MILLWALL couldn’t take advantage of their game in hand on the sides below them in the Championship as they lost 2-1 at Hull City on Tuesday night.
Jarrod Bowen gave Hull the lead in the eighth minute before Steve Morison came on five minutes later for Murray Wallace, who was injured moments before the goal.
Millwall recovered from that double blow and were level in the 34th minute as Shaun Hutchinson prodded past David Marshall at the near post.
Hull regained the lead three minutes before half-time when Todd Kane crossed from the right and Marc Pugh produced an excellent touch and then a smart finish.
Kamil Grosicki hit the post in the second half before Bowen stopped Hutchinson's header from going over the line with five minutes left.
Millwall were playing their game in hand on the five teams below them in the league, with the chance to move seven points clear of the relegation zone by repeating their win here last season.
George Saville scored inside a minute then, but they could hardly have got off to a worse start here. They did find their composure but then undid their good work. After scoring Millwall’s first-half equaliser, Hutchinson then uncharacteristically misjudged Kane’s cross and Pugh took his chance.
Substitute Morison was involved in a second goal in two games after coming off the bench, but while Millwall have plenty of attacking options it’s at the other end of the pitch where they could have problems.
When left-back Wallace went off injured it meant all four Lions full-backs were out, with Mahlon Romeo not in the squad on Tuesday night. Ryan Leonard filled in at right-back but struggled, naturally, against Grosicki who in this form is one of the best left wingers in the league.
Millwall have averaged a point a game after 34 games. Bolton stayed up in 21st last season with a lesser points-per-game ratio, but it’s cutting it fine.
The Lions face Norwich next, a daunting task anyway against the free-scorers but even more so if they are short on full-backs.
Ryan Tunnicliffe started in the league for the first time since January 6, one of three changes Neil Harris made to his side from the 3-1 defeat to Preston on Saturday.
Shane Ferguson and Ben Thompson were recalled, with Tom Elliott on the bench and Romeo out.
Archer; Leonard, Hutchinson, Cooper, M Wallace (Morison, 13); Ferguson, Thompson (Elliott, 78), Tunnicliffe, Marshall (O’Brien, 70); J Wallace; Gregory.
Leonard started out of position and was in trouble eight minutes in when Grosicki went outside him to cross. Wallace made a covering tackle but the ball broke to Markus Henriksen whose shot was deflected under Jordan Archer by Bowen.
Morison’s introduction meant the Lions revered to a more conventional 4-4-2, Ferguson moving to left-back and Jed Wallace to left midfield, with Ben Marshall switching to the right flank.
Millwall were opened up a number of times in the first half with Grosicki a consistent threat, but the visitors determinedly played their way into the game.
They were rewarded 11 minutes before the break when Morison helped the ball in towards the six-yard box where after a scramble Hutchinson stuck out a right leg and found the bottom corner for his first goal since he scored against Sunderland in March 2018.
Millwall, however, continued to be ragged in defence and it was little surprise when Hull went in front for the second time. Kane was allowed too much time to cross, but it was even more careless the way Pugh had time to take a touch 12 yards out and the freedom to finish past Archer.
Bowen produced a brilliant piece of control six minutes into the second half before Cooper blocked his effort on goal.
A minute later Marshall found Wallace who passed inside to Tunnicliffe and the midfielder wasn’t far away from finding the far corner with a shot from the edge of the area but the ball drifted wide of the post.
In the 57th minute Marshall couldn’t swivel to shoot from Cooper’s nod down before Tunnicliffe tried again but was denied by goalkeeper Marshall at full stretch.
Hull's Marshall then saved Ferguson’s low driven effort from Morison’s pass as Millwall urgently sought a second equaliser.
Archer was then fortunate to see Grosicki’s effort rebound off his back from the post and sneak wide rather than in, before Bowen drove a fierce shot just off target on the same side.
With six minutes left Elliott flicked on Ferguson’s free-kick to Morison around the back but the angle was tight and Marshall saved again. From the corner Bowen rescued his side by blocking Hutchinson's header on the line.
Millwall piled forward late on, but Hull repelled them and hung on for three points.
Image: Millwall FC