MILLWALL got their fourth point away from home this season in a typically frantic encounter against Cardiff as both sides missed chances to win the game.
Lee Gregory had an opportunity to put Millwall ahead in the 22nd minute but shot over, before Jordan Archer produced the first of three brilliant first-half saves by saving Danny Ward’s low shot with his legs.
Archer sprung low to his right to tip Ward’s shot around the post in the 28th minute, before Bruno Ecuele Manga headed over from six yards from the resulting corner.
Cardiff were then relieved that Neil Etheridge was alert to the danger when Steve Morison got through, the goalkeeper making the save.
Seven minutes before the break, Bluebirds substitute Callum Paterson crossed to the far post and Junior Hoilett seemed certain to score but Archer made an outstanding save to palm his volley away for a corner.
The second half was more even as Millwall improved after the break and Archer didn’t have another save to make until the 87th minute when he was equal to Lee Tomlin’s long-range drive. Substitute Tomlin had the ball in the net seconds later after impeding Archer and was booked. It summed up a frenetic second half.
This was a sixth clean sheet of the season for Millwall and we’re probably past the point of praising them for another solid Championship performance, all the more impressive against a side that was second before kick-off and hadn’t been beaten at home. The Lions have more than proved they can hold their own at this level, though wins on the road will be necessary to put some proper distance between themselves and the bottom three places.
Lions boss Neil Harris was able to name the same Millwall side for the second successive week, and both sides went into this contest after confidence-boosting – and in Cardiff’s case, objective-changing – wins.
Cardiff looked to counter the threat of Gregory and Morison by playing three at the back, while also leaving Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Ward forward as much as possible in the early stages when Millwall attacked.
Mendez-Laing beat Ryan Tunnicliffe for pace in the 11th minute but the Lions midfielder persevered to make the tackle at the crucial moment.
Sol Bamba was Cardiff’s chief organiser in defence, and it was also an indication of how deep they could force Millwall that he stepped forward into midfield to play in Ward, before he was denied by Archer.
For all Cardiff’s good organisation at the back, twice they were the orchestrators of their own problems and first Gregory and then Morison – the latter let in by Bamba’s short back-pass – found space to shoot, but Millwall’s wait for a first goal away from home this season from a centre-forward went on.
It was Cardiff who were forcing their opponents deeper, and Millwall were finding it difficult to maintain possession for any significant period.
As a consequence, the hosts posed a more significant threat. But three times they found Archer the last line of resistance and couldn’t find a way past him, each of the goalkeeper’s saves outdoing the previous one for quality. The Lions certainly had their stopper to thank for still being level at the break.
Seconds into the second half Morison robbed Ecuele Manga and rolled the ball across the 18-yard line to where Gregory had made a run before he was clipped. Referee Stephen Martin indicated he didn’t think it was a foul, but that appeared to be the wrong decision.
The spaces were now opening up and Morison tested Etheridge with a low drive before Paterson headed off-target.
The temperature of the contest rose a couple of degrees as Shaun Hutchinson thundered brutally but fairly into Hoilett, Bamba and Gregory tangled, and then Sean Morrison barged Gregory over off the ball just as Jed Wallace drilled a pass forward. There was a lot to keep an eye on all over the pitch, and judging by the heavy boos from the home fans at the end they thought the officials were doing it in their favour.
As the wind picked up at Cardiff City Stadium, Millwall seemed to have weathered the hosts’ storm that had threatened to engulf them before half-time. And the Lions were creating a more steady stream of chances, first Gregory just failing to locate Morison in the box and then Wallace shooting but Bamba blocked.
Wallace was again involved when he back-heeled the ball to George Saville who had a chance to shoot from 25 yards, but he couldn’t keep his effort down.
Harris sent on Tom Elliott and Shane Ferguson for Gregory and O’Brien with just over 10 minutes left as he sensed there was an opportunity for his side to nick a first away win this season.
Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock’s substitutions, which were like-for-like, also indicated how much the game was in the balance.
There was a late penalty claim when Morrison went down in the box under Jake Cooper’s challenge, but again it was waved away as the sides shared a point.
Image: Millwall FC