MILLWALL’S run of successive away league wins came to an end as they had to come from behind to draw at Ipswich.
Jordan Archer made a double save to deny Martyn Waghorn and Jake Cooper slid in to clear Cole Skruse’s low cross as the home side started brightly.
Cooper gave Millwall the lead that they took into the break, before Ipswich turned the game completely on its head when Waghorn was credited with the equaliser after a goalmouth scramble before two minutes later the centre-forward rounded Archer to slot home.
Just six minutes later, Millwall were level, George Saville lashing in his 10th goal of the season after goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski had tipped Jed Wallace’s cross to the feet of the midfielder.
Five minutes from time Lee Gregory was denied by Bialkowski before substitute Aiden O’Brien fired the loose ball off the woodwork.
It wasn’t the win Millwall wanted, but other results going their way meant they didn’t lose ground on the top six.
Millwall had a day more recovery time after defeating Nottingham Forest 2-0 24 hours before Ipswich lost 1-0 at Birmingham.
Lions boss Neil Harris named the same side for the eighth time in nine games. Tractor Boys manager Mick McCarthy made four changes to his team from St Andrew’s.
It was actually Ipswich that looked the fresher side earlier on and looked like they had more to play for. They wanted a penalty when Cooper clumsily bundled over Waghorn in the area but referee Stephen Martin waved play on.
Ipswich then seemed set to take the lead when a long ball over the top from Adam Webster found Waghorn but Archer blocked the striker’s first effort and then the follow-up.
Millwall were uncharacteristically loose and Cooper slid in to divert away Skruse’s low cross into the six-yard box before Mustapha Carayol was given room to cut in from the left and he fired just over Archer’s crossbar.
In the 27th minute Millwall went ahead. Cooper had stayed up front after a free-kick moments earlier, and when Ben Marshall crossed with his left foot the centre-back headed in his fourth goal of the season.
There was a different mood now as Millwall sensed another goal could really deflate their opponents, who won’t be promoted or relegated this season. Ipswich fans had been quietened after their initial enthusiasm, and you could hear Harris shouting at his players after a free-kick was wasted.
Saville certainly sensed the Tractor Boys’ vulnerability as he urged his team-mates to keep the pressure on. He almost added a second but was stretching to reach Wallace’s cross and couldn’t keep his effort on-target.
With Middlesbrough losing at Burton and Bristol City drawing at home against Brentford it meant when the half-time whistle blew at Portman Road the Lions were in sixth place in the table.
But the warnings were there for Harris’ side, who hadn’t been at their best.
McCarthy made a change to his side at the break, sending on Ben Folami and taking off left wing-back Myles Kenlock and it gave his side much more dynamism up front. Ipswich now matched their opponents’ 4-4-2 formation, Carayol playing wide on the right in a more attacking set-up, with Bersant Celina a threat cutting in from the left.
Seven minutes into the second period Archer parried Skuse’s shot to the feet of Folami who scuffed his attempt, before several players piled in and it was Waghorn who was credited with the final touch. His goal to make it 2-1 was a much cleaner effort, taking a touch to go past Archer from Cooper’s attempted back-pass before rolling the ball into the empty net with his left foot.
Millwall started this run of away wins by coming back to beat Leeds after conceding three in 17 minutes in the second half at Elland Road in January, and there aren’t many other players you would want the ball to fall to in the box than Saville, who has such an efficient strike rate this season. He had scored just 11 goals in his entire career before this campaign.
Harris sent on Tom Elliott and Aiden O’Brien for Marshall and Steve Morison, but it was Ipswich pressing for a winner, Luke Chambers making a late run into the box before volleying wide.
Then Millwall had a number of glorious opportunities to sneak get in front. First Wallace laid the ball off to Gregory in the box but the striker couldn’t beat Bialkowski, before O’Brien struck his shot off the post. At the other end Mahlon Romeo was in the right place at the right time to clear Jordan Spence’s low cross.
Romeo then somehow had the energy moments later to run straight at the middle of the Ipswich defence and get away a shot, only for Bialkowski to get down low to his left and save. The chances kept coming and O’Brien beat the goalkeeper but his shot went wide of the post.
And in injury-time Bialkowski saved Wallace’s shot as Millwall couldn’t find a winner for what would have been a club record seven consecutive league victories on the road.
Image: Millwall FC