GEORGE Saville scored in the 51st second for the second successive game before Millwall survived a second-half barrage from Brentford at The Den.
Saville ran onto Jed Wallace’s headed pass before he fired right-footed under goalkeeper Dan Bentley to put the Lions in front.
Brentford defender Yoann Barbet had the ball in the back of the net in the ninth minute after a corner was flicked on at the near post, but his celebrations in front of the Cold Blow Lane end were halted by the linesman’s offside flag, and after consultation with the referee Stuart Atwell, Millwall were given the decision.
Brentford went within the width of the woodwork of an equaliser early in the second half, Jordan Archer beaten after Sergi Canos turned and shot on the edge of the box, the ball cannoning back of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Brentford hit the woodwork again in the 70th minute, John Egan’s header from a corner striking the crossbar before bouncing down on the line and spinning away from goal. Seven minutes later James Meredith somehow cleared from right on the goal-line after Henrik Dalsgaard had prodded towards the net.
This was as impressive a performance as Millwall have given this season, and they deserved the three points for their effort alone, despite giving up those chances.
Shaun Hutchinson led the back four magnificently, as time and again his team-mates made crucial blocks and tackles to keep their London rivals out.
This season might not end with another play-off campaign, but the side have given their fans so much to cheer about, and it was one of the most charged atmospheres inside The Den this campaign.
The home fans had seen the perfect start. It might have been a remarkable coincidence that Saville scored in the exact same second as he did at Hull, but there was little coincidence in the way it came about, Millwall aggressively pushing up the pitch in the opening minute to put pressure on their opponents.
It was a surprise that Brentford left themselves so open as the Lions won the ball back, and Saville surged into the space before Wallace found him and the midfielder tucked away his ninth goal of the season before celebrating in front of the fans of the club he used to play for.
It was a fast-paced opening and Brentford thought they were level after Barnet’s far-post finish. His mock-salute to the Lions fans quickly brought karmic retribution, with Lions skipper Steve Morison running towards the left-back imitating his celebration after the goal had been ruled out.
Millwall were playing with confidence and Saville almost got a second but his low drive was deflected onto the post before after the resulting corner Wallace hit a first-time volley that Dan Bentley saved.
Brentford were fairly insipid up front in the opening period. Barbet hammered in a long-range left-footed shot that went just past the post, and Canos tried to catch Archer out with a snap-shot towards the near post but the goalkeeper was easily able to make the save.
The Bees’ bluntness was summed up when Emiliano Marcondes laid the ball off to no one, and it was a surprise that Dean Smith didn’t change his lone striker at the break, or at least give him some support up front.
Instead, support came from deeper, right-back Dalsgaard forcing a near-post save from Archer before Canos hit the post.
Millwall needed to do something to disrupt their opponents’ momentum after a flowing move from the visitors ended with Ollie Watkins shooting low, but again it was relatively comfortable for Archer.
Smith took off Marcondes shortly after he was comprehensively beaten in an aerial duel by Hutchinson, and Brentford continued to probe, committing players forward as Millwall worked hard to shut down space.
The home side’s ventures forwards were becoming rarer, though Morison did force Bentley to tip his header over the bar from Mahlon Romeo’s long throw-in. Millwall couldn’t take advantage of that but Egan so very nearly did at the other end, before Meredith’s intervention left Brentford wondering how they weren’t level.
Morison and Lee Gregory were having to do so much work to shuffle over and back across the pitch to help their team, and Neil Harris introduced fresh legs up front when he replaced the two strikers with Fred Onyedinma and Tom Elliott.
That gave renewed energy in the final third and Brentford weren’t as rampant as they had been earlier.
It was still taking a supreme defensive effort to keep them out, Millwall’s back four outstanding as they continued to make timely interventions.
Tim Cahill came on for Millwall with three minutes left, was booked immediately and then soon had his head down going towards the corner flag as his side hung on for the win.
The players were given a standing ovation as they left the pitch after the final whistle, after one of the most satisfying wins this season.
Image: Millwall FC