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Millwall 1-1 Swansea
by Jacque Talbot
at the Den
WITH both losing sight of a play-off place, a draw was not the result either team had hoped for on Tuesday night.
But it’s what they got from a frantically fought game, where the home side would be left to rue missed chances. After Mason Bennett’s first-half goal, Millwall looked set to double the lead and claim all the points — but for a bizarre own goal in the second half.
The game opened spiritedly, as you’d expect — it was arguably three points or die. Swansea broke first and the move ended in a yellow card for Shaun Hutchinson for a foul on Ryan Woods. If Jake Cooper was further up by half a yard, it would have been a straight red.
Millwall were vicious on the right side while countering, blistering through. It’s what led to the opener — a tackle on the halfway line before Bennett finished at the far post on 21 minutes.
Shouts and shrieks are heard louder in stadiums with only a hundred or so people inside. The train heading from South Bermondsey was noticeable too, rumbling behind the Dockers Stand during the first drinks break. The game played out as an attempt, by both sides, to keep up the intensity in a stadium crying out for its infamous support.
A great chance for Millwall came when Jed Wallace slickly went past Swans Freddie Woodman — on loan from Newcastle — and the ball trickled past an open goal. In the middle of the pitch, tackles were hard. The medical team came on the pitch three times in the opening half, on one occasion when two men were down.
Millwall striker Tom Bradshaw, who had been relentlessly winning headers throughout despite his height disadvantage, scraped a shot wide in the second half; then there was more hammering from the home side and, on one occasion, a key last-ditch tackle in the opposition’s half.
Andre Ayew had been dragging the away side along for the whole game, dropping deep to the wing. For the most part, his teammates weren’t on the same level.
But Woods committed a foul to give Swansea a chance in a dangerous area, and the subsequent free-kick by Rhian Brewster went in on the 66-minute mark — credited as an own goal to Bartosz Bialkowski who tipped the Liverpool loanee’s strike onto the crossbar and in off his own back.
Millwall plugged away, and substitute Matt Smith appeared to be pulled down inside the box as it went into injury time — but the game played out as a 1-1 draw.
As the final whistle blew, almost every one of the Millwall players dropped to the floor, exhausted, deflated. The play-offs are probably now out of sight for them, in 11th place and five points off sixth.
There is a sense that Millwall is a club greatly affected by the absence of supporters. Players tried to keep up the intensity, but the usually roaring Den was missing its twelfth man, Millwall’s infamous ace.
Boss Gary Rowett said: “We’ve done everything we could to win the game. Until we’re out of it, we’ll keep fighting.
“We need our fans here. They give us that 20 minutes of pressure which other teams struggle to cope with. Our fans give us a lift — I know other teams do the same, but we’re a unique club in that sense.”
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