MILLWALL stretched their unbeaten home run to seven games but Preston came from behind to claim a point at The Den on Saturday.
Aiden O’Brien brought a dull first half to life with a first-time finish from Jed Wallace’s cross to put Millwall ahead two minutes before the break.
Apart from two Callum Robinson shots from distance in the opening 45 minutes Preston offered little going forward.
In the second half it was Millwall who continued to press, and Lee Gregory had the ball in the net in the 68th minute, but the offside flag had gone up.
Preston finally tested Jordan Archer moments later, the goalkeeper well-positioned to comfortably save Paul Gallagher’s shot.
Gregory had another chance in the 73rd minute but dragged his shot wide.
The visitors eventually started to apply some pressure on the hosts’ goal in the final 15 minutes, with substitute Daryl Horgan giving them some directness. He cut in off the right wing and his shot was deflected away from goal.
Millwall were falling deeper and Preston’s equaliser arrived with 10 minutes left, Robinson chesting in Greg Cunningham’s cross.
Harris recalls rested players
Lions boss Neil Harris recalled George Saville and Ryan Tunnicliffe to his midfield, while Archer was back in goal. He had so little to do as Millwall controlled the game until Robinson struck.
Archer was the first goalkeeper to be properly tested, and he was relieved in the 21st minute that after he parried Robinson’s shot there was no Preston player there ready to profit.
Robinson was Preston’s main threat in the first half as he twice shot from distance, but otherwise Alex Neil’s side were surprisingly unadventurous until the last quarter when they needed a goal.
It was another player who came back in who excelled and probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Tunnicliffe gets through a huge amount of work, and it says something that he is keeping Shaun Williams out of the team.
Tunnicliffe is always guarding in front of that back four, and he is not afraid to bark out instructions to those around him if he feels there are things that need correcting.
He plays a key role to make Millwall so defensively solid, and another clean sheet was so close.
Preston only began to look like an attacking force when Horgan and Daniel Johnson came on, and the latter was instrumental in setting up their leveller.
With five minutes left it was another piece of defensive excellence that saved Millwall, as James Meredith bravely blocked Horgan’s shot.
…O’Brien scores in successive games having not found the net since September – 18 games – before his double against Barnsley last weekend.
It was hard to think of a less eventful game Millwall have been involved in this season before then. When Saville was taken out 25 yards from goal five minutes before the break it finally raised a reaction from the crowd. From that free-kick Gregory wasn’t far away from making contact with Steve Morison’s header across goal.
Two minutes before the break O’Brien read where Wallace’s cross was going and finished past Chris Maxwell at the near post.
People often argue that O’Brien isn’t a winger, and that’s true, but he’s not in the team to beat players and cross from the left. He showed how valuable having an instinct for knowing where to be in the box is, and Harris said last week opposing teams find it hard to pick him up.
He demonstrated that again on Saturday.
O’Brien is also tactically astute on the left of midfield, and it was no coincidence that in the defeat to Derby in December Harris shifted him over to the right to solve a problem.
There is often the argument put forward that he should play up front, but O’Brien added to the case again here that the position from which he can be most effective is out wide. He has scored 33 goals in the last two-and-a-half seasons. That’s a better rate than most wide men at this level.
Lions go in search of first away win
Millwall go to Leeds next weekend still looking for a first away win of the season They are the only side in the division yet to win on the road.
Lions fans who have travelled to watch their team this campaign will know that bare statistic doesn’t tell the full story. There will be almost 1,500 cheering on their team at Elland Road, and there is every chance that first victory will come.
Millwall have put in enough quality performances away from home to finally merit three points. Leeds have been inconsistent, and there is the hope they could underestimate the visitors.
The equation is getting simpler as the season progresses. Nineteen games to go, and a buffer between the bottom three that they want to build upon.
This should have been three points given how dominant Millwall were in the first 75 minutes, but in the scheme of it this is another good point this season – and puts seven between them and the bottom three.
Image: Millwall FC