MILLWALL fell to their second defeat in South Yorkshire this week as Rotherham won for the second time this season to move above the Lions in the Championship table.
Centre-back Sean Raggett headed Rotherham in front in the 20th minute as Millwall offered little attacking threat before the break.
The Lions improved in the second half, but couldn’t find a breakthrough.
First half – Millwall can’t get going
Millwall were without George Saville and Shaun Hutchinson. Murray Wallace made his first league start in the centre of defence and Shaun Williams returned in midfield. Mahlon Romeo and Steve Morison were on the bench, Conor McLaughlin and Tom Elliott in the side in their places.
Wallace made his first important intervention in the ninth minute, clearing from the centre of the box after Ryan Williams had crossed low from the right.
But it was from the exact same positions that the hosts went in front. It was poor Millwall defending to allow a two-on-one to develop on the right from a throw-in, before Will Vaulks and Raggett headed into the bottom corner.
Rotherham’s wingers were working exceptionally hard to stop Millwall’s full-backs playing the ball into the channels, particularly Williams on the right. That cut off the supply line to Lee Gregory, who was later withdrawn.
They were also winning back possession well, and almost went two in front but sliding in at the back post Richard Wood just failed to connect with Ryan Manning’s free-kick.
Five minutes before the break Gregory was fouled just outside the box and Jed Wallace took the free-kick but shot straight at Marek Rodak, who nonetheless did well to hold the ball in wet conditions.
Millwall were struggling with defensive set-pieces and when the ball broke to Semi Ajayi he shot narrowly wide of the near post. Moments later Manning broke forward from midfield to shoot, forcing Jordan Archer into a low save to his left.
Second half – improvement but no points
There were no changes at half-time but it was a different Millwall side in urgency and ambition early in the second half. After four players worked together to close down Rotherham, Wallace advanced after intercepting Rodak’s hurried clearance, but the winger’s shot was blocked. Millwall got a free-kick through O’Brien, before Williams tried to catch out Rodak at his near post but just didn’t measure his shot accurately enough.
Wallace and O’Brien, who had switched sides, were much more involved. After Wallace’s cross had been blocked for a corner, Jake Cooper’s header was going in but Rodak saved.
The hosts then had a quick flurry of chances. Williams and Manning shot narrowly off target, before Archer spread himself to save from Michael Smith, who only had the goalkeeper to beat.
In the 65th minute, record signing Tom Bradshaw came on for his debut, Gregory, who had struggled with little service, went off. Jiri Skalak also replaced O’Brien.
With 20 minutes left, Wallace darted towards the box and picked out Elliott, who did well to turn and shoot, Rodak, much busier now, saving with his right foot.
The Lions were keeping Rotherham in their own half, and twice went close from corners as Wood almost headed into his own net and then Cooper nodded over.
Harris brought on Morison with just over 10 minutes left and Millwall played three up front, Wallace moving into a narrower midfield position. Wallace was far more of a threat from there, and doing his best to orchestrate a Millwall comeback. He almost scored a spectacular equaliser but his left-footed shot from 25 yards went just wide.
Millwall greatly missed Saville’s sureness on the ball in midfield and Hutchinson’s defending at set-pieces. The defender is set to miss at least a month through injury, a blow anyway but particularly so close to the end of this transfer window, if the thinking is to reinforce the defence.
Midfield is another area where Millwall need more depth, though they didn’t help themselves in the first half here by bypassing it with long balls. More than once Williams and Ryan Tunnicliffe stood with their hands on their hips wondering what they had to do to receive possession as another long pass skipped off the surface and wide.
Millwall improved markedly after the break, their midfield four much more involved, meaning Rodak was more involved, too. Bradshaw and Elliott showed an early understanding, and the latter was a real handful in aerial duels.
But it wasn't enough – and this is set to be a crucial week that will shape Millwall's season.
Image: Millwall FC