LEE Gregory scored twice and Ryan Leonard grabbed his first goal since his summer move from Sheffield United as Millwall comfortably beat bottom side Ipswich Town at The Den on Saturday.
Gregory put Millwall in front from a set-piece that Lions fans are well familiar with, Jake Cooper heading Shaun Williams’ corner back across goal and the striker swivelled to fire home.
Six minutes into the second half it was 2-0 when Cooper, again, flicked on Leonard’s long throw and Gregory finished first-time at the near post.
Leonard then got off the mark for the club, lofting home delightfully from the edge of the box after goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski had punched away.
Ipswich hit the post late on through Trevoh Chalobah, but were comprehensively beaten.
First half – Millwall on top to earn half-time lead
Jed Walllace was not in Millwall’s squad when it was announced an hour before kick-off, an injury keeping him out. Jiri Skalak replaced him on the right of midfield, and there was one other change with vice-captain Shaun Hutchinson starting for the first time in over two months. James Meredith wasn’t in a Lions starting XI in the league for the first time since he joined the club, a run of 60 games broken, and that meant Murray Wallace started left-back.
It took a while for Millwall to settle but once they went in front they were the dominant side before the break.
Hutchinson had a chance to score in the sixth minute after getting free at a corner, but headed Williams’ delivery over.
After seeing four penalties given against them in their previous five games, Millwall thought they were in with a shout of getting another spot-kick in successive games, but referee Robert Jones waved away appeals after Williams went down in the box in the 21st minute.
Three minutes later Leonard chested down Matthew Pennington’s header but volleyed just wide.
Millwall didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough, Gregory clinically taking his first real chance for his sixth goal of the season.
The hosts were comfortably on top and went in search for a second, almost getting it when Wallace helped Shane Ferguson’s free-kick back across goal but Cooper just couldn’t stretch far enough for what would have been a tap-in.
Second half – Leonard gets deserved goal as Millwall ease to comfortable win
If Millwall get it right, teams just find it so hard to defend against. Leonard’s delivery from the let was flat and fast, Ipswich knew Cooper was the target but couldn’t stop him heading the ball on, and Gregory knew where to be to apply the finish. It’s an often underused device in professional football, but it’s the second time it’s come off to perfection for Millwall in five home league games. It was Cooper’s second assist of the game, and fifth this season.
It has taken Leonard longer than he would have hoped to score his first Lions goal, and when he got the chance after Bialkowski’s punch fell to him 22 yards out, he took it with composure and skill.
Chalobah’s strike didn’t register as a shot on target – Ipswich had none in the game – as Ben Amos kept his first clean sheet for the Lions.
It took around 20 minutes for Millwall to settle, with the changes probably a factor in that, but once they did and went ahead this was one of the most comfortable wins they have had since promotion to the Championship.
Paul Lambert was confirmed as Ipswich’s new boss before the game, and he has a lot of work to do as his side conceded their 12th and 13th goals out of 24 from set-pieces this season.
Millwall fans will be starting to believe that it’s not the likes of Ipswich and Reading they will end up being concerned about with this season, but those above them in the table.
After going so close to scoring a number of times since his record move to Millwall on deadline day, Leonard finally has a goal that his all-round positive and ambitious play has deserved.
At the other end, a first clean sheet in 13 games was welcome, the ideal return for Hutchinson.
It was a third win in four games for the Lions – and back-to-back Championship wins for the first time since April – ahead of two tough away fixtures at Brentford and Norwich before the last international break of the year.
Image: Millwall FC