DRAW IS NOT MILES BETTER FOR LIONS

MILLWALL 2

Wallace 17 pen Thompson 90

ROCHDALE 2

Henderson 32 Done 53

BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE DEN

Eight-hour round trip in store for South Londoners

This is the FA Cup in a nutshell. Form and respective league posi- tions out of the window. Millwall – serial Premier League slayers last season – were so close to heading out of the competition until Ben Thompson’s late equaliser.

The Lions had it pretty much all their own way against Barnsley in the previous round but Saturday’s tie against Rochdale was a different story.

Dale are the only club yet to win away in the Football League but had not conceded a goal on their passage to the fourth round.

Okay, Bromley and Slough Town would have been expected victories but they stuck eight goals past non- league opposition on their own patches, then former Millwall loanee Calvin Andrew bagged the only goal in the 1-0 win at Doncaster to set up a first-ever FA Cup meeting against the South London club.

It was not a bad tie to watch at all. Keith Hill’s sides play a passing game and they were able to get the ball down and work it around nicely.

It’s a measure of how well they acquitted themselves that opposite number Neil Harris was forced to bring on Steve Morison, Lee Gregory and Shaun Williams as the hosts searched for a way back into the contest.

Nine changes were made from the 4-3 thriller at Leeds the weekend be- fore but there was not the same instant click as when Harris rotated heavily against the Tykes earlier this month.

Millwall overloaded their attack in the closing stages but it looked as if it would fail to pay dividends until Ben Thompson – whose majority of minutes have come away from the Championship – raced onto Steve Morison’s cross to ram past Josh Lillis. It was only their fourth effort on target.

That means a midweek trip to Greater Manchester next Tuesday.

“Both sides will know who their opponents are going to be in the next round and that could affect team selection for both,” said Hill.

Without the benefit of knowing the draw at the time of writing, I can’t see how much it will shift the approach by Harris at the Crown Oil Arena.

My money would be on him once again keeping some of his established first-team starters in reserve

and continuing to give some extra minutes to others.

That stance may very well change if they clear this hurdle and are in the last 16. But Rochdale showed plenty enough at The Den to under- line it is anything but a formality.

Millwall’s opening goal came without them establishing any au- thority and was more down to a mo- ment of quality from Fred Onyedinma and the rashness of Donervan Daniels.

The Lions number 10 – playing as a supporting striker to Tom Elliott – produced a deft turn to leave Daniels trailing midway in his own half. Although the defender recovered ground he went motoring through Onyedinma in the box for the most nailed-on of penalties.

Jed Wallace confidently assumed responsibility as he rifled it past Lillis, who guessed the right way.

Rochdale’s edge in possession had not translated into decent sightings of David Martin’s goal, although Jason Shackell needed to make an excellent sliding block on Mark Kitching’s strike after Andrew – a handful all afternoon – played him in on the left of the box. Soon after though it was 1-1.

Andrew twice won headers against Shackell as they contested Lillis’ punt forward before Andy Cannon’s through-ball agonisingly threaded between Jake Cooper’s legs for Ian Henderson to caress a curling right-footed effort around the dive of Martin.

Millwall were sent out early for the second half – no doubt a reflection of a below-par opening 45 minutes – but Rochdale continued to make most of the running.

There was an element of luck to their second goal on 53 minutes. Cannon’s cross looped off Craig for Matt Done to be left with a straight- forward tap in.

It took until the 58th minute for Millwall to test Lillis again, the Rochdale keeper pushing away Elliott’s fierce drive from the edge of the box. It was from this point that the Lions began to create a fairly steady stream of chances, aided by the introduction of Morison.

Elliott should have at least hit the target from an Onyedinma cross but headed a decent chance over. And he also guided an angled Shane Ferguson delivery straight into the arms of Lillis.

It was in the air that Millwall threatened most. El- liott and Cooper both put further opportunities wide.

But just when Rochdale were in the closing straight, Thompson found a typically energetic burst to ensure they crossed the finishing line dead level.

Late on the midfielder gambled on Morison picking him out and swept home the low delivery.

Morison – as so often has been the case in a Millwall shirt – made a big difference.

Within seconds he had stuck in a ball which Wallace failed to get on the

end of, but the winger slammed the turf in anger as he appealed for a foul.

A draw was a fair result.

Hill dismissed the suggestion a replay was unwanted. “Why would it be? It’s better than training.”

The difference is that Millwall have a 470-mile round trip. A training session probably sounds more inviting from their standpoint.

Millwall (4-4-2): Martin 6, Romeo 6, Shackell 7 (Morison 59, 7), Cooper 6, Craig 6, Wallace 6, Thompson 7, Tunnicliffe 6 (Williams 84), Ferguson 7, Onyedinma 6 (Gregory 85), Elliott 6. Not used: Archer, McLaughlin, Meredith, Saville.


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