REPORT: Millwall 2-1 Blackpool

By Jake Sanders at The Den

JAKE Cooper scored a stoppage-time winner to spark wild scenes at The Den and earn Millwall their first Championship victory of the season as they beat Blackpool 2-1. 

Callum Connolly pulled down Benik Afobe after 14 minutes and was sent off, but it was the visitors that took the lead through Shayne Lavery early in the second-half.

Jed Wallace’s brilliantly-taken free-kick restored parity seven minutes later before the Lions winger sent over an inch-perfect cross for Cooper to thump home his first of the campaign and earn Gary Rowett’s men a priceless three points.

Match action 

Millwall struggled in the early exchanges, with Cooper almost gifting the visitors an opener as his tame back-pass allowed Lavery to nip in, but the Blackpool man could only lift his effort over Bartosz Bialkowski and wide of the far post.

Blackpool continued to dominate, but the game turned on its head in the 14th minute when the away side were reduced to 10 men.

Matt Smith’s knock-on put Afobe in the clear and he looked to gallop through on goal, only to be hauled to the ground by Connolly, who was shown a straight red card by Gavin Ward.

Scott Malone’s curling effort tested Chris Maxwell from the resulting free-kick but the hosts were struggling to break down a stubborn Seasiders back-line despite their numerical advantage.

Smith then had a great chance to make it two goals in as many games, but his weak effort allowed Maxwell to easily gather.

Millwall were now dominant, but the visitors were holding firm, although Afobe did go close to scoring for the third Championship game on the bounce with an acrobatic effort from Jed Wallace’s cross.

The Lions did have the ball in the net four minutes after the interval, but George Saville was denied his first league goal of the season for a foul in the build-up.

Millwall continued to take control of proceedings but were caught out just before the hour-mark when Blackpool broke away from a Lions corner and took the lead courtesy of Lavery’s simple finish, although it came after Murray Wallace and Bialkowski collided.

But the Lions responded well and were level within seven minutes. Daniel Ballard had been fouled just outside the box and Wallace stepped up to curl a spectacular effort into the top left-hand corner for his third Championship goal of the season.

Roared on by a vocal Den crowd, Millwall kept piling forward and almost went in front but George Evans was denied only his second goal for the club by an outstanding stop from Maxwell following great work from Wallace down the left.

However, the Lions finally completed the turnaround in the 90th minute when Wallace turned provider and picked out Cooper, who rammed home an unstoppable header past Maxwell.

Jed Wallace to the rescue – again

Millwall fans will be counting down the minutes to 11pm next Tuesday hoping that their star man goes nowhere.

There must certainly be top Championship sides taking notice as he has taken last season’s form into this one, despite his side’s difficult start.

That’s not for the lack of quality Wallace has shown. He has scored three league goals this season. The first month isn’t even over and it will already be a surprise if he doesn’t reach double-figures for the third consecutive campaign.

Not only does Wallace possess that quality on the ball – whether in open play or from set-pieces – but he never stops driving his team forward.

And he was still going heading into injury-time to set up Cooper for the winner with an outstanding cross as he took the ball first-time on the bounce on the right after Blackpool had failed to fully clear substitute Connor Mahoney’s corner from the left.

And that goal for the defender is timely, after he was beaten by Aden Flint at the back post for Cardiff’s third last Saturday.

The mood will be much better going into the international break – and better still at 11.01pm next Tuesday if Wallace has remained a Lion.

Massive relief for Rowett 

There was a great deal of optimism surrounding SE16 before the season got under way. Millwall had done well in the transfer window, fans were back in grounds and a top-six push looked on the cards.

But that feel-good-factor from pre-season quickly turned sour following their winless start to the Championship season.

The Fulham game aside, Rowett’s men were not exactly handed the toughest of fixtures lists but were just seconds away from heading into the international break without a victory from their opening five games.

However, with just seconds remaining, Rowett’s team finally broke Blackpool’s resistance and will now travel to the Hawthorns sitting on five points, which sounds far better than three.

Injuries mounting up 

Millwall’s start to the season hasn’t been good enough by any means, but their growing injury list certainly isn’t helping the cause.

Mason Bennett hasn’t played a single competitive minute this season due to an ankle problem picked up in pre-season, whilst Shaun Hutchinson’s quad injury sustained against Blackburn earlier this month could keep him out until October.

But the Lions’ issues have worsened since then, with Danny McNamara also facing a spell on the side-lines after picking up a groin injury, whilst Ryan Leonard and Mahlon Romeo, who missed out here, have since joined him on the treatment table.

Fortunately for Millwall, Rowett was able to call upon the extremely versatile figure of Billy Mitchell to slot in at right wing-back once again, but the Lions boss could really could do with at least some of that list returning to health before the trip to West Brom following the international break.

Millwall: 5-2-3: Bialkowski; Ballard, M Wallace, Cooper; B Mitchell (Mahoney, 58), Kieftenbeld (Evans, 84), Saville, Malone; J Wallace, Smith (Thompson, 90), Afobe.

Subs: Long, A Mitchell, Pearce, Evans, Bradshaw.

Image: Millwall FC 

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