BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Two goals in the final seven minutes put Millwall into the third round of the EFL Cup.
And Lions boss Neil Harris could point to his substitutions having the desired effect as Lee Gregory and Aiden O’Brien found the net in the second half to see off a plucky Plymouth side.
You wondered at one stage if the hosts’ pressure would reap the rewards it deserved.
Jamie Ness headed Argyle in front on 44 minutes but Shaun Williams levelled from the spot in the 64th minute. He then lost the ball with former Crystal Palace striker Freddie Ladapo punishing the lapse with a clinical finish.
But Millwall, loaded with attacking players on the pitch in the latter stages, finally found the answers in front of goal.
The League One outfit had largely been on the back foot and defended a high volume of crosses into their box in the first half – but managed to break the deadlock from a set-piece right out of the Millwall school of set-pieces.
Ryan Edwards got the flick on a corner and Ness was on hand to glance beyond Ben Amos.
Millwall’s first 45 minutes had seen them look comfortable in possession and patiently building attacks, but unable to carve clearcut openings.
The closest they came was a Shane Ferguson shot which clipped off Edwards and narrowly over Matt Macey’s bar.
Lions captain Williams was left frustrated as his claims for a penalty were waved away by referee Darren England, the Irishman feeling he was pulled back by Gary Sawyer following a barreling run by Tom Elliott.
But the only other moment of real threat came on 38 minutes. Ferguson’s corner found the head of Fred Onyedinma but the young attacker was unable to keep his effort down or on target.
Harris made his first change on 62 minutes as Jed Wallace replaced Jem Karacan, and moments later it was 1-1.
Elliott had his shirt clearly pulled by Edwards, who was perhaps fortunate to only get a booking as he denied a clear goalscoring opportunity. Williams tucked the resultant penalty into the bottom left corner.
But soon after Williams, one of the Lions’ strongest performers on the night, was partly at fault for Plymouth’s second goal. He lost possession just inside his own half and Ladapo did brilliantly to surge past Murray Wallace and slot a composed finish across Amos.
Harris made his second change straight after with Lee Gregory replacing Onyedinma.
The substitute found the empty Cold Blow Lane stand when he met a Jed Wallace cross and then flicked on Mahlon Romeo’s ball in from the right, only for Elliott to be slow to react as the shooting chance disappeared.
The former AFC Wimbledon striker then met Jed Wallace’s delivery from the left but headed it down and past the left upright with 14 minutes left to play.
O’Brien was the final change by Harris and he supplied the pass which led to Millwall’s second leveller of the night. It gave Jiri Skalak the chance to put the ball in from the right of the box and it was made to measure for Gregory, who headed in his second goal of the campaign and first since the opening day draw with Middlesbrough.
The Lions had time to avoid a second straight penalty shootout in the competition and O’Brien met Ferguson’s corner with minimal power but it still rolled past Macey right at the end of normal time.
It should have been 4-2 but both O’Brien and Gregory could not get a touch on Skalak’s lovely whipped low delivery.
IMAGE BY BRIAN TONKS
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