BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Jake Cooper is claiming Millwall’s goal in today’s 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers – depriving Jiri Skalak of opening his scoring account for the South Londoners.
The summer signing from Brighton has been a slow burner in terms of impact but it was announced that he had struck the 82nd minute to ensure that the hosts cancelled out Mark Beevers’ first-half header.
But Cooper felt he got the final touch on Skalak’s shot – taking him to three goals for the campaign.
And when it comes to the final shakedown in the standings, this point could still be a really big one for the hosts. Their striker options – with Tom Bradshaw and Steve Morison both not involved – took a further hit as Tom Elliott went off injured in the first half.
It saw Millwall get the ball down more in the second stanza – with any high balls previously meat and drink to Beevers and David Wheater – and they finally got a reward even if they struggled to work Wanderers keeper Ben Alnwick enough.
Beevers was to have a hugely influential opening 45 minutes. Not only did the ex-Lion head the away side ahead but he produced a superb clearance at the other end of the pitch to prevent substitute Aiden O’Brien making it 1-1 late in the half.
Millwall’s defending was unconvincing from the start and the visitors – not exactly known for their scoring prowess during their recent struggles – exploited the space well.
Will Buckley’s attempts to cajole a penalty out of referee Lee Swabey were unsuccessful and it looked the right decision as he went down under minimal contact from Conor McLaughlin.
Jordan Archer, restored to the starting line-up with Ben Amos not eligible to face his parent club, pulled off a superb double save inside the opening 10 minutes. First he raced out to block Buckley’s shot and moments later he tipped over as the ball was worked back to Jason Lowe.
But the warnings were not heeded by the South Londoners and soon after they fell behind. It was so poor defensively as Beevers was left unmarked in the box – his stooping header hitting the right post before going in.
Millwall’s list of unavailable strikers increased past the half-hour mark as Elliott was forced off with Aiden O’Brien, who has largely played wide during Neil Harris’ managerial reign, coming on to partner Lee Gregory.
The Lions finally created a big chance just before the break. Gregory teed up a prime shooting chance for Ryan Leonard but Ben Alnwick was able to dive and parry, O’Brien’s follow up was just about kept out by Beevers.
Archer made another stop early in the second half to push away Lowe’s strike and the home team had huffed and puffed without a whole lot of reward up until Skalak’s goal.
Jed Wallace’s cross was headed clear but the Hungarian winger drove the ball back with interest – Cooper helping it on as it found a home in the bottom right corner of the net.
Millwall had the ball in the back of the net again right at the death but the linesman’s flag was up straight after O’Brien’s header before Gregory turned it home.
IMAGES BY BRIAN TONKS