BY ALEX GRACE
Millwall’s play-off hopes were ended by QPR at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Saturday afternoon in a thrilling seven-goal encounter.
A first defeat away from home since losing 1-0 at Wigan in February, coupled with Cardiff City’s win at Middlesbrough, means Millwall cannot finish in the top six and will be playing Championship football again next season.
Gary Rowett named an unchanged side from the one that beat Blackburn 1-0 at The Den on Tuesday night, meaning Alex Pearce, Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper continued in central defence. Tom Bradshaw kept his place up front with top scorer Matt Smith on the bench.
Jed Wallace’s early free-kick just missed Shaun Hutchinson, who was unable to make contact.
Mason Bennett’s injury curse struck again as the Lions were forced into a change after just 11 minutes. Bennett was replaced by Jon Dadi-Bodvarsson. The Icelandic international came close to giving the visitors the lead on 20 minutes. A deep cross from Shane Ferguson reached Bodvarsson in the box and his header came back off the post.
Rangers came close to taking the lead just a couple of minutes later, Bartosz Bialkowski had to be alert to make a fine double save, first from Ilias Chair and then Luke Amos. The drinks break arrived at a good time for Gary Rowett’s men. Millwall threatened again after 28 minutes. Ferguson’s cross was met by Bradshaw but Joe Lumley saved well.
QPR took the lead on 44 minutes. Ebere Eze’s corner was met first by Yoann Barbet, his header was parried by Bialkowski but Conor Masterson tapped home the rebound.
Gary Rowett changed things at half time. Matt Smith replaced Mahlon Romeo as Millwall moved to a 4-4-2 formation.
QPR had the first chance of the second half. Chair’s shot saved well by Bialkowski.
Millwall equalised in the 49th minute. Smith got on the end of Jed Wallace’s cross and smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Parity didn’t last long. Just four minutes later Ryan Manning’s shot from outside the box bounced horribly in front of Bialkowski and beat the keeper. The Poland stopper didn’t let that affect him though. He was alert just a couple of minutes later to deny Osman Kaykay from making it 3-1. Amos then saw an effort saved by Bialkowski with the follow up blocked by Alex Pearce.
Former Millwall youngster Eze did make it 3-1 on 62 minutes. He sped down Millwall’s right-hand side and slotted home past Bialkowski.
That was not the end of it. Millwall responded. Smith’s header was saved by Lumley on the line before Pearce turned it in but the offside flag was raised. Millwall did get a second though. Jed Wallace’s corner was headed home by Shaun Hutchinson. As Millwall piled forward they were once again caught on the break. Dominic Ball’s cross was finished wonderfully by Todd Kane as Rangers made it 4-2 with 16 minutes to go. That goal deflated Millwall, who did go close again through Hutchinson.
Jayson Molumby scored his first Millwall goal in stoppage time. His shot deflected in and wrong-footed the unfortunate Lumley. There would be further action right at the death as Connor Mahoney’s free-kick was headed home by Hutchinson but once again the linesman’s flag was raised.
PICTURES BY KEITH GILLARD
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