MILLWALL came from a goal down to draw with top-of-the-table Wolves in an action-packed Boxing Day contest at The Den.
Lee Gregory put Millwall ahead after a scintillating counter-attack from a Wolves corner, finishing past John Ruddy from Jed Wallace’s pass.
Just when Millwall looked like they had done enough to take that lead into half-time, they conceded when Helder Costa crossed for Diogo Jota to fire past Jordan Archer.
And the Lions were behind 11 minutes into the second half when Costa reached the ball before James Meredith to tee up Romain Saiss, who shot past Archer from 25 yards.
In a pulsating game it was 2-2 with 18 minutes left and it was a deserved equaliser for Millwall when Jake Cooper headed home his second goal of the season. It was the first time Wolves had conceded more than one goal in a game since November and their last league defeat, against QPR.
Neither side sat back as they pressed for a winner, and Archer saved Barry Douglas’ free-kick in injury-time before Matt Doherty headed the resulting corner over the crossbar.
This was the second game of four in 10 days for Millwall, with manager Neil Harris making three changes to his side from the defeat to Derby. Shaun Williams started for the first time since September, and Conor McLaughlin came in at right-back for Mahlon Romeo.
Steve Morison was rested which gave Tom Elliott the chance to impress up front alongside Gregory against a powerful Wolves back three.
For all Wolves’ attacking craft they showed they can be cynical, too, as from a counter-attack Ivan Cavaleiro hauled down Elliott and was booked.
After John Ruddy saved Wallace’s shot at the near post, Ruben Neves showed why he can’t be given time on the ball when he slipped Doherty through in the box, but Archer saved at the near post. Later, Costa collected a through-ball from Neves to advance towards the box before Archer blocked with his leg.
Before that, in the 13th minute, Archer powerfully punched away a Wolves corner, and Wallace took up the invitation to stride into his former club’s half before he perfectly found Gregory, the striker shooting low past Ruddy for his fourth goal of the season. It could quickly have been two, but Aiden O’Brien couldn’t turn George Saville’s cross in at the back post.
Wolves were discovering what it was like to play at The Den, and later in the half manager Nuno Santo was angrily arguing with the fourth official. There had been two forceful Millwall tackles that given the nature of decisions that have gone against the Lions this season raised the fear of red cards. First, Williams went in strongly, though fairly, on Saiss, before McLaughlin caught Douglas late. Both players were booked.
Wolves were keeping possession for long spells, but Millwall were defending well, often with six in their last line of defence, Wallace and O’Brien dropping back to bolster a narrow back four.
Cooper almost made it two but his header from Williams’ corner hit the side-netting.
Having defended so well against 11, Millwall conceded against 10. With Cavaleiro down in the Millwall box his team-mates carried on and worked the ball to Costa, who turned Meredith and Jota darted to the near post to level.
The hosts almost regained the lead shortly after the break, but Ruddy blocked Gregory’s close-range effort before Cooper was just off-target again from the corner.
Wolves then showed their speed on the break to go ahead, and Archer will be disappointed he didn’t keep Saiss’ effort out after getting two hands on the ball.
Millwall were forced into two changes due to injury either side of the goal, Romeo replacing McLaughlin before Morison came on for Elliott.
The chances kept coming and it was Wolves pressing to add a third, but Archer saved from Jota after the attacker re-directed Neves’ wayward shot towards goal. From the counter-attack Gregory was taken down outside the box to bring a booking for Conor Coady. Williams took the free-kick but fired over Ruddy’s crossbar.
But the equaliser did arrive for a gutsy Millwall, and it was third time lucky for Cooper, the defender nodding in at the back post after Shaun Hutchinson had headed Williams’ corner back across goal.
Romeo riskily challenged Jota in the box as both sides went for a winner, and the full-back was perhaps fortunate that referee Tim Robinson let play go on.
Harris brought on Ryan Tunnicliffe for O’Brien, which meant Morison shifted to the right of a midfield five. With two minutes left Morison headed Saville’s free-kick back across goal. But Wolves scrambled the ball clear.
Wolves had the chance to win it late on, Archer keeping out Douglas’ shot and Doherty heading over, before the home fans rose to applaud their side’s effort at the final whistle.
Image: Millwall FC