MILLWALL scored in each half to seal a comprehensive win over promotion hopefuls West Brom at The Den on Saturday.
Ryan Tunnicliffe fired Millwall in front before David Martin faced his second penalty in two games, and dived the right way as Jay Rodriguez shot wide.
The Lions went 2-0 in front in the 67th minute when Ben Thompson’s low cross was deflected in by Baggies centre-back Ahmed Hegazi.
Hegazi was sent off in the 79th minute, his tackle on Lee Gregory earning him a second booking following his earlier yellow card for fouling Ben Marshall.
Millwall completely dominated a side that will almost certainly finish in the top six, and who went into this game with serious ambitions of automatic promotion.
The Lions could have been playing Manchester City today in the semi-final of the FA Cup, but you’d struggle to find a Millwall player to say they’d prefer that than three points here.
And in front of the stand where he had dropped in Solly March’s free-kick in the dying seconds of that quarter-final against the Seagulls, Martin had another moment that will help him banish that memory. Rodriguez missed from 12 yards, and his side didn’t really deserve anything from this.
Millwall have often sat back when they’ve been leading in games this season. They never did that here, and could have added to their lead.
And since Neil Harris has played Lee Gregory up front on his own they have shown that they can be an excellent footballing side. Thompson has been key to that, a player transformed – or needing that regular football to bring out his best.
Millwall produced one of their best displays this season, and it is hard to see them relinquishing their Championship status based on such assuredness.
Harris named the same team that lost 3-2 at Leeds United with one change on the bench, Jiri Skalak coming in for Shaun Hutchinson.
4-1-3-1-1: Martin; Romeo, Pearce, Cooper, Meredith; Leonard; Wallace, Tunnicliffe, Marshall; Thompson; Gregory.
Subs: Archer, McLaughlin, Williams, Elliott, Morison, O'Brien, Skalak.
Millwall have not been playing like a team with the weight of relegation worries on their shoulders recently, and that was again true here.
With Thompson playing off Gregory, and Tunnicliffe attacking from deep aided by the threats of Jed Wallace and Ben Marshall from wide midfield, the Lions have a real attacking dynamism, with lots and lots of pace.
Wallace shot over early on before Thompson, with a sleight of foot that is becoming familiar since his return from Portsmouth, got free on the right and crossed, but Gregory was off target.
Gregory has embraced the lone striker role – even if it probably reduces his goal threat – and it was more excellent hold-up play as he brought Tunnicliffe into the game. Tunnicliffe sniffed a chance to shoot and did, though goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was at fault for letting the low shot squirm in. A goalkeeping mistake in front of the away end the other three stands were happy to see this time.
Millwall sensed blood. Jake Cooper had a header saved by Johnstone before Jake Livermore cleared Ryan Leonard’s follow-up off the line.
Johnstone then saved from Wallace, before the sole effort on target by the visitors of the opening half, Martin arcing his back to tip over Stefan Johansen’s half-volley from the edge of the area.
Millwall were so much on top early in the second half that it was a jolt when West Brom were suddenly, undeservedly, handed a lifeline. Cooper bundled over Dwight Gayle, but Rodriguez drove his low shot wide.
The Lions got on with their attempts to get a second, perhaps mindful of their late slips this season. And again Thompson played the central role, cutting in from the right and his cross was diverted into his own goal by Hegazi.
Millwall weren’t going to rest on their two-goal lead. Gregory had a glorious chance for a third after Johnstone saved Thompson’s long-range drive, but the goalkeeper sprung quickly to his feet to tip the striker’s follow-up around the post.
Thompson then evaded a couple of tackles on the edge of the box to create a shooting chance, but he put his left-footed effort past the post.
The Lions kept pressing forward, and Hegazi had to go when he took down Gregory.
The Baggies looked bereft, as they were restricted to pot shots from distance. The Lions were confident winners.
Image: Millwall FC