BY JAKE SANDERS AT BRAMALL LANE
If titles were won on team spirit, heart, togetherness and a never-say-die attitude, then Millwall would definitely be crowned champions.
The Lions have a great habit of not knowing when they’re beaten and showed all of those characteristics to collect arguably their most precious and impressive point of the campaign against a Sheffield United side that have suffered just one defeat on home soil since the turn of the year.
Neil Harris’ style of football often comes under scrutiny, but his side cannot be knocked for a lack of entertainment.
He stepped into his press conference sipping an orange juice before joking that he might require something slightly stronger later.
You couldn’t blame him, either.
Moments after Ben Marshall squandered a gilt-edged chance from 12 yards, the Lions – against all odds once more – came up with the latest of late equalisers, deep into stoppage-time to not only earn themselves a massive point in their survival bid but effect matters at the top end of the Championship table. The Blades now face an uphill battle to finish in the top two.
And although the result helped rivals Leeds United, that was the least of their worries.
Jake Cooper’s 95th-minute goal sparked pandemonium and echoed the unique bond between players and fans.
Cooper wasted no time in joining the 661 jubilant travelling supporters in celebrating, as did the majority of the Millwall side.
He would get booked for his troubles, not that he would care. Even Dave Martin ran the length of the pitch to join his team-mates in what felt like a massive moment.
It was nothing less than the Lions deserved. From the moment they fell behind, they rolled their sleeves up and stood up to the challenge.
Millwall now head into the Easter weekend with the bit between their teeth and know that avoiding defeat against London rivals Brentford would mark their longest unbeaten run since last April.
But they’ll want to go one better, especially after their 2-0 defeat at Griffin Park back in November.
And while the Bees were being stung by Millwall’s fellow relegation strugglers Reading, the Lions were proving a tough nut to crack for the red-and-black half of the Steel City.
It didn’t take Harris’ side long before job number one was completed – quieten the home crowd. In truth, Sheffield United’s lack of fluency was adding to the anxious mood around Bramall Lane rather than the South London outfit producing anything out of the ordinary.
Neither goalkeeper was forced into making a meaningful save in a particularly drab opening 45 minutes. It was a half of football that was low on quality – often the case when the stakes are this high.
But with the Blades kicking towards their favoured Kop End – who cranked up the noise with a deafening rendition of ‘Greasy Chip Butty’ at the break – Millwall would have expected an onslaught of some sort early in the second-half.
And that’s exactly what they got. It paid dividends less than six minutes after the break as David McGoldrick and John Fleck combined to create an opening for Gary Madine to sweep home from close range to raise the volumes around Bramall Lane a tad more.
You’d have been forgiven for thinking that Sheffield United – who had scored two or more goals in eight of their previous 10 home matches – would go on and win comfortably. But remarkably, from the moment Madine did convert, Millwall grabbed the initiative and never looked back.
Although it was Tom Elliott’s introduction on 69 minutes that really seemed to spark the Lions into life.
He should have bagged his first goal since New Year’s Day soon after, but four minutes from time, Elliott provided the first of two telling contributions.
His towering goal-bound header – that look destined for the top-corner – was wonderfully saved on the line. Unfortunately for the Blades, it was John Egan that saved it and the defender was given his marching orders.
But his decision looked to have paid off when Marshall, who have converted from the spot in similar pressure circumstances at Leeds United, slammed his penalty against the crossbar.
United’s luck finally ran out in the final minute of five added on at the end of the second period as Marshall quickly made amends.
The on-loan Norwich City man dug out a wonderful cross that Elliott powered towards goal and although Dean Henderson produced heroics to keep that out, he could do nothing about Cooper’s follow-up, sending Millwall players, fans and staff into delirium.
Championship relegation battles should come with a health warning, but Millwall are definitely up for the fight and remain on course to reach their desired destination.
Millwall (3-5-2): Martin 7, McLaughlin 7 (Marshall 61, 7), Pearce 8, Cooper 8, Romeo 7 (O’Brien 81), Tunnicliffe 6 (Elliott 61, 7), Leonard 7, Thompson 7, Ferguson 7, J Wallace 6, Gregory 6. Not used: Amos, Meredith, Williams, O’Brien.
IMAGES BY BRIAN TONKS
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