Sunday 24 March 2019

Millwall add to special cup relationship

AFC Wimbledon 0 Millwall 1

Millwall players celebrate on the pitch after the game. Photo: IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images
Millwall players celebrate on the pitch after the game. Photo: IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images

Matt Law

They may proudly sing that no one likes them, but Millwall have certainly struck up a special relationship with the FA Cup. Murray Wallace, hero of the fourth-round victory over Everton, secured a fourth quarter-final appearance in 15 years for his side with the winning goal against AFC Wimbledon.

It was no more than the Championship strugglers deserved, as Neil Harris's team squandered a number of good chances. But Millwall's travelling supporters will not be too bothered how they got to the last eight yet again.

Ryan Leonard of Millwall in action with Shane McLoughlin of AFC Wimbledon Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Ryan Leonard of Millwall in action with Shane McLoughlin of AFC Wimbledon Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

"What an achievement for a club our size," said Harris, who led Millwall to the quarter-finals two years ago. "Four times in 15 years. That is an unbelievable achievement. Why does the FA Cup bring the best out of us? We know what is needed in these cup ties and it is not always about being the best footballing team.

"It is about the team with the biggest heart and the right footballing mentality, who can win first and second balls and set plays. That is why they have done so well under me in this competition."

It might have been very different if Joe Pigott had given the League One hosts, conquerors of West Ham in the previous round, the perfect start. In the third minute, the striker met a dangerous cross from Shane McLoughlin but could only poke the ball against the post from close range.

Wimbledon were quickly punished. Two minutes later, Wallace put the visitors ahead. Ryan Leonard found him unmarked with a cross from the right and the left-back made no mistake with his header at the far post. The goal was Millwall's first since Wallace had won the fourth-round tie in stoppage time against Everton last month.

Shane Ferguson of Millwall in action with Anthony Hartigan of AFC Wimbledon. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Shane Ferguson of Millwall in action with Anthony Hartigan of AFC Wimbledon. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Wimbledon were full of spirit and endeavour, but lacked the quality to take their chances and were grateful to goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale that they were able to keep pushing until the final whistle.

They came close in the 57th minute. Lee Gregory did well to chase down a long punt and hold the ball until Aiden O'Brien could catch him up, but having received his team-mate's pass, O'Brien was unable to beat Ramsdale.

Jake Cooper squandered a great chance to ease Millwall's nerves when he headed wide after Wallace had turned provider.

The visitors then survived a penalty appeal when Andy Barcham was ruled offside after going down in the box, though the ball may have taken a slight touch off a defender. At the other end, Barcham then made a superb goal-saving challenge to stop Gregory just as he was preparing to pull the trigger inside the area. There was a late chance for Dylan Connolly to send the tie into extra-time, but he sliced his shot wide.

"I was very pleased with the way the lads applied themselves," said home manager Wally Downes. "We were a match for Millwall and it was only a set-piece between us.

"We've itemised all week that Millwall are very strong and studious on their set plays. There were no surprises for what they did to us. Unfortunately there was a lapse and we got punished for it."

Asked what might have been if Pigott's early effort had gone in, Downes added: "But it didn't. If you're playing a team in the division above you and you create a chance early you have to take it. You know they're going to be efficient at what they do. If they get a chance they're going to punish you."

Telegraph

Telegraph.co.uk

The Left Wing: Why Irish fans shouldn't lose faith and how Joe Schmidt can turn things around for the World Cup

In association with Aldi

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport