BEN Marshall scored his first goal for Millwall who made it four successive away league wins with a 1-0 victory at Burton.
Marshall gave Millwall the lead against the run of play in the 61st minute and the Lions hung on to stretch their unbeaten Championship run to eight games.
It wasn’t one of their best performances, and Burton had the better chances in the first half before Shaun Hutchinson almost diverted the ball into his own net late on.
Tom Naylor sent a header inches wide in injury-time, but the Lions prevailed, just, and Neil Harris might have to get used to fielding more questions about his side’s play-off hopes if this run continues.
Millwall had played here just once before, a 2-1 defeat in 2015-16 when Burton were promoted from League One, but were full of confidence after their recent away from.
It contrasted starkly with Burton’s recent record in their own backyard, where they hadn’t won a league game since last September and only two all season.
It seemed to point to there being only one likely result, and odds of 11/10 on the Lions before kick-off were tempting.
But Burton didn’t really play like a side with such poor home form, and created the two best chances of the first half, both of them falling to Darren Bent.
In the 25th minute Lions centre-back Jake Cooper misjudged a long clearance from Burton goalkeeper Stephen Bywater, and Bent was on it in a flash. The former England striker took the ball into the box and was about to get a shot away before Cooper slid in to make up for his error.
Later in the half on-loan Manchester City midfielder Jacob Davenport lofted a long pass over Millwall’s defence and space opened up for Bent, but he sliced a left-footed effort well off-target. Burton fans would have been expecting better from a one-time £15million striker.
Lucas Akins and Hope Akpan also had chances for Burton but couldn’t test Jordan Archer.
Burton have proven awkward opponents for Millwall in their short history of playing each other. Despite Lee Gregory’s sharp movement in the early stages the away side didn’t create any clear chances before the break.
Kyle McFadzean had to head away from in front of his own goal after Steve Morison had crossed. Cooper then headed a corner towards goal but it hit Gregory and Bywater – booed by the Millwall fans for his West Ham connections – gathered.
Harris was urging his players to be calm on the ball, but there barely seemed any space to play in, the compact ground lending to that impression and the diminutive midfield pair of Davenport and James Allen looking most suited to it. Gregory and Morison, meanwhile, felt their team-mates should have been pushing higher up the pitch to pressure the Burton defence.
Millwall’s best chance of a breakthrough was from set-pieces, and they almost got it just after the break when Bywater saved Cooper’s header and the home side scrambled the loose ball away from danger.
But Burton were playing with confidence, and their fans roared their approval after Lloyd Dyer’s cross was deflected just over the bar as the home side were keeping Millwall pinned in their half.
As Burton waited to take the corner Harris could be heard shouting he wanted more from his players. There was certainly a tantalising chance at that point, with other results as they were, to close the gap to the top six to just six points.
It was then that eyes turned to the bench, and it was Fred Onyedinma getting ready to come on. Then, out of nothing, Jed Wallace crossed from the left and Marshall bundled home at the back post.
Onyedinma had been set to replace Marshall before that goal, and that change was made two minutes later, with Millwall still in need of quick outlet, and now with Burton pressing for a leveller.
Burton boss Nigel Clough introduced club record signing, striker Liam Boyce, with 19 minutes left, and he soon had the chance to shoot from outside the box, but Shaun Williams slid in to win the ball and Cooper cleared.
Cooper was immense at the back, attracting almost every ball when it went into the Millwall box. He headed away for a corner with 12 minutes left, and from it Naylor should have done better than send a header over the bar.
Tim Cahill came on for Morison as Millwall protected their lead. Onyedinma was in his own box and earned shouts of encouragement from his manager as he ran the ball up the pitch to relieve the pressure on his side. Onyedinma also curled just wide, a rare chance for his side.
Hutchinson almost deflected a cross into his own goal before Cooper, again, headed away the corner.
There was a familiar sight late on as Jason Shackell was introduced to help see the game out, as Naylor almost hit the target.
But there was a familiar feeling for Millwall fans to take back to south London as their side climbed to 12th in the Championship table.
Image: Millwall FC