MILLWALL hung on for their first league win of the season after Derby County had threatened a comeback at The Den on Saturday afternoon.
Jake Cooper put Millwall ahead in the seventh minute before Shaun Williams doubled the lead when his shot from 30 yards deflected into the top corner off Fikayo Tomori.
Substitute David Nugent made it 2-1 with 16 minutes left when he beat Jordan Archer at the near post following a quick Derby counter-attack.
But Millwall survived, to continue their unbeaten start.
First half – Millwall overwhelm their opponents
Neil Harris named the same side for the third successive league game, and there was again no place for Fred Onyedinma in the squad.
For the second home league game in a row, Millwall delivered such an impressive first half of football to go in 2-0 up at the break.
Derby couldn’t handle the home side. Rams boss Frank Lampard gave 18-year-old right-back Jayden Bogle – who doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page yet – a debut, and they also had Tomori, 20, in defence. The on-loan Chelsea defnder stuck out a leg as Williams’ shot was whizzing by, and it was probably a product of the panic the Lions were creating in attack.
It was evident early on when Steve Morison pressed Richard Keogh and the defender conceded a corner.
In the second minute Craig Bryson headed Cooper’s header off the line before Tom Lawrence fired a fierce free-kick towards goal that Archer had to tip over. Derby’s best chances before the break came from free-kicks, but twice Martyn Waghorn and Lawrence again hit efforts into the wall.
Millwall went ahead in the eighth minute and there was some confusion over who got the final touch. It was Gregory who won a free-kick wide on the right, Williams curled it in and Gregory and Cooper went for it. All three could have had claims on it, but it was Cooper who diverted it in.
There was little let-up from Millwall as Derby persisted with trying to play out from the back and when George Saville nipped in to win back possession Gregory’s shot ricocheted out to Williams. He did superbly to send the spinning ball hurtling back in first time, and Tomori’s touch took it in.
Saville, who had moments earlier flung himself at a shot that hit his head, strode towards goal in the 34th minute but fired wide.
Derby had little in response, and by the end of the half Millwall fans were taunting Lampard with chants of “You’re getting sacked the morning”, as well as a few other unmentionable ones.
Second half – Derby pressure starts to build
Ex-Lions left-back Scott Malone was taken off at half-time, Craig Forsyth coming on to try to steady the back four. He would later have a role in Derby's goal.
Derby were more urgent now, committing more players forward but their final delivery was poor and it was giving Millwall chances on the break, Gregory spurning one when he had the option of passing to Morison or Aiden O’Brien but was caught in possession.
Waghorn tried to bustle through twice in the box, the first time tumbling when he felt a touch from Cooper, but referee Stephen Martin waved away the penalty claim. In the 67th minute it was Waghorn against Cooper again, the defender coming out on top again as he let the ball run wide.
Millwall had largely succeeded in keeping Mason Mount quiet, the Chelsea loanee having a chance with 20 minutes left but dragging his shot wide.
Derby were sensing there was a way back into this game, and attacked into space down the left before working the ball to Nugent on the right, and the former England striker clinically finished.
Saville could have restored Millwall’s two-goal lead minutes later when he ran onto Shaun Hutchinson’s header down, but the midfielder somehow shot wide from inside the six-yard box.
Millwall were struggling to get out of their own half and there were real similarities with the opening game of the season against Middlesbrough.
With six minutes left, Ryan Tunnicliffe came on for Gregory and Shane Ferguson for Jed Wallace.
Tunnicliffe burst forward to set up Saville in the last minute, but he shot wide.
Three minutes added-time went up on the board, and this time Millwall avoided any last-minute heartbreak.
Opposition managers may talk about expecting a hostile atmosphere but it’s another thing sending a team out to deal with it.
From the opening moments it was clear Derby were going to be in for at least a torrid first half. Millwall’s two-goal lead at half-time was well-deserved.
But then as the second half went on the pattern of the last two league games was repeated, Millwall finding themselves under sustained pressure.
But this is a resilient side and they said they had learned the lessons from the Boro game.
This time there were no defensive lapses, only huge relief at the final whistle.
Image: Millwall FC