but not a winner, and will be relieved Southend and Fleetwood fell to defeats on Saturday afternoon.
Image: Millwall FC