By Shane MacDermott
MILLWALL boosted their hopes of beating the drop following a gutsy 1-1 draw at Bristol City – but suffered more injury worries at Ashton Gate.
A brilliant Shaun Williams volley drew the Londoners level with 12 minutes to go after they had fallen behind following Jake Cooper’s own goal on 52 minutes.
It was just Millwall’s third away point of the season as they continue to look for a first away win since April.
With Lee Gregory, Tom Elliott and Tom Bradshaw already out through injury, the Lions saw Williams limp off just after scoring, following Aiden O’Brien being stretchered from the pitch in the 59th minute.
But Neil Harris’ battlers will take plenty of confidence from the draw after they mounted a determined rearguard action at times to stay in the game.
Harris will also be delighted with his side’s mental toughness and their impressive response after falling behind.
Millwall remain in the relegation zone on goal difference after drawing level on points with Reading.
The home side started brightest with Niclas Eliasson failing to trouble Jordan Archer when he took a touch and shot from long range inside the first three minutes for City.
The Lions began to show their trademark grit as they got in the faces of the home players to keep them at bay.
Jamie Paterson smashed a shot well over the bar on nine minutes as the home side were forced to keep trying their luck from distance.
Josh Brownhill fired a powerful shot just over after Eliasson beat two defenders and played him in on 13 minutes.
Shane Ferguson failed to make the most of a free-kick on 21 minutes as he drilled it straight down goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa’s throat.
Lloyd Kelly shot into the side-netting before Famara Diedhiou hit the crossbar with a header on 28 minutes as City stepped up the pressure once again.
The lively Eliasson then shot well over with an ambitious lob on 31 minutes.
The Lions’ defence had to hack away another testing cross from Eliasson minutes later as the Swedish U21 international continued to look the danger man.
Steve Morison was then booked after appearing to kick out the Swede on 38 minutes.
Cooper did well to turn behind a dangerous cross from Kelly, before Brownhill hit a 30-yard free-kick into the wall on the stroke of half-time as Millwall continued to hold firm.
Maenpaa showed great reactions to get down low and push away O’Brien’s snapshot as Millwall came out strongly after the restart to register their first shot on target.
Eros Pisano hacked the ball to safety after Shaun Hutchinson headed the ball back into the danger zone following a Millwall corner on 51 minutes.
But it was Bristol who took the lead against the run of play when Cooper turned the ball into his own net from an Eliasson cross.
It was tough to take for the Londoners, who had shown more attacking intent in the opening seven minutes of the second half than they did in the entire first 45 minutes.
And the visitors suffered another blow just before the hour when O’Brien went off. It brought about a reshuffle with sub Jiri Skalak taking up a place on the right-hand side and Jed Wallace moving alongside Morison up front.
Cooper then had a header comfortably saved by Maenpaa on 65 minutes as Millwall looked to get back into it.
Ferguson was next to see yellow after a follow on Andreas Weimann, before Wallace had a 25-yard free-kick beaten away by the keeper.
Cooper helped make amends for his early blunder when he played in Williams who brilliantly volleyed home to level in the 78th minute.
Williams was then forced to leave the pitch after injuring himself while scoring.
Pisano was inches away from winning it for City when his bullet header went just over three minutes into stoppage time.
Bristol City: Mäenpää, Pisano, Kalas, Webster, Kelly, Eliasson, Brownhill, Pack, Paterson (Watkins 83), Weimann (Eisa 90), Diedhiou (O’Dowda 83).
Subs: Baker, O'Leary, Morrell, Hunt.
Millwall: Archer, Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith, Wallace, Tunnicliffe, Williams (Karacan 80), Ferguson, O'Brien (Skalak 59), Morison (Webster 90).
Subs: McLaughlin, Amos, Wallace, White.
Referee: Darren England.
Attendance: 18,814 (612 away)
Image: Millwall FC