By Jake Sanders
MILLWALL SLIPPED to their first defeat of the season – and only their fourth in the league in 2018 after they lost 2-1 to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Barry Bannan put the home side in front with a first-half screamer before Tom Lees got their second a minute into the second half.
Ryan Tunnicliffe replied with 18 minutes left with his first goal of the season, but the Lions couldn’t force an equaliser despite some late chances.
It was a difficult evening for the Lions – summed up by the fact that they finished the game with Conor McLaughlin partnering Tunnicliffe in central midfielder after Shaun Williams was absent from the squad and George Saville was taken off at half-time with an injury.
Wednesday made all the early inroads and Steven Fletcher had a chance to give his side the lead but could only head straight at Jordan Archer from eight yards.
The onslaught continued from the hosts and they made their superiority count 16 minutes in. Millwall could only partially clear to Bannan, who crashed home a stunning volley into the top corner from the edge of the box.
With Millwall looking flat and lacking urgency, Joey Pelupessy came within inches of doubling the Owls’ lead, but his dipping long-range effort swerved just off target.
Millwall’s best moment of a disappointing half came on 35 minutes. Lee Gregory broke away down the left and had numbers forward, but his cross was too far in front of Steve Morison and Aiden O’Brien who were waiting unmarked in the box.
That chance seemed to give Neil Harris’ side some confidence and they began to work their way back into the game. Jed Wallace found some space and after hesitating when deciding to pass or shoot, he did the latter and dragged his tame effort wide.
The play was held up for a couple of minutes when Saville stayed down after a challenge. He played on but didn’t come out after the break, McLaughlin coming on.
The Lions had ended the half on top and Gregory had a half chance in the box, but the ball got stuck between his feet and the home side went into the break with their slender lead still intact, though Jordan Thorniley should have doubled it in first-half stoppage-time but could only head wide when it looked harder to miss.
Wednesday did extend their advantage right at the start of the second half. The dangerous Bannan swung in a free-kick, the Lions could once again only half clear and Owls captain Lees was left all alone to poke home at the far post.
That setback really seemed to knock the stuffing out of Millwall. After seeing little from his side in attack, Harris introduced Jiri Skalak and Tom Elliott for the final 30 minutes, Morison and O’Brien hauled off.
Those changes finally sparked the visitors, and in the 72nd minute they got themselves back into the game. McLaughlin played a long ball over the top for Gregory, who beat two Wednesday players to gain possession before finding Tunnicliffe, and the midfielder tucked a low effort into the bottom corner.
Millwall came close to levelling in stoppage-time. But after James Meredith’s acrobatic overhead kick was cleared off the line, the Owls survived a goal-mouth scramble and the Lions left Sheffield empty handed.
Image: Millwall FC