By Alex Grace at Oakwell
MILLWALL snatched a late winner to record their first away win of the season against Barnsley at Oakwell, beating the Tykes 1-0.
Murray Wallace’s 89th-minute header secured back-to-back wins for Millwall for the first time since the Easter weekend and extended their unbeaten league run to seven games.
It was a fast-paced start to the game. Bartosz Bialkowski was forced into an early save, denying Aaron Leya Iseka, tipping his shot around the post.
It was an end-to-end contest in the first half when the Lions should have taken the lead. Benik Afobe’s shot was saved by Brad Collins but the ball presented itself to Murray Wallace and he was somehow denied by Collins.
George Evans went close 10 minutes later, curling a shot from outside the box just wide of the left-hand post.
Devante Cole and Shaun Hutchinson were engaged in a good battle and on 19 minutes the former Manchester United man intercepted his rival’s poor pass and went through one-on-one with Bialkowski but the keeper saved.
Into the second half and Jed Wallace was presented with the chance to break the deadlock. He got in behind the Tykes defence but his shot was blocked.
Tom Bradshaw, introduced as a 70th-minute substitute, twice went close. His header from Murray Wallace’s cross was held by Collins before the Barnsley keeper made a smart stop to deny him again after he had broken away from the home defence.
The hosts created little in the second half and it was the visitors who pushed for the winner. Substitute Matt Smith headed down for Bradshaw who set up Jed Wallace but he fired over the bar.
The Lions finally broke the deadlock with a minute left and it was the two Wallaces that combined. Jed Wallace’s corner was headed past Collins by his namesake Murray to send the away fans behind the goal into raptures.
In stoppage-time Billy Mitchell fired an effort wide.
Lions secure first away win and extend unbeaten run
The away day duck has been broken. Rowett’s side have been solid away from home since his arrival almost two years ago but had not won away from SE16 since Easter Monday’s 2-1 success at Stoke City.
The Lions will go into the international break with a spring in their step after a seventh league game unbeaten and just an eighth-ever win at Barnsley.
Championship table looks a lot different
Rowett has said what a difference one or two wins can make to league positions at this early stage of the season.
Before Millwall faced Bristol City last Wednesday, the pressure was on for Rowett and his players, there was no hiding from that.
They went into that fixture against the Robins in 19th place. But consecutive 1-0 wins bumped them up to 14th and now 11th.
Only top-of-the-table Bournemouth – who haven’t lost this season in 11 Championship games – are on a longer unbeaten run.
After no clean sheets in their first six games of the season, it’s now three in the last five. It’s probably not a coincidence that since Shaun Hutchinson returned to the side the Lions have only conceded once, though he had Bialkowski to thank for bailing him out in the Oakwell drizzle.
It’s just as well Millwall have rediscovered their defensive miserliness because goals still aren’t flowing – it was a sixth successive game when they failed to score more than one.
But that’s a small quibble after a satisfying afternoon in South Yorkshire.
Ballard once again impresses but Cooper struggles
Daniel Ballard has been one of Millwall’s stand-out players so far this season. He was superb against Fulham and one of the main reasons the Lions only lost the game by one goal.
He was excellent again at Oakwell. Midway through the first half, he stepped in to make a vital interception, denying Cauley Woodrow the chance to break free of the Millwall defence.
Meanwhile, it was a different story for Jake Cooper. The big defender was back in the starting line-up after being left on the bench for the previous two games. He struggled against Leya Iseka who beat him for pace on a number of occasions.
Gary Rowett made two changes to the side that beat Bristol City on Wednesday evening. Jake Cooper and Jed Wallace came into the side for Scott Malone and Matt Smith, the former missing out through injury.
5-2-3: Bialkowski; McNamara, Ballard, Hutchinson, Cooper, M Wallace; Evans (Mitchell, 70), Saville; J Wallace, Afobe (Smith, 75), Ojo (Bradshaw, 70).
Subs not used: Long, Pearce, Leonard, Kieftenbeld
Image: Millwall FC