Cooper 52 og
BY ROB STEWART AT ASHTON GATE
Bouncebackability, resilience, never-say-die attitude, strength of character, fighting spirit – call it whatever you want, it’s clear that Millwall have those qualities in spades.
No matter what anyone says or how they say it, the Lions have what it takes to overcome setbacks.
And that stands them in good stead as Neil Harris’s side try to fight their way out of the Championship relegation zone.
Despite going into action at Ashton Gate on the back of a 2-0 home defeat by Birmingham and without injured strikers Lee Gregory, Tom Elliott and Tom Bradshaw – plus the suspended Ryan Leonard – Millwall rose to every challenge that was thrown at them.
Bolstered by a promising half, there was a spring in the Lions’ step after the break as their own threat level increased with Aiden O’Brien, starting in place of Gregory, went close to opening the deadlock when he latched on to Shane Ferguson’s cross but his low shot was tipped to safety by Niki Maenpaa in the 47th minute.
The otherwise impressive Jake Cooper blotted his copybook when he made a meal of clearing Niclas Eliasson’s inviting cross into the corridor of uncertainty along the six-yard box.
The centre-back did well to spot the danger but in attempting to clear his lines with his right foot, the ball rebounded off his left foot and looped beyond Archer and into the net.
That’s because City showed glimpses of the form that saw them challenge for promotion last season and reach the EFL Cup semi-finals.
And things went from bad to worse for Millwall as O’Brien was stretchered off following a challenge by City centre-back Adam Webster in the 59th minute.
Millwall were penned back into own half as City went looking for the goal that would have probably killed off the contest with Josh Brownhill and Andrea Weimann looking particularly dangerous down the right.
Time and time again they snuffed out danger – blocking, intercepting and heading clear everything that was thrown at them, especially those difficult questions posed by the excellent Eliasson down the left.
After digging in so stoically, slowly but surely, Harris shifted the momentum of the game and Millwall started looking like a threat again.
While Cooper and Hutchinson repelled the home attackers, Shane Ferguson helped Ryan Tunnicliffe win control of central midfield, typified by a never-say-die run back to dispossess Weimann.
And then Cooper showed that attack really can be the best form of defence as he ventured towards enemy territory to set up the deserved equaliser in the 78thminute.
The former England U20 international strode up-field before picking out Steve Morison with a long, diagonal ball which the evergreen skipper nodded into the path of Shaun Williams, who volleyed in the equaliser from 12 yards out. The crisp left-footed strike was the midfielder’s sixth goal this season but he was unable to join Morison and celebrate with the travelling fans in the Atyeo Stand because he was lying in agony as a result of Webster’s attempt to clear the danger.
In the end there were 10 long, angst-ridden minutes of stoppage time to weather as the rain poured down on the banks of the Avon but City had just once chance to break Millwall hearts but full-back Eros Pisano was unable to keep his shot on target with Archer beaten following a set-piece.
So, Millwall may be still looking for their first win this season but this was a result and performance that showed Harris’ team are ready to scrap their way to safety – and have the character to climb the table.
Millwall (4-4-2): Archer 7, Romeo 5, Hutchinson 9, Cooper 8, Meredith 7, J Wallace 6, Tunnicliffe 6, Williams 8 (Karacan 81), Ferguson 7, Morison 8 (Webster, 90+1), O’Brien 6 (Skalak 59, 7). Not used: Amos, McLaughlin, M Wallace, White.
IMAGES BY BRIAN TONKS