BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE DEN
Millwall picked up their first Championship win of the season as Frank Lampard’s return to London did not go as the former West Ham and Chelsea midfielder would have planned.
Lee Gregory put the hosts in front with Shaun Williams credited with the second before the break – even if it looked as if it had taken a significant deflection.
Derby improved after the restart and David Nugent cut the deficit with 17 minutes remaining.
But the South London club – who face back-to-back long trips to Yorkshire to play Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley – held on to claim maximum points.
Millwall were clapped off by their fans after an excellent opening 45 minutes.
They were asked questions defensively by the visitors, but they showed last season that they are solid and difficult to break down.
The same could not be said of Derby, whose intention to play out from the back horribly backfired. They looked uncomfortable from the word go – especially with Millwall pressing high up the pitch.
Craig Bryson had already had to head away from his goal-line when Jake Cooper met a second-minute corner and Millwall had an early eighth minute breakthrough. Williams produced a low ball in – and intentional or not it was difficult to defend. Gregory claimed he had got a vital touch to take it past the motionless Scott Carson.
Further proof of Derby’s unease on the ball at the back came when Andy Keogh was harried into conceding a corner by Aiden O’Brien’s aggressive closing down.
George Saville lost his composure as he fired wide following a surge into the box by James Meredith on 14 minutes.
But the Lions had a two-goal cushion with 20 minutes on the clock. The damage was self-induced as Derby once again lost possession. Scott Carson tried to pass out from the back and although Gregory’s initial shot was blocked the follow up from Williams appeared to deflect off the outstretched leg of Fikayo Tomori on its way into the top right corner of the net.
Saville was first onto a loose ball but scuffed a left-footed effort wide and the final action of the half saw O’Brien also fail to trouble Scott Carson after Cooper headed a deep Williams corner back across the penalty area.
Derby’s most notable effort came early on when Jordan Archer tipped over Tom Lawrence’s dipping 25-yarder.
The Rams were back out on the pitch a long time before Millwall – with ex-Lion Scott Malone replaced at the break by Craig Forsyth.
Derby were calling the shots in the second half but it took until the 73rd minute for them to hit the target – and when they did it halved the deficit.
Substitute David Nugent collected Forsyth’s crossfield pass and smashed past Archer at his near post.
Millwall had sat deep after the restart but Saville had a chance to make it 3-1 on 76 minutes. Mahlon Romeo’s cross was nodded down by Shaun Hutchinson but the midfielder’s touch took the ball past the right upright.
The home fans were unhappy when Gregory was replaced by Ryan Tunnicliffe in the closing stages, but it was the right move as the Lions looked to see out the contest.
Saville again could have supplied breathing space when teed up by Tunnicliffe but he once again could not test Carson.