MILLWALL extended their unbeaten run to nine games as George Evans’ injury-time equaliser earned them a point at Kenilworth Road.
Elijah Adebayo’s goal had put the hosts ahead early in the second half allowing them to sit back, but Millwall continued chasing and eventually got their rewards.
The first meaningful action of the half came just a few minutes into the game when former Millwall man Ryan Tunnicliffe dragged an effort wide from just outside the box.
Bartosz Bialkowski was forced into action for the first time on the 15-minute mark when Joe Morrell’s swerving long-range effort required a save from the Pole.
Evans had a good chance from a corner five minutes later after Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s overhead cross to keep the ball in play, but the former Derby man got his header all wrong and Luton were able to clear.
Tom Bradshaw had perhaps the best chance of the first half when Jed Wallace won the ball from Sonny Bradley, but the striker took two heavy touches when in acres of space to allow Simon Sluga to come out to claim the ball.
Luton’s best chance up to that point came just before the half-hour mark as a clipped Tunnicliffe cross was chested down by Jordan Clark, but his volley wasn’t hit with any real conviction and failed to trouble Bialkowski.
The Lions improved as the half wore on and Ben Thompson twice came close from the edge of the box, firing wide on both occasions as Luton only managed to half-clear with Millwall crossing into the box.
Tunnicliffe was perhaps lucky not to be sent off five minutes into the second half for a foul on Thompson and it was his cross less than 10 minutes later that fell Adebayo’s way in Millwall’s box as the hosts took the lead.
Adebayo mis-hit his shot but Bialkowski had shifted his weight expecting cleaner contact and couldn’t recover as the ball trickled over the line.
Wallace hit a curling effort from range just wide on the hour-mark before Adebayo headed over from a Clark cross minutes later, squandering a good chance for Luton to double their lead.
As the final 10 minutes approached, Millwall began to turn the screw. First, Mason Bennett broke into the box after a one-two with Wallace but Sluga preserved his side’s lead, before Wallace forced a brilliant save from the keeper from a free-kick moments later.
Matt Smith fired an acrobatic effort just over in the last minute of normal time before he headed down a ball into the box for Evans to head past Sluga from close range.
Unbeaten run goes on
Millwall last lost in the Championship away at Nottingham Forest in mid-January, since clocking up four wins and four draws prior to Tuesday’s game at Kenilworth Road.
The tactical switch to a 5-3-2 in that run has generally served them well, but they struggled to create opportunities against Nathan Jones’s side in that system and only put Luton under more pressure after Gary Rowett switched to a 4-4-2 with the introductions of Bennett and Smith.
Chance creation was still low with Luton resolute in their defensive shape, and Millwall relied largely on set-pieces to trouble the hosts’ defence as their attack were largely isolated.
Sonny Bradley and Martin Cranie were dominant aerially and didn’t give Millwall’s front players time and space to show their individual talent, but the Lions forced one last opportunity late in stoppage-time for Evans to score to extend their unbeaten run to nine league games.
Lack of natural width in the 5-3-2 is an issue
One problem with the 5-3-2 set-up is that there is a lack of natural width going forward.
It relies on either the attacking midfielder or one of the two strikers drifting wide a lot to create overloads and opportunities in those areas, which makes the central defenders’ jobs easier as there are fewer players to mark in the box.
For those players to not have to go wide so much, there is a heavy reliance on the two wing-backs to get up and down the pitch all game and to good effect, which didn’t happen at Kenilworth Road.
Scott Malone didn’t get forward as much as in recent games with Luton causing problems down Millwall’s left at times and their energy in the transition would’ve also left the visitors exposed had Malone and Mahlon Romeo been stranded upfield when the Lions lost possession.
Another issue was that with Wallace as the third midfielder, Thompson and Ryan Woods were overrun in midfield at times, which wouldn’t have been the case so often if Maikel Kieftenbeld or Ryan Leonard had been fit.
Rowett made two changes for the trip to Kenilworth Road with Bodvarsson and Bradshaw replacing Bennett and Smith as he returned to the 5-3-2 system.
5-3-2: Bialkowski; Romeo, Hutchinson, Pearce, Evans, Malone; Thompson (Bennett, 61), Woods (Williams, 75); Wallace; Bodvarsson (Burey, 75), Bradshaw (Smith, 61).
Subs: Fielding, Tiensia, McNamara, Mitchell, Ferguson
Image: Millwall FC