Lions secure impressive win

Last updated : 20 October 2003 By Neil Andrews
The Boss
It was a day of mixed emotions for caretaker-manager Dennis Wise, who was sent off in spectacular style by referee Rob Styles just three minutes after coming on.

But despite stealing all the headlines for the wrong reason, Wise can be pleased with his day's work as The Lions ran rampant over leaders Sheffield United.

Second-half goals from Neil Harris and Paul Ifill did the damage but another erratic performance from Styles meant the Lions saw the game out with just nine men, sparking memories of his first game in charge at The Den four years, when The Lions again ran out winners despite having two men sent off.

The Lions were in complete control from start to finish and had gone mighty close to opening the scoring in the first half when a neat passing movement saw Bob Peeters lay off a delicate header to the on-rushing Neil Harris who then saw his 25-yard strike just sail the wrong side of the upright.

Peeters was also proving to be a menace up front and but for some resolute defending could have had a brace to his name in the first 45 minutes. in the end, the Lions had to wait until the 51st minute when Abou Fofana, recalled by Wise to start on the left, burst through the United defence before being tripped in the box. Styles had no alternative but to award the penalty which Harris easily converted.

Straight from the kick off, Millwall could have won a second penalty when Fofana was again tripped in the box but this time the ref waved play on. Peeters then went close with a header from a freekick which Paul Gerrard in The Blades goal did well to tip around the post before Millwall had a third penalty appeal turned down when Paul Ifill was sent crashing in the box. To be fair to Styles, he didn't have the best of views of the incident but the linesman should have had the bottle to award the spot kick.

Wise had changed things around and employed an orthodox 4-4-2 system against United's 4-5-1 formation, and it worked a treat. With Abou and Ifill given a free rein to tease and torment the United defence. And it was Ifill who made it 2-0 with a great bit of determination.

Having seen his first shot blocked, the Millwall man used his head and blasted the ball low and straight across the face of goal and got the deflection that his play deserved, with the ball coming off Gerrard and into the net.

Millwall were now all over United, with Ifill and Kevin Muscat, who had been made captain for the day, both producing breathtaking, solo runs that deserved a goal at the end. Ifill was denied by his own trickery while Muscat's cross reached Fofana but he was unable to produce the finished that was required.

Neil Warnock used all three substitues on in a bid to claw their way back into the game and United came close to doing just that when sub Wayne Allison's 78th-minute header from a Peter Ndlovu cross was just a whisker away from finding the net.

It was then that Rob Styles got card happy. First David Livermore picked up a second yellow for time-wasting, even though the Lions midfielder had mad it clear to the ref that he had not heard the whistle, then Wise, on for Fofana, was show a straight red for a meaty challenge going for a 50-50 ball.

But United had run out of steam by then, and with sub Noel Whelan using his years of experience to run the clock down up front, the Lions kept the clean sheet in tact to record an improbable but highly satisfying victory.

Millwall Mad Ratings:
Tony Warner 8 - Three first class saves kept United out
Kevin Muscat 9 - A captain's performance
Robbie Ryan 7 - Solid and composed on his return
Andy Roberts 8 - Passed the ball and kept things flowing
Paul Robinson 8 - Nothing got passed him
Darren Ward 8 - Another solid performance at the back
Abou Fofana 8 - Kept the United defence busy
David Livermore 7 - Midfield enforcer, unlucky to be sent off
Bob Peeters 8 - A return to form. Linked up well with Harris
Neil Harris 9 - A fantastic display
Paul Ifill 8 - More tricks than Paul Daniels

Dennis Wise 6 - Came on, got sent off, picked up three points
Noel Whelan 6 - Came on late but used his experience to secure the win