Lions have habit of slipping at The Den when least expected

MILLWALL 1

M Wallace 62

SWANSEA 2

Naughton 76 McBurnie 85

BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE DEN

Millwall are celebrating 25 years at The Den and one of the biggest things that Neil Harris has done since taking charge is bringing back a fear factor for visiting teams.

We’ve seen plenty of Championship teams come to SE16 last season and not have the stomach for a fight.

Leeds United, now topping the table and with praise being lavished on Marcelo Bielsa for his transformation job, were a prime example.

It is the Yorkshire giants who are next up for the Lions after the international break – and all eyes will be on whether the South Londoners can respond to a pretty sobering defeat.

Jed Wallace misses a great chance in the first half

When Courtney Baker-Richardson was shown a straight red for a terrible tackle on James Meredith in the fifth minute, you thought the Swans would need Harry Potter as manager – not Graham – to conjure up a result.

But there was a lack of magic to Millwall’s play, little that was spellbinding in the remainder of that first half.

Jed Wallace did have a glorious chance from a Steve Morison knockdown but produced a kind of extravagent scissor-kick finish which saw the ball fly harmlessly wide.

Millwall’s inability to find a finishing touch in open play made it no surprise that their goal came from a set-piece.

Lee Gregory shoots wide in the second half

It’s little secret that they like to pump corners to the back post for the lurking Jake Cooper – but stopping the towering centre-half winning the header is a thankless task. The former Reading man guided it back across for Murray Wallace to deftly glance in his first goal since signing in the summer from Scunthorpe United.

It felt like game over. Swansea were flagging from the admirable exertions put in and Millwall finally had their breakthrough. Wrong.

Jefferson Montero’s 66th-minute introduction was to prove highly significant.

The Ecuadorian international claimed both assists as the Welsh side turned the contest on its head.

Mahlon Romeo was at fault for the equaliser as he invited Montero to cut inside and the pacey winger did exactly that before fellow sub Kyle Naughton finished with aplomb.

Worst was to come. Swansea took a quick free-kick and this time it was Oli McBurnie who finished from close range to stun everyone into silence apart from the boisterous 1,000-plus travelling support.

Wallace frustration as he fails to hit the target

Okay, Millwall were unlucky very late on when Tom Elliott’s header from a Jiri Skalak cross crashed down off the bar and into the grateful arms of Erwin Mulder – but Tom Carroll was equally unfortunate with an excellent curler that came back off the left post just before that.

Since getting back to the Championship the Lions seem to lose at The Den when it is least expected – with the exception of that 3-1 reverse to a flying Fulham in April.

Swansea played 90 minutes with 10 men when you add in stoppage time. And Millwall also slipped up in November 2017 against Burton Albion.

Jed Wallace was dismissed in that match against the Brewers but his two-footed leap for the ball on Saturday – which only earned him a yellow from referee Graham Scott – looked far more of a red card contender.

Wallace booked for this tackle in second half

The other losses at home since the start of last season have been against Barnsley, who were eventually relegated, and Ipswich Town, hardly a powerhouse in the division.

You can’t be too harsh with the criticism when Millwall’s record stands at won 17, drawn eight and lost two in all competitions.

That’s maybe why Harris reckoned that Leeds was the perfect challenge after the international break. Anything less than a switched-on Millwall are going to be in trouble.

The Lions have kept just one clean sheet in the 2018-19 campaign – digging in at Blackburn Rovers. Defensive strength played a massive part in their success in finishing eighth last time around.

They quickly learned lessons in their first season up but at times in the past four matches – including the EFL Cup win over Plymouth Argyle – they have been downright sloppy and paid the price for that.

Their primary attacking route to goal were long balls from Cooper onto the head of Morison and it created two chances, but Jed Wallace and Lee Gregory were unable to find the target.

Skalak’s first cross of the afternoon raised the volume levels in the home sections of the stadium and the Czech right-footer has had two encouraging outings which suggest he should be in from the start when Leeds come to town.

Harris’ decision to drop Jordan Archer is a clear indicator that he will not sit by and let things unravel.

The last time that Millwall lost three league games in a row was two years ago in League One – that season finished with a Wembley play-off final win.

It’s way too early to be pressing the panic button. But the Lions need to get back in their groove soon because the Championship is an unrelenting beast.

IMAGES BY BRIAN TONKS

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