MILLWALL lost a player to a red card for the second successive game and lost a two-goal lead as QPR came from behind to draw 2-2 in a breathless contest at Loftus Road on Tuesday night.
Conor McLaughlin put Millwall in front in the first half with a half-volley in the sixth minute, his first goal for the club.
Lee Gregory became the second Millwall player to be sent off in four days when Roger East produced a straight red card after the striker’s tackle on Josh Scowen four minutes before the break.
Three times QPR went close to levelling in first-half injury-time but Jordan Archer saved twice from Massimo Luongo in between a Conor Washington shot crashing back off the post.
Steve Morison then almost put Millwall two goals up, but his audacious effort to try to catch Alex Smithies off his line went just wide.
Ian Holloway brought on centre-forward Matt Smith for defender Nedum Onuoha at half-time, but it was Millwall who doubled their advantage in the 50th minute, Jed Wallace firing low under Smithies.
Archer was finally beaten in the 73rd minute moments after he had kept out Smith’s header. But the goalkeeper could do little when the resulting corner was half-cleared to Luongo, who powered his shot through a crowded area and into the back of the net.
QPR levelled with just five minutes remaining, Smith shooting left-footed past Archer from 10 yards out. And in the last minute of injury-time the hosts hit the woodwork through Luke Freeman's free-kick.
Before all of that it was a relentlessly feisty and end-to-end first half. Millwall almost went ahead with just a minute gone, but Gregory saw his volley saved by Smithies. Five minutes later McLaughlin superbly swerved a shot past Smithies from an angle on the right inside the box.
Millwall weren’t giving QPR any breathing room, and if Holloway was thinking about any changes he could make to swing momentum his team's way his concentration would have been disrupted by the torrent of chants directed at him from the away end.
QPR did have their first chance in the 21st minute, but Archer saved well from Freeman. Millwall were the more aggressive side with and without the ball. Morison showed that by getting his head to Shaun Hutchinson’s long and high free-kick, but it was straight at Smithies. George Saville nodded a header from Shane Ferguson’s free-kick at Smithies before Wallace saw a shot deflected past the post and from the corner Byron Webster headed over.
It was relentless and in the 42nd minute Lions boss Neil Harris would have had legitimate grievances as Freeman escaped with a yellow card after going through the back of Saville. Referee East didn’t spare Gregory, though, after the striker seemed to catch Scowen a fraction late.
There were five minutes of first-half added-time, and it was time for Archer to produce a superb save to deny Luongo after Washington probably should have equalised but struck the woodwork.
Five minutes into the second half, Holloway’s half-time changes spectacularly backfired. The plan was obviously to leave three strikers right up the pitch, but when Millwall broke from the edge of their own box the ball eventually wound up at the feet of Wallace after a one-two with Shaun Williams, and the winger scored his third goal of the season.
Harris responded to QPR’s changes by bringing on Jake Cooper and Ryan Tunnicliffe for Wallace and Ferguson and switching to 5-3-1.
That naturally left Morison a long distance away from his team-mates, as QPR, in the Loftus Road rain, rained in crosses on the Millwall defence. It eventually paid off, as Luongo gave his side hope.
With 12 minutes left it was Archer against Luongo once again, and when the goalkeeper got down to push away the midfielder’s shot, he was relieved that Smith was surprised to find the ball at his feet, the striker not having the time to adjust and take advantage.
Archer was spectacularly in action again in the 82nd minute, this time diving high to his left to save Scowen’s shot, and from the corner it was Luongo again in the right place, but this time he couldn’t find the target.
Smith did in the 85th minute, and it was harsh on a Millwall defence that had worked so hard under almost constant pressure since half-time.
Freeman had two late chances to win it for his side, but Archer got down low to his left to save in difficult conditions and then watched a free-kick from the same player strike the crossbar. Defeat for Millwall would have been completely undeserved.
Image: Millwall FC