REPORT: Millwall 0-0 Gillingham (3-1 on pens)

MILLWALL are through to the second round of the EFL Cup following a 3-1 penalty-shootout win over Gillingham at The Den.

Gillingham had more of the clear-cut chances to score in normal time, but the game ended goalless and went straight to spot-kicks.

Into the away end, Jed Wallace went first but saw his effort saved by Tomas Holy. Mark Byrne was then denied low to his left by Ben Amos.

Tom Elliott was second up for the Lions and fired low into the bottom corner, before Luke O’Neill levelled.

Holy got a hand to Byron Webster’s penalty, but couldn’t keep the ball out of his net, before Josh Parker blasted over.

Shane Ferguson made it 3-1 and then Amos produced a brilliant save to his right from Brandon Hanlan with the ball striking the post before going across goal but staying out.

First half

Webster made his first Millwall appearance since last September, and was captain, while Amos, Murray Wallace and Jiri Skalak started for the first time for their new club as Neil Harris made 10 changes to his side at Blackburn.

It wasn’t a surprise to see Millwall start brightly given how many players were eager to impress.

Millwall’s front two of Elliott and Fred Onyedinma had perhaps most to prove, and they combined well at times in the opening half. Elliott should have hit the target in the ninth minute but after chesting the ball down on the edge of the box he dragged his shot wide.

The visitors, who had made three changes to their side from their 3-1 win over Burton Albion in League One on Saturday, didn’t offer a lot going forward. Tom Eaves scooped over a difficult chance from Bradley Garmston’s cross before Millwall attacked again and Elliott nodded down to Ben Thompson on the edge of the box but he shot straight at Holy.

The combination of Conor McLaughlin down the line to Elliott was working for the Lions. In the 21st minute Elliott ran onto the full-back’s pass before crossing for Onyedinma, who turned and shot but Holy was out quickly to block.

Amos dealt well with a tricky Garmston free-kick from 30 yards in the 24th minute.

Millwall, with Thompson their most impressive player in possession, built a fine move half an hour in, James Meredith eventually slipping Onyedinma through in the box but the attacker’s shot was blocked before Skalak’s effort also hit a defender.

Onyedinma skipped into the box five minutes later but his low cross was diverted away from a Lions boot.

Second half

Gillingham were much better after the break. Hanlan went past McLaughlin in the box in the 55th minute to cross to Eaves, whose shot was blocked by the excellent Meredith.

Millwall responded by creating the game’s best chance, Ferguson hooking the ball towards the goal-line after Thompson had crossed, but Holy and Garmston somehow cleared it behind for a corner. From that, Elliott turned in the box but had little space and his shot was blocked behind.

Both sides had chances to score 65 minutes in, Onyedinma brilliantly running past three defenders despite his shirt being tugged to cross, but the ball went between Skalak and Ferguson arriving in the box. Gills immediately countered, and Amos was at full stretch as Eaves’ shot deflected just past the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

The away side were growing in confidence, and three minutes later Hanlan fired low past the same post.

Harris made a double substitution in the 73rd minute. Meredith was one of Millwall’s best performers, but this was about building up match minutes for him after his late return to pre-season. He went off to be replaced with Aiden O’Brien, while Lee Gregory came on for Onyedinma, who promised much but was left frustrated. Elliott had a difficult chance in the 80th minute after a swift Millwall counter-attack, but he headed over from Skalak’s delivery from the right.

With seven minutes left Regan Charles-Cook took advantage of a lapse in Millwall’s defence to run into space on the right for a shot that beat Amos but also cleared the far post.

There was another worrying moment for the hosts with five minutes left when Webster stayed down after blocking Bradley Stevenson’s shot from inside the box. The defender was limping but able to continue.

In the 88th minute Millwall had claims for handball after Elliott’s header appeared to strike a Gills arm, but referee Charles Breakspear waved play on.

It was all Millwall in injury-time, but they couldn’t force a winner before Amos’ heroics sent his side through.

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly