MILLWALL came from behind against Aston Villa for their second Championship win of the season to end an eight-game run without a league victory.
Villa striker Tammy Abraham put his side in front in the seventh minute when he turned home Conor Hourihane’s free-kick.
It was from another set-piece that Millwall levelled, Shaun Ferguson firing in off Axel Tuanzebe after Jake Cooper had headed down Shaun Williams’ free-kick.
Millwall went ahead three minutes into the second half when Villa failed to clear a corner and Tom Elliott slammed in his first league goal at home since August 2017.
Williams went close to making it three an hour in, only to see his header come back off the crossbar from Ferguson’s corner.
First half – Millwall recover from early concession to dominate
Millwall had won the last six meetings between the sides at home, but Villa set about putting an end to that run and it was from another set-piece that the Lions conceded this season. After Williams had fouled Jack Grealish, Hourihane curled a free-kick in from the right and Abraham volleyed high into the net.
Millwall’s best out-ball was always Gregory, and his runs were so well-timed that even when Williams looked like he had no option deep in his own half in the 15th minute, he knew the striker was likely already on his way outside of Tuanzebe. The Villa defender was favourite and got their first, but Gregory picked possession off him before cutting infield and finding Jed Wallace, whose shot deflected towards the bottom corner and was tipped around the post by Orjan Nyland.
It was another deflection that took the ball past Nyland in the 27th minute. Cooper was being marked by up to three players at set-pieces but his height is always going to be an advantage over most defenders, and Ferguson anticipated where the header would land. It took a large deflection, but it would be harsh were the winger not awarded his first-ever Championship goal for Millwall, and his first league goal since April 1, 2017.
Millwall kept the pressure on the home side, and more excellent work from Gregory to cross from the right gave a chance to Williams, this time Tuanzebe’s diving block clearing the ball.
Williams almost scored a spectacular goal five minutes before half-time, but his left-footed effort from 25 yards just cleared the crossbar.
Second half – Millwall deservedly seal comeback win
Millwall picked up where they had left off with Gregory again tormenting the opposition defence.
The Lions won a corner when Wallace’s shot was deflected, and when Ferguson delivered it it was only half-cleared to Ryan Leonard who nodded back towards goal and it eventually dropped to Elliott to lash home with his right foot.
Amos then dealt with a shot from Grealish at the second attempt, before right-back James Bree headed just wide.
Minutes after Williams’ header cannoned back off the woodwork, Gregory, surely in one of his best-ever Millwall displays, was just off finding the bottom corner with a shot from 30 yards.
The strength of Villa’s bench was evident as they brought on Yannick Bolaise, and he was perhaps lucky to just be booked for a late foul on Wallace.
Leonard is looking for his first Millwall goal, but he fired over a volley from the edge of the box, before Gregory fed inside to substitute Steve Morison, but his shot was blocked.
In contrast to previous home games this season, the Lions kept pressing forward, with Cooper still going forward for set-pieces late on, and it was a seventh consecutive home win over Villa.
Millwall were actually bottom of the Championship table at half-time, but if Neil Harris said recently the standings don’t lie then they certainly weren’t telling the whole truth at that point on Saturday. Millwall looked to be much closer to the level they were at in the second half of last season.
Villa had nightmares every time Cooper went forward for set-pieces and his assist was his third at home in the league in five games, in which he has also scored two goals.
Elliott has been less prolific, but he deserved his goal, and later produced a brilliant flick to send the outstanding Gregory scampering into the Villa box. That partnership is flourishing recently, and when Elliott went off with 16 minutes left he was warmly applauded by home fans who are becoming more convinced of his value to the side.
Millwall had conceded eight out of 10 league goals here this season in the second half of games, but there was no late drama as the home side refused to sit back.
Image: Millwall FC