STEVE Morison scored his first goal of the season as Millwall won their last game of the year to move three points clear of London rivals QPR.
Morison nodded in at the back post 10 minutes into the second half to give the Lions their seventh win of the season and move them up to 15th in the Championship table.
The game came to life in the 28th minute when Morison slipped just as he was about to connect with Jed Wallace’s cross, before George Saville saw his shot from inside the box blocked.
A minute later Lee Gregory spun in the area but struck his effort off Grant Hall.
Mahlon Romeo and Ryan Tunnicliffe combined in the 33rd minute to send Wallace through on the right side of the box but his drive hit the side-netting after it briefly appeared he had found a breakthrough.
QPR tested Jordan Archer for the first time nine minutes before the break, but Jake Bidwell couldn’t direct his header away from the goalkeeper from Alex Baptiste’s cross.
Early in the second half, Morison and Gregory exchanged passes to set up Aiden O’Brien whose effort flicked off a defender and away.
At the other end Archer relatively comfortably saved Luke Freeman’s header.
It always looked more likely the opener would arrive for the Lions, and when Morison got his next chance he made no mistake by powering home Wallace’s cross.
Freeman was QPR’s most inventive player and Archer had to show safe hands after the midfielder had set up Bright Osayi-Samuel for a snap-shot. There was a nervy moment shortly afterwards when Archer spilled Massimo Luongo’s drive before just getting to the loose ball before substitute Matt Smith.
Wallace saw a curled effort with 15 minutes left saved by Alex Smithies before Freeman sliced a shot wide from 20 yards.
With ten minutes left substitute Fred Onyedinma should have squared for Tunnicliffe in front of goal as QPR were let off the hook.
Smith then thought he had grabbed a late leveller, but his header from Freeman’s corner went just wide of Archer’s post.
Changes pay off for Neil Harris
Romeo started in place of the injured Conor McLaughlin and showed his defensive reading of the game just before the break when he slid in to make a crucial intervention as Freeman tried to put Osayi-Samuel through.
Tunnicliffe came back into a tightly contested midfield area, while Morison started up front and his luck in front of goal was summed up when he slipped under that cross from Wallace.
That trio were involved for Millwall’s brilliantly worked opener, though, Tunnicliffe flicking a delightful pass out to the right to Wallace, who skilfully made space before clipping an inviting cross over Smithies for Morison.
Ian Holloway gets predictably hostile reception
There was an extra layer of security outside the away coach entrance before the game. The coach was delayed, only arriving an hour before kick-off by which time the welcoming committee had swelled to a couple of hundred and Holloway, standing at the front of the bus, cupped his hand to his ear.
In his programme notes, Harris referred to the “added spice” of the occasion, and welcoming back his “old boss” to The Den for the first time.
In terms of Holloway’s tactics, there was one obvious difference early on as instead of playing out from the back as they had tried to do at Loftus Road, R's goalkeeper Smithies wasted no time delivering his goal-kicks long to try to isolate Idrissa Sylla and one of Millwall’s centre-backs. It briefly posed a problem for the hosts.
Holloway would have been pleased with how the first half went, and his side arguably created the best chance when Bidwell found himself free at the back post and should have sent his header back across goal to the far post.
It felt anti-climactic at times before the break, as the Hoops succeeded in quietening the home crowd despite a bright start from their side.
The deadlock and the tension was finally broken by Morison in the 55th minute. QPR, though, didn’t shrink, and there were some awkward moments for Millwall as the visitors left players up the pitch chasing an equaliser.
Smith almost got it, before at the final whistle Holloway shook hands with Harris and headed straight down the tunnel.
2017 one of best years in recent Millwall history – and 1-0 a favourite scoreline
Take your pick from the highlights: Morison’s late goal against Watford to set up an FA Cup fifth-round meeting with Leicester; Shaun Cummings' injury-time winner in that to send 10-man Millwall into the quarter-finals.
That was then all bettered by the play-off campaign when Millwall did it the hard way and Morison’s goal against Bradford secured promotion. It was perfectly appropriate, then, that Morison should break his season’s goal duck in the last game of the year.
It was Millwall’s 17th win at home in 28 games in all competitions in 2017, and it was fitting, too, it ended 1-0, with their 17th clean sheet of the year.
Image: Millwall FC