BY JAKE SANDERS AT THE DEN
The contrast in emotions from when Millwall departed Griffin Park in October to when referee Stuart Attwell blew his whistle at The Den on Saturday could hardly have been more of a contradiction.
When the sides first met in the Championship, the Lions were controversially beaten by a second-half Romaine Sawyers goal, were without an away win and 16th in the Championship with just 13 points from their first 12 games.
Millwall manager Neil Harris was unhappy with the officials that day after Millwall were denied a perfectly legal goal late in the game as Lee Gregory swept home seconds before a penalty was awarded for a foul on Jed Wallace in the build-up – the resultant spot-kick missed. Not many could have predicted that the Lions legend would be discussing the possibility of a play-off place less than five months later.
The victory over Brentford was Millwall’s 11th match without defeat in the league at home, their best run in the second-tier since a 25-game run between August 1993 and September 1994. Jake Cooper, Mahlon Romeo and Fred Onyedinma were not even born then.
Whatever Harris has said to his side in the last two games, has most certainly worked. George Saville set the hosts on their way to a fifth consecutive away league victory against Hull City last Tuesday, netting after just 51 seconds – lightning struck twice as the former Wolves midfielder once again struck that quickly against his former loan club.
Jed Wallace headed a loose ball into Saville’s path and he composed himself before confidently sweeping past Daniel Bentley.
It was the former Chelsea trainee’s ninth league goal of the season, two more than his combined total of seven from the last three seasons.
A raised linesman’s flag by Steve Child ensured Millwall’s lead was still intact. Yoann Barbet converted at the far post from a Brentford corner before saluting towards the home fans amid his celebration. After a long conversation between Stuart Attwell and Child, the goal was disallowed, leading to a mockery of the Bees striker’s celebration from Millwall skipper Steve Morison and massive cheers of relief from the majority of the 13,251 crowd.
Saville was the width of a post from helping himself to his 10th Championship goal of the season but that was as close as the home side came to extending their lead all afternoon.
Brentford dominated the second-half but were unable to turn their superiority into goals as Sergi Canos’ low strike hit the post before captain John Egan crashed the crossbar.
James Meredith made a goal-line clearance late in the game to earn Millwall their 14th clean sheet of the campaign, matching their tally from the whole of last season.
The victory means that only Cardiff (26), Aston Villa (28), and Fulham (29) have taken more points than Millwall (25) from their last 11 Championship matches.
If that form continues, Harris’ dream of a top-six finish could soon become a reality.
The Lions could close the gap on Middlesbrough to three points if they can equal a club record by recording their sixth straight away league victory when they visit Barnsley on Saturday.
Millwall (4-4-2): Archer 7, Romeo 7, Hutchinson 8, Cooper 8, Meredith 8, Wallace 6, Saville 8, Williams 7, Marshall 6 (Cahill 87), Gregory 7 (Onyedinma 75), Morison 6 (Elliott 75). Not used: Martin, McLaughlin, Shackell, Tunnicllife.