BY JAKE SANDERS
A sensational first-half brace from Ben Thompson gave Millwall a much-needed three points in their survival bid as they earned a deserved 2-0 victory at Birmingham City.
Thompson finished a slick counter-attack on 13 minutes to open the scoring before he doubled the lead just past the half-hour mark with a fine individual effort after great work from Lee Gregory in the build-up.
It was a first win in five games for the Lions, who move up to 19th in the standings, although they remain just one point above the relegation zone after Rotherham’s victory at Queens Park Rangers.
Unlike recent weeks, Millwall started brightly and took the lead on 13 minutes. Thompson broke forward and slipped in Gregory on the right, who played it back across to the former Portsmouth loanee, who thumped home with a stunning first-time finish into the bottom corner.
Birmingham almost hit back immediately, but Che Adams couldn’t beat Dave Martin – who was making his first appearance of the season – at his near-post. The 30-year-old blocked well with his legs.
Ben Marshall squandered a golden opportunity moments later to double the Lions’ lead, firing over after he capitalised on a loose ball from Gary Gardner.
But 14 minutes later, the visitors did get go 2-0 in front. Jake Cooper went long for Gregory who produced a deft touch into the path of Thompson, who advanced into the penalty area before firing low under Lee Camp for his second of the evening, and his third in the last five matches.
The Blues came close to reducing the arrears just before the interval, but Connor Mahoney could only curl his free-kick wide from 25 yards.
And the same man thought he cut Millwall’s lead just moments into the second-half. He was played through by Isaac Vassell, but the Birmingham winger was in an offside position before he smashed home into the far corner.
The Lions were let off again and their 2-0 lead just about remained intact on 55 minutes as Craig Gardner’s spectacular dipping volley went inches over, with Martin beaten.
Five minutes later he went even closer, but once again found the stands rather than the back off the net.
Garry Monk threw on both Lukas Jutkiewicz and Jacques Maghoma as the hosts searched for a route back into the game. And the latter almost made an immediate impact but could only head wide.
Jutkiewicz headed onto the post in injury time, but a determined and well-organised Millwall side saw out five minutes of added-time and claimed their third away success of the campaign.
IMAGES BY SEAN GOSLING