By Scott Wilson at The Riverside Stadium for NewsAtDen
MILLWALL extended their unbeaten run in the Championship to three games after a battling performance earned them a point against Middlesbrough in Chris Wilder’s first game in charge of the Teessiders.
Millwall had to brace themselves for a fast-paced start from a Wilder side that were ready to hit the ground running. Duncan Watmore almost scored on 12 seconds when he was released through the heart of the Millwall defence, but Bartosz Bialkowski handled his effort well.
Minutes later, Daniel Ballard made a vital challenge at the death when Andraz Sporar received a defence-cutting pass. Ballard slid across Sporar as he was about to release his shot on goal.
Boro were pinning Millwall back in their own defensive third and it didn’t take much longer for Wilder to see his first goal in the Boro dugout.
Watmore received the ball on the left-hand side and drove into the box putting Scott Malone on his backside in the process. A fizzed ball deflected up into the air and fell kindly to Matt Crooks at the back post who was on hand to nod home to give Boro the lead and send the Riverside into raptures.
Millwall rallied themselves and set about taking the game back to Boro, using their physical presence to full effect. Mason Bennett palmed off Paddy McNair who fell to the floor clutching his face and drove into the box. His cut-back found Benik Afobe, whose loose touch allowed Lee Peltier to slide in and block, but the ball rebounded back off the shins of Sol Bamba, wrong-footing Luke Daniels and rolling into the net. It doesn’t matter how they go in, just as long as they do.
Boro’s players protested against the initial incident involving McNair, given that he’d already received treatment for a cut to the eye, but referee Oliver Langford waved away the claims.
Millwall had to deal with a Boro response as Marcus Tavernier fired in on goal after jinking passed Cooper, but Bialkowski was once again on hand to palm the effort away.
Billy Mitchell had a chance to put Millwall in front after his initial effort was blocked. The ball sat up nicely for a looping header on the edge of the box that landed on the top of the net.
After seven minutes of added time before the half-time break, Millwall kept the game level at the Riverside. While the home side had the majority of the chances, they felt the game was far from over.
The Lions almost roared into the lead three minutes into the second half when Jed Wallace made ground in the Boro half and teed up Afobe, whose blazing effort was deflected over by a Bamba slide tackle.
The game lulled for around 20 minutes as Millwall attempted to impose themselves on the game while Boro attempted to find a rhythm.
Tavernier gave them something to think about in that time with a bending effort that Bialkowski tipped over the bar before Boro’s number eight almost turned provider with a teasing cross that Jake Cooper was forced to hook over his own bar.
Afobe’s effort was Millwall’s only real shot of any note in the second half, with Gary Rowett’s men seemingly happy to restrict the home side and dig in for an away point.
The away side shuffled the pack to just one striker as Boro piled balls and red shirts in their defensive third.
Millwall’s hard work was so close to being undone in the 89th minute. After head tennis on the edge of the box, the ball fell kindly to Crooks who watched the ball drop and lashed his volley high and wide. A big sigh of relief.
In the end, Millwall shared the spoils and put a dampener on Wilder’s housewarming party at the Riverside.
Millwall: 5-2-3: Bialkowski; Leonard, Ballard, Hutchinson, Cooper, Malone; Mitchell, Saville; J Wallace (Smith, 86), Afobe (Kieftenbeld, 81), Bennett (Ojo, 67).
Subs: Long, M Wallace, Bradshaw, Evans.
Image: Millwall FC