MILLWALL 1 ROTHERHAM 0
By DANIEL MARSH
Jed Wallace smashed home a Scott Malone corner to give Millwall a 1-0 victory over 10-man Rotherham this afternoon, condemning the visitors to an increasingly nerve-wracking run-in.
The Lions’ eighth-last game of the campaign put them just eight points behind the play-off places but with precious few matches left to make up the gap.
The Millers had defender Richard Wood sent off in the 56th minute of the contest, for falling on the advancing Wallace on the edge of the area – though the Den club are notoriously poor against depleted sides, especially at home.
And eight minutes later Malone’s flag kick soared over everyone and Wallace powered a precision shot with the outside of his right foot into the cop corner from the edge of the area.
Even so, Paul Warne’s side had the chance to salvage a point when a penalty was awarded again Murray Wallace late on. But Bartosz Bialkowski predicted right and pulled off an astounding spot-kick save, with Jake Cooper clearing the danger to secure victory.
Bournemouth’s 3-1 home win over Middlesbrough made the deficit harder to bridge – while the 1-1 draw between fifth-placed Barnsley and sixth-placed Reading in the late kick-off tonight edged the top six a further point away.
The visitors dominated the chances in the first half, with Freddie Lapado’s hook bouncing the wrong side of the far post – and made strong claims to have been pulled back from reaching a Murray Wallace headed half-clearance which would have given him the whole goal to aim at from 10 yards.
Bialkowski also made an implausible full-length finger-tip save from a bullet Michael Ihiekwe header.
But the dismissal put the Lions right back in the contest and keeper Viktor Johansson had to push over Danny McNamara’s piledriver just before Jed Wallace got the clincher.
Millwall were unchanged from their win over Middlesbrough before the international break and were boosted by the return of Maikel Kieftenbeld, Connor Mahoney and Kenneth Zohore to the bench after spells out injured. But the Lions struggled to get into any sort of groove early on in SE16.
The visitors did look to have a strong claim for a penalty when Ladapo was sent to ground from a Millers free kick, but referee John Brooks wasn’t convinced.
The opening period did at least finish with a rare flurry of action in the final moments, as Bialkowski produced an excellent save to thwart Ihiekwe moments before Mason Bennett drilled into the side netting from a Millwall corner.
The Lions came out after the break with the bit between their teeth, as McNamara caused Rotherham issues with his pace and direct style down the right flank.
The game changed completely just before the hour mark when Wood was given his marching orders. The Millers’ skipper was the last man when he bundled over Wallace when clean through on goal to hand Millwall the numerical advantage.
The resulting free-kick from Wallace was blocked by the wall, but McNamara stung the palms of Johansson from the rebound as the hosts pushed for an opener.
The Lions found the breakthrough their second half performance deserved in the 64th minute – and they found it in some style through Wallace.
Malone’s deep corner evaded everyone before falling to Millwall’s star man at the back post. Wallace made no mistake – his inch-perfect volley whistled past Johansson into the top corner.
Mahoney showed a glimpse of what the Lions have been missing in his absence, as he almost doubled Millwall’s lead following his late introduction.
He feinted one way and then the other before losing his balance and dragging wide from the edge of the box.
The Lions almost paid the price for failing to find a second goal as Rotherham were awarded a dubious late penalty.
But justice was served as Bialkowski dived to his right to produce a superb save to deny Michael Smith from the spot.
Also, in what could become crucial in these final optimistic games, former Birmingham midfielder Maikel Kieftenbeld got seven minutes of playing time under his belt, two months after an injury forced him out within three weeks of his move from St Andrew’s.
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