By Jake Sanders at The Den
GEORGE Saville scored his first Championship goal of the season, but Millwall were held to a 1-1 by high-flying Coventry City at The Den on Saturday afternoon.
Viktor Gyokeres fired the Sky Blues into an early lead before Saville’s deflected finish earned the Lions a third draw on the bounce to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to five matches.
Tom Bradshaw thought he had scored on the stroke of half-time, but his header appeared to be wrongly ruled out for offside.
Millwall made the brighter start as they went in search of a first first-half goal since Jed Wallace’s stunner at QPR on the opening day, but it was the visitors who struck first in the 10th minute.
Gyokeres played a neat one-two with Dominic Hyam before lashing a low effort into the far corner from just inside the penalty area after the Lions had failed to clear their lines.
Millwall responded well, though, and nearly hit back immediately, only for Matt Smith to be denied by a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Hyam.
That equaliser did arrive midway through the opening period when Wallace cut back for Saville to fire home his first Championship goal back in SE16 via the aid of a kind deflection off Todd Kane.
Scott Malone then stung the palms of Simon Moore with a thunderous volley as the Lions ended the first half in the ascendency, though they could have fallen behind again, but Kane couldn’t find the target after Gyokeres’ cross found him at the back post following Matty Godden’s mis-kick.
Gyokeres almost grabbed his and Coventry’s second on the stroke of half-time before Bradshaw thought he had put Millwall ahead in the final action of a pulsating first period, only to see his header from Malone left-wing cross ruled out for offside, though it was Smith who had been penalised despite not interfering with play.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued after the break and Coventry had a glorious chance to retake the lead on 47 minutes, but Bartosz Bialkowski made a sharp save with his feet to deny Godden, who had been slid through by Callum O’Hare.
Bradshaw was denied by a flying Moore save as the Lions tried desperately to find a winner and record only their second Championship victory of the campaign.
But they were unable to break down a well-organised City defence and had to settle for a third draw in a week.
Horrible refereeing decision costs Millwall
Having responded excellently after falling behind, it looked like Millwall would go into the break in front following Bradshaw’s header.
However, much to the bemusement of everyone inside The Den, even the travelling Coventry fans, his effort was somehow ruled out for offside.
Bradshaw was clearly behind the play when Malone crossed, but for some reason, the linesman gave the decision against Smith, who didn’t touch the ball, nor was he interfering with play.
Keith Stroud and his two officials were greeted with boos as they left the pitch at half-time and were unsurprisingly cheered by the visiting supporters when they made their way back out after the interval.
A sign of the old Saville
It’s been a tricky start to the midfielder’s fourth spell in a Millwall shirt, with his only goal prior to this afternoon coming against Portsmouth in the Carabao Cup.
On that occasion, Saville managed to get himself forward and produce an instinctive finish into the bottom corner. But he hasn’t been willing enough to get himself in the box since.
However, his equaliser here was the Saville of 2017-18 and the goal-scoring threat that Lions fans saw regularly then.
With Smith dropping deep, Saville continued his run and was picked out perfectly by Wallace to level.
He then showed the other side to his game in the second half as he sprinted almost the length of the pitch to prevent Gyokeres from getting his shot away, with his brilliant defensive work met with a rapturous roar from the home faithful.
A cynical yellow aside – which was actually badly needed given Millwall were short of numbers at the time – it was a fine display at both ends of the pitch from the midfield man.
Positive news on the injury front
It’s been one thing after another for Rowett in terms of absentees in recent weeks and the Millwall boss went into today’s clash with eight injury doubts.
However, he was given a boost after four of those were passed fit as Malone shook off a knock, while Daniel Ballard made a speedy recovery following an eye injury sustained at Swansea on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Mason Bennett was also fit enough for a place on the bench, and was joined by captain Shaun Hutchinson, who had missed the previous six Championship matches with a quad injury suffered in the EFL Cup back on August 10.
Danny McNamara, George Evans and Benik Afobe all missed out through injury, though, while illness prevented deadline-day signing Sheyi Ojo from making his home debut for the Lions.
Millwall: 5-2-3: Bialkowski; Leonard, Ballard, M Wallace, Cooper, Malone; Kieftenbeld (Mahoney, 81), Saville; J Wallace, Smith (Mitchell, 69), Bradshaw (Bennett, 81).
Subs: Long, Pearce, Hutchinson, Thompson.
Image: Millwall FC