MILLWALL endured a frustrating Good Friday at The Den as they couldn’t take maximum points against 10-man Brentford.
Lee Gregory’s close-range finish gave Millwall a 15th-minute lead but Brentford were level just five minutes later when Joshua Da Silva fired into the top corner from 25 yards.
Henrik Dalsgaard was sent off 10 minutes before half-time for a last-man challenge on Ben Thompson, before Sergi Canos struck the crossbar in first-half injury-time.
It was Brentford who created the best chances in the second half, and substitute Chiedozie Ogbene missed a late sitter.
This was one of the spiciest contests at The Den this season.
In brilliant south London sunshine a side with everything to play for met one who could have been thinking of their summer holidays – but certainly didn’t play like it.
There was that red card and in the second half several players clashed after substitute Tom Elliott collided with Mads Bech Sorensen. It was a surprise referee Jeremy Simpson didn’t send off anyone else.
It was Gregory’s first league goal at The Den since December, his 12th of the season in all competitions, and if he does leave this summer Millwall will have to replace not only his goals but the link-up play, movement and everything else he brings.
Gregory had won the free-kick before the corner that led to the goal by tempting Dalsgaard into a push. Dalsgaard was off after his second infringement.
You would have backed Millwall from there, but there wasn’t enough craft or composure around their opponents’ box.
Brentford had the dangerous, technical and quick players to always be such a threat on the break. They peppered Millwall's goal with shots, and there were several near-misses.
The Lions didn't create anything as problematic for the visitors, and all eyes again turned to rivals' results.
Millwall under Neil Harris had won their three previous Good Friday games – against Nottingham Forest, Northampton and Charlton – but didn’t do enough for a fourth.
Harris made one change to the side that drew 1-1 at Sheffield United, with James Meredith replacing Conor McLaughlin meaning a return to a back four.
The Lions switched to a more orthodox 4-4-2 when Elliott came on for the injured Thompson, and Shane Ferguson moved to left-back at half-time with the introduction of Ben Marshall.
4-4-1-1: Martin; Romeo, Pearce, Cooper, Meredith (Marshall, 46); Wallace, Leonard, Tunnicliffe, Ferguson; Thompson; Gregory.
Subs: Amos, McLaughlin, Morison, O’Brien, Marshall, Williams, Elliott.
Millwall got the early goal they wanted through Gregory but Brentford responded in some style. Perhaps able to play with more freedom given they won’t go down or trouble the play-off spots, Da Silva’s shot from 25 yards illustrated that, a brilliant effort beyond David Martin’s right hand into the top corner.
Emboldened by that goal they pushed forward, but were caught when Jed Wallace floated a long pass in behind Dalsgaard. The defender should still have been favourite to get there first, but Thompson showed real pace to get his body between Dalsgaard and the ball. There was a nudge, and Thompson was sent tumbling.
After the midfielder received treatment, Wallace’s low free-kick was saved by Luke Daniels.
Thompson soon limped off, and there were six minutes of added-time after Kamohelo Mokotjo had taken a shot from Ryan Leonard to the lower midriff earlier and needed the medics.
Brentford may have been down to 10 men – and changed from 3-5-2 to 4-4-1 – but they still had ambition and Sergi Canos almost scored a replica of Da Silva’s goal but his shot crashed back off the crossbar.
Mahlon Romeo sliced a shot wide early in the second half after being picked out by Gregory, before Neal Maupay drilled a 25-yard effort just off target and Martin batted away Canos’ drive.
Canos was looking to shoot at every opportunity, and an hour in Martin pushed his deflected shot past the post. Canos looked perplexed when he was substituted moments later by Thomas Frank, Luka Racic coming on.
There were farcical scenes with just over 20 minutes left, after Sorensen initially collided with Elliott and stayed down. Brentford players were unhappy with the challenge. Wallace pushed over Emiliano Marcondes, and then Wallace fell when shoved by Luka Racic, before Marshall brushed off Marcondes, who went down clutching his shin. It all happened in front of the benches, and when it settled Elliott and Marcondes were booked.
In the 78th minute Ryan Tunnicliffe took a touch in space in the box when he probably should have shot first time, and was crowded out. A minute later Wallace’s clipped cross from the left bounced off the top of the crossbar and then Mokotjo had the ball in the net at the other end but the offside flag was up.
Brentford should have taken the lead with four minutes left when Da Silva forced his way inside to set up Ogbene, who lifted a poor effort over the bar from six yards.
Maupay was next to go close, the ball just clearing the bar from his 20-yard shot.
Millwall poured forward in the six minutes of added-time, but couldn’t get that crucial second as they moved three points clear of the relegation zone before Rotherham played Swansea later in the afternoon.
Image: Millwall FC