|Collins 55||Venue: Greenhous Meadow
|Morison 59, Gregory 67 (pen)|
August 8, 2015 – Greenhous Meadow
STEVE Morison scored on his third Millwall 'debut' to help Neil Harris' side to the three points in the season's opener against Shrewsbury at Greenhous Meadow.
Morison tapped in at the back post for a 59th-minute equaliser before the excellent Lee Gregory scored from the spot eight minutes later.
It was no more than the Lions deserved after a battling display, and Gregory and Fred Onyedinma in particular were key to the win.
Gregory worked non-stop throughout and was embraced by Harris when he was replaced with five minutes left.
Morison will rightly get a large share of the headlines, but it was Onyedinma who was central to both goals and he looks like he has hugely benefitted from last season's loan spell at Wycombe.
This was an impressive Millwall performance and though Shrewsbury had their chances, the away side were well-organised and showed impressive hunger to close down their opponents.
It was also a first win away in the league since February 10 against Birmingham City and Harris could hardly have imagined it going much better in the first game of his first full season as manager.
He handed a debut to Morison with the former Leeds man partnering Gregory up front.
Mark Beevers continued at left-back in the absence of the injured Joe Martin while on-loan Newcastle winger Shane Ferguson was on the bench.
Harris also went for the more physical Byron Webster to partner captain Tony Craig in the centre of defence with Shrewsbury possessing some robust forwards.
And it was Millwall who were first to threaten when Onyedinma, with the new number 10 shirt on his back and looking confident, took on and beat Mat Sadler but his cross was headed away.
But Shrewsbury have a formidable recent home league record and they quickly settled with Ryan Woods in particular looking composed in midfield.
Clearly the instructions from Micky Mellon were to try to get Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro in behind Shaun Cummings on the left and on 14 minutes the tactic almost paid off when the winger beat the defender to cross for Tyrone Barnett who headed over.
David Forde, who was shaky in the last pre-season game against CD Tondela, was looking much more confident here and he was quickly off his line to thwart James Collins as he attempted to muscle through in the box.
Gregory spent much of the opening 45 minutes chasing down and battling for loose balls and after he had won a free-kick 35 yards out, Shaun Williams almost surprised Jayson Leutwiler with a stinging drive but the keeper gathered at the second attempt.
Leutwiler then did even better to tip Lee Martin's deflected free-kick over the bar as Millwall enjoyed a period of possession.
And they came closest to opening the scoring shortly before half-time when Beevers climbed at the back post to head Martin's corner towards the top corner, but Abu Ogogo had done well to scramble back and he headed the ball off the line.
Shrewsbury's front pair were causing Millwall's defence a few problems and Barnett again headed over a difficult enough chance before the break.
Ironically it was after the game's quietest period that Shrewsbury went ahead on 55 minutes.
Ogogo did well to fizz a cross behind Millwall's back four and Collins beat Forde from a tight angle close in.
But Millwall quickly recovered after that shock and equalised four minutes later.
Onyedinma took on and teased Matt Tootle to cut the ball back for the onrushing Gregory. He missed it but Morison arrived at the back post to tap in.
Now Morison suddenly began to look a real threat. With just over 20 minutes left Onyedinma again drove at the heart of the Shrews defence to find Morison who collected the ball in the box and was taken down by Sadler.
Shrewsbury fans were upset with the decision but Gregory kept his composure to fire into the top corner.
Matt Upson went close with a couple of snapshots and Millwall hung on through six minutes of added-time to hand Harris the perfect start.
It wasn't pretty at times, but Millwall got the job done and in his first competitive game of a first full season in charge Harris will be happy.
It will surely have brought him extra satisfaction that it was his two strikers who scored. Morison will be 32 this month but still has enough energy in his legs and gives the impression he could be a dominant force in this division this season.
His strike partner Gregory – who only just over a year ago was still playing non-league football – could prove to be a bargain and he has picked up where he left off last season after his hat-trick against Derby on the second-last day. The two strikers look like they won't give League One defences many comfortable afternoons.
Millwall under Harris are set to be a team that will have less possession in most games. Certainly the Shrews' aggressive Ryan Woods was the busiest midfielder this afternoon as he kept play ticking over for his side.
But if Millwall are to be an effective counter-attacking team then they will need pace on the break, and they certainly appear to have a gem in Onyedinma. The winger – who won't turn 19 until November – set up the first and had a hand in the second, finding Morison who was fouled for the spot-kick. If this is Onyedinma's consistent level then a few Premier League and Championship clubs could soon be on his trail.
There was also a debut for on-loan Newcastle wide-man Ferguson, while Craig, on his fourth 'debut', brought experience and assurance to the defence.
"I was absolutely delighted with the performance. Other than the spell after half-time leading up to the goal I thought we dominated and managed the game really well.
"As a unit we were disappointed not to come in leading at half-time. We didn't start the second half particularly well and then went behind, but it was a really well-worked goal by them.
"It was obviously disappointing to concede but the reaction from the players and the performance afterwards was outstanding.
"That sets a benchmark for the season, not just the 15 minutes after it but the whole performance."
Shrewsbury: 4-4-2: 1 Leutwiler; 2 Tootle, 5 Grandison, 6 Goldson, 3 Sadler; 23 Barnett, 4 R Woods, 8 M Woods (Brown, 68), 26 Akpa-Akpro (Whalley, 75); 9 Collins (McAlinden, 79), 17 Ogogo.
Substitutes: 7 Lawrence, 15 Ellis, 16 Vernon, 25 Burton.
Millwall: 4-4-2: 1 Forde; 2 Cummings, 17 Webster, 5 Craig, 16 Beevers; 10 Onyedinma, 6 Williams, 8 Upson, 11 Martin (18 Ferguson, 74); 20 Morison, 9 Gregory (14 Marquis, 85).
Substitutes: 7 Cowan-Hall, 13 Archer, 14 Marquis, 15 Nelson, 23 Powell, 28 Philpot.
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Image: Millwall FC