MILLWALL started the post-Neil Harris era with a 2-1 win over Leeds United at The Den on Saturday afternoon.
It was a first win in eight league games as caretaker boss Adam Barrett enjoyed success in his first – and maybe only – game in charge.
Jed Wallace gave Millwall the lead from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after Gaetano Berardi had been shown a straight red card for denying Tom Bradshaw a goal-scoring opportunity.
Bradshaw doubled the lead when he brilliantly flicked home Shane Ferguson’s cross from the left for his fourth goal of the season.
The Lions lost Ryan Leonard to injury in the 28th minute with Shaun Williams a direct replacement for the midfielder.
Leeds pulled a goal back immediately after the restart when Ezgjan Alioski finished into an empty net at the back post.
Barrett makes good first impression
Barrett, 39, took charge of his first-ever senior game, just two years after his retirement from playing.
In the opposite dugout was the vastly experienced Marcelo Bielsa, whom managers such as Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino have cited as a major influence.
Barrett wore a short-sleeved club training t-shirt on a brisk afternoon and was joined in the home dugout by Paul Robinson and under-23 boss Kevin Nugent.
Bielsa – who after this fixture last season apologised following a scuffle between the dugouts – was a familiar crouching presence for much of the second half.
Despite being a man down Leeds were never likely to sit back and hope to hit Millwall on the counter-attack.
Just over a year ago Jack Harrison’s late goal sparked that conflict. Those late goals were a thorn in the side for the Lions in 2018-19, but as the hosts sought to see the game out it was that Shaun Hutchinson-Jake Cooper combination that marshalled the defence superbly.
Little victories were cheered by the home fans, like when Mahlon Romeo won two challenges near the touchline and earned a free-kick.
The last couple of minutes of added-time could have been a lot more comfortable had substitute Jon Dadi Bodvarsson not scuffed a shot in space from 12 yards out.
In fairness, by then Leeds’ challenge had largely faded, no real surprise given their disadvantage.
Will Barrett throw his hat in the ring for the job full-time? This was a decent audition.
Bielsa goes all-out attack
Barry Douglas came on for Leeds at the break to allow Alioski to move from left-back to the left of midfield.
It had an immediate impact as seconds into the second period the visitors attacked down the right and Harrison’s cross was turned in by Alioski.
Bielsa then sent on Eddie Nketiah for Patrick Bamford. Nketiah has lightning quick feet on the ball and looked a constant menace. But Millwall succeeded in keeping the ball away from him.
For all that Leeds had the ball large spells of the second period, Bart Bialkowski was untroubled for most of it.
Wallace takes advantage after questionable call
Wallace thumped his penalty into the top left corner, giving Kiko Casilla little chance. But should Wallace have been given the chance to score from 12 yards? That’s questionable.
There didn’t appear to be much contact from Berardi on Bradshaw, but the striker didn’t need a personalised invitation to hit the turf. A little bit of deceit, but a former Lions No.9 probably would have approved of the action of the current incumbent in the shirt.
Bradshaw’s goal was a superb finish. Ben Thompson found Ferguson on the left and he crossed to Bradshaw at the near post, and the striker deftly flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot into the far corner. Bradshaw said on Wednesday night that you’d have to go to the archives to check the last time he’d scored from outside the box. This one should go into a compilation on the art of finishing.
Barrett made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Luton on Wednesday. Ferguson returned after suspension, while Thomspon played just off Tom Bradshaw.
Millwall: 4-4-2: Bialkowski; Romeo, Hutch, Cooper, M Wallace; J Wallace, Leonard (Williams, 28), Molumby, Ferguson; Thompson (Bodvarsson, 80); Bradshaw.
Subs: Sandford, Pearce, O’Brien, Smith, Mahoney.
Image: Millwall FC