Millwall 1-0 Blackburn Rovers
MASON BENNETT’S first-half goal ended Millwall’s winless home sequence and kept them in touch with the top-six as the Sky Bet Championship season approached its final furlong.
Both Millwall and Blackburn found themselves in the equivalent of the ‘last chance of the play-offs saloon’ ahead of kick-off. Gary Rowett’s men – competent on the road – were without a win in seven on their own patch.
Meanwhile, Rovers – two points worse off – already appear behind the eight-ball and staring another season of second-tier football in the face.
“What I would like to do is win a home game,” Rowett bemoaned ahead of the game.
“I know it’s been a while, and it doesn’t feel like one because our fans aren’t there, but I’m sure if they’re watching at home, that’s our next aim.
“Forget the three points, forget where we are in the table, let’s go and win at home. It’s a place we don’t often lose, so I’d like a little bit of pride after the game just on that alone.”
Shaun Ferguson and Shaun Hutchinson passed up decent opportunities for the home side, while Blackburn’s Joe Rankin-Costello posted his entry for the swiftest caution of the campaign as the game began in a ragged fashion. But midway through the half, Bennett picked up the pieces to fire home after Tom Bradshaw’s initial attempt had been pushed out by Rovers’s stopper, Christian Walton – Just the start the Lion’s needed.
Bradley Johnson dragged wide as the visitors’ – seemingly awkward and lacklustre – responded tentatively.
Walton blocked from Jed Wallace, while Stewart Downing’s effort was deflected behind as the sides exchanged opportunities after the restart. But there was now a renewed urgency about Blackburn. Rankin-Costello sending another strike over, perhaps confirming a frank exchange had taken place in the visitors dressing room during the interval.
Bartosz Bialkowski had spent much of the opening half a spectator. However, the Millwall keeper was called upon to thwart Adam Armstong – this after substitute, Sam Gallagher, had fashioned an opening, then the Pole drive bravely at the feet of Gallagher as the Rovers revival continued to gather pace.
Bradshaw’s close-range strike was blocked at the near post by Walton as it became apparent to the hosts that they were now in a contest.
But despite their improvement, Rovers were restricted to half-chances. Rankin-Costello’s attempt did little to trouble Bialkowski as the East Lancashire side struggled to turn significant possession into genuine chances. Although Rankin-Costello’s was agonisingly close to salvaging a share of the spoils with the last action of the evening.
The victory lifted Millwall into seventh place, although they remain two points shy of where they ultimately want to be.
Millwall return to Sky Bet Championship action on Saturday, July 18 when they travel to the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium to face Queen’s Park Rangers (3pm).
Millwall: Bartosz Bialkowski, Shaun Hutchinson, Jake Cooper, Jed Wallace (Jayson Molumby 86’), Tom Bradshaw (Connor Mahoney 81’), Shane Ferguson (Ben Thompson 81’) Mahlon Romeo (Murray Wallace 70’), Alex Pearce (Capt), Ryan Leonard, Ryan Wood, Mason Bennett (Jon Dadi Bodvarsson 70’) Subs not used: Luke Steele (GK), Shaun Williams, Matt Smith, Billy Mitchell
Booked: Ryan Wood (foul), Jake Cooper (foul)
Goals: Mason Bennett 20’
Blackburn Rovers: Christian Walton, Bradley Johnson (John Buckely 80’), Adam Armstrong, Danny Graham (Sam Gallagher 46’), Dominix Samuel (Joe Rothwell 46’), Stewart Downing (Jacob Davenport, 80’), Tosin Adarabioyo, Darragh Lenihan, Lewis Travis (Lewis Holtby 71’), Elliott Bennett (Capt), Joe Rankin-Costello Subs not used: Jayson Leutwiler (GK), Ryan Nyambe, Ben Brewerton, Hayden Carter
Booked: Joe Rankin-Costello (foul), Lewis Travis (foul)
Referee: John Brooks
Assistants: Geoffrey Russell and Lee Venamore
Fourth Official: Craig Hicks