Millwall talisman Jed Wallace announced his return from injury in style as his penalty helped the Lions end their four-game winless run with a 1-0 victory over Bristol City at the Den.
Former Robin Benik Afobe was sent tumbling inside the box by Rob Atkinson just after the hour mark and Wallace, with practically his first touch since coming off the bench, stroked home the winner.
In a game bereft of much true attacking quality, George Saville’s dangerous through ball that set Afobe through on goal and Wallace’s calm penalty proved enough to earn Gary Rowett’s team all three points.
City were without Nigel Pearson, with assistant manager Curtis Fleming standing in for him, and opted to match up their hosts in a 3-5-2 but was all the home side in the opening 10 minutes.
They kept the Robins pinned inside their own half but, due in the most part to the supreme Tomas Kalas and a structured City backline, they were unable to create anything of note.
Saville looked most likely to provide the spark, with his perfectly weighted ball over the top to Danny McNamara an early highlight in an opening that lacked real attacking quality.
The Robins grew into the game and by the 17th minute, they’d given Rowett’s side a number of scares. The most significant saw Weimann race through on goal after misjudged defensive header – though his attempt was smothered well by Bart Bialkowski.
George Tanner was the next player to threaten Bialkowski’s when he snuck in at the back post to connect with Jay Dasilva’s floated cross but he put his header wide meaning his wait for a first City goal goes on.
An injury to Nathan Baker forced the visitors into a change just after the half-hour mark, with Cam Pring replacing him, and Millwall nearly capitalised instantly when a looping header fell to Afobe alone on the edge of the six-yard box but Dan Bentley was equal to his effort.
The two sides began trading set pieces like heavyweight boxers landing alternate blows and Millwall nearly found their knock-out punch on the eve of halftime when Afobe’s well-placed glancing header from a whipped-in cross forced a full-length dive out of Bentley, who beat the ball away along the bi-line to safety.
The introduction of both Callum O’Dowda and Jed Wallace in the opening stages of the second half helped to open the game up and led to the breakthrough.
Chris Martin’s over-deliberation cost him a chance to put his side one-up after 55 minutes but Wallace did grab the opener nine minutes later.
Afobe raced through on goal on the end of Saville’s through ball and there was enough contact from Atkinson to send him tumbling and mean referee Dean Whitestone pointed to the spot. That allowed Wallace, who had barely touched the ball, to step up and score his fourth of the season from 12 yards.
Were it not for the defensive work by Tanner, the 28-year-old could’ve doubled his lead a quarter of an hour before the end but the right wing-back’s solid challenge kept the Millwall man in check.
The dying embers gave us perhaps the two most clear-cut chances of the match. First, only Bentley’s full-length save was able to deny Billy Mitchell from 14 yards out and then Andi Weimann saw his low, goalbound effort blocked inside the six-yard box.
The referee’s final whistle brought relief as much as joy from the Den faithful as they saw their side finally get back to winning ways.
Full Time: Millwall 1-0 Bristol City