JAKE Cooper scored an injury-time equaliser as Millwall recovered from Ben Marshall’s late penalty miss to claim a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United.
Cooper pounced in the 95th minute to slam home after Dean Henderson saved Tom Elliott’s header.
Ten minutes earlier, Elliott’s header was going in before John Egan tipped the ball over with his hand and was sent off. Marshall took the penalty but his effort hit the bar and went over.
United had gone ahead six minutes into the second half when Gary Madine fired home from John Fleck’s cross.
But Millwall had the last word through Cooper's seventh goal of the season.
Justice was served.
There isn’t much more that a referee can do than send off a player who prevents a certain goal, but so late in the game it’s always the offending side that stands the chance to ultimately benefit.
Millwall were in a good position at half-tome to get something here. They had frustrated the home side and it was a quiet Bramall Lane in the opening 45 minutes.
United were a different attacking force early in the second half and deserved their lead.
But they wouldn’t have deserved to hang on to it after Egan’s intervention. Millwall deserve huge credit for the way they attacked in the last 20 minutes, finally really testing Henderson, who hadn’t had a whole lot to do before that.
When the goalkeeper was eventually beaten, it looked like Egan’s not-so sleight of hand would earn his side all three points when Marshall failed to punish the hosts. But Elliott had made a big impact since coming on, and in the last minute of added-time he headed Marshall’s cross on target. Henderson made a brilliant save, but couldn’t prevent Cooper heading in a last-gasp leveller.
Conor McLaughlin was handed a first start, and first Millwall appearance, since November 24. His only senior competitive action since then was for Northern Ireland – six minutes against Estonia in a European Championships qualifier last month.
McLaughlin came in for James Meredith, and Shane Ferguson returned after his three-match ban, taking the place of Marshall.
3-5-2: Martin; McLaughlin (Marshall, 59), Pearce, Cooper; Romeo (O’Brien, 81), Tunnicliffe (Elliott, 70), Leonard, Thompson, Ferguson; Wallace; Gregory.
Subs: Amos, Meredith, Williams, Morison, O’Brien.
Neil Harris set his side up in a 3-5-2 formation for the first time this season from the start of a game, a tactic he has used here before to try to match the Blades’ system.
But midway through the first half the hosts lost Chris Basham to injury and replaced the centre-back with a striker, Madine, switching to something resembling 4-2-2-2 formation.
In the reshuffle David McGoldrick had dropped deeper, and in the 30th minute almost put his side in front when he cut in from the left and bent an effort that just cleared the far post.
Millwall had succeeded in quietening the home crowd, as a real nervousness crept in. It was understandable, with the Blades trying to move two points clear of Leeds, who hosted United’s city rivals Wednesday later on Saturday.
The home fans were waiting for their side to create something, but Millwall were relatively comfortable, if a little lacking in attacking threat. One break saw Ryan Tunnicliffe find the overlapping Ferguson, but there was only Lee Gregory in the box and the cross went over his head.
Five minutes before the break David Martin raced off his line to punch away Oliver Norwood’s cross, and as hit late by Madine. It was accidental and both players required treatment, but both were able to continue.
In the 42nd minute Cooper slid in to block Enda Stevens’ low shot for a corner. Norwood took it and Billy Sharp was close to getting a decisive touch, before the ball bounced off Gregory into Martin’s arms.
United surged forward at the start of the second half. Alex Pearce blocked McGoldrick’s shot before Norwood’s effort deflected for a corner. The visitors’ defence was creaking. McGoldrick’s ball found Fleck who picked out Madine and the striker took his time before picking his spot.
Harris brought on Marshall for McLaughlin and switched to four at the back.
Ryan Leonard strode forward in the 68th minute to shoot, the ball deflecting into Henderson’s arms. Elliott came on for the Lions two minutes later to partner Gregory up front.
Elliott was an immediate handful in the box and when United struggled to properly clear with 17 minutes left Wallace hit a first-time left-footed volley from 16 yards that went just wide.
Mahlon Romeo fired in a free-kick from distance that deflected out for a corner, but Sheffield United were defending set-pieces well as they looked to go put more pressure on Leeds later on.
McGoldrick slashed an effort from the right side of the six-yard box wide of the far post, before Aiden O’Brien came on for Romeo.
Henderson was stretched properly for the first time when he dived to his left to save Ben Thompson’s shot. From Ferguson’s cross Elliott placed his header towards the far post, where Egan took the action he did knowing he would be sent off if referee David Webb had seen he had used his hand.
The defender was probably thinking it was worth it when Marshall blasted against the woodwork, until Cooper provided the late drama.
Image: Millwall FC