Report: Sheffield United 1-1 Millwall

MILLWALL came from behind to extend their unbeaten league run to 17 games and move into fifth place in the Championship before Saturday’s later kick-offs.

After a tight first half, Jordan Archer produced a superb point-blank block to deny George Baldock, before in the 65th minute Blades stopper Jamal Blackman saved Shaun Williams’ header.

Leon Clarke headed the home side in front in the 74th minute after Jack O’Connell had nodded the ball back across goal, before two minutes later Steve Morison levelled.

After the caginess of earlier, it turned into an action-packed Bramall Lane contest and Archer excelled himself again when he tipped Lee Evans’ long-range effort over the bar.

The Lions stopper then miraculously kept out substitute Billy Sharp’s close-range prod in the 87th minute as the home side attempted to bridge the three-point gap to their play-off rivals.

Millwall knew they could have dealt a serious blow to the Blades’ top-six chances with a win, but the manner in which Neil Harris’ side picked up a point will have pleased them.

Morison doesn’t score many, but when he does they tend to matter, three of the five goals the captain has netted this season directly winning games or earning a point.

Sheffield United had begun on the front foot, wing-backs Baldock and Enda Stevens pushing high up the pitch, with David Brooks – who scored a volley at The Den – dropping off Clarke.

Their attacking intent was evident as their wide centre-backs, Chris Basham and O’Connell, had licence to overlap, but that did leave Millwall space to attack the channels when they did win the ball back.

There were a couple of occasions when it seemed they would catch out the hosts, early on when Morison won the ball high up the pitch and tried to thread Lee Gregory through only for the ball to flick off the back of the striker’s heel.

It’s no secret that it’s a consequence of the way Millwall set up, with two banks of four limiting space between their lines, that they will be vulnerable to shots from outside the box. Evans scored one of the goals of the season against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night, and he saw an eighth-minute effort here not curl back in time to creep inside Archer’s left-hand post.

John Fleck then saw a shot deflected straight at the goalkeeper and the midfielder also spotted a gap to run through for a right-footed effort, but it was comfortable for Archer.

It felt Millwall would really need to make the most of their set-pieces given how difficult it was to get into crossing positions. From Williams’ corner in the 35th minute Jake Cooper headed back across goal before the ball was half-cleared to Jed Wallace, whose first-time volley was on target but flicked off Basham’s boot away from goal.

Moments later Wallace was appealing for a penalty and though the ball did strike O’Connell his arms were down by his side.

One of the noticeable features of the first half was how successful Millwall had been in quieting the crowd, not allowing the hosts to build up sustained periods of forward momentum.

Yet Chris Wilder’s side always gave the impression they were capable of producing some clever piece of play, and in first-half injury-time Baldock and Clarke linked up before centre-back Richard Stearmen snapped in a left-footed effort that could have surprised Archer, but the goalkeeper had done well to anticipate it and he pushed the ball around the post.

He produced an even better save shortly after the break. Just before that, Gregory had anticipated a short back-pass but the angle was too tight and his shot went wide at the near post. At the other end Fleck crossed and Baldock seemed certain to score before Archer flung a hand in the air to tip the ball over the bar.

Blackman then produced his own spectacular save, tipping Williams’ header from Ben Marshall’s corner around the post. Chances were coming in flurries and when Baldock stood up a cross to the far post the angle was too tight for Clarke to squeeze a header past Archer.

The tension and tempo was building and it had the feel of a game in which one goal could be decisive. Clarke lifted the roof off Bramall Lane when he scored in front of the Kop, only for Morison to brilliantly cushion a volley from Cooper’s long pass past Blackman. Noise exploding from home and away ends, certainly nothing like the lull of earlier.

And the level of drama and suspense was sustained until the full-time whistle, the score only remaining 1-1 after Blackman tipped Basham’s accidental flick towards goal over the crossbar and then Archer decorated an outstanding man-of-the-match performance by denying Sharp.

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly

(@jkelly1882)