Whelan spares Lions' blushes

Last updated : 23 August 2003 By Neil Andrews
Another home game, another drab affair as The Lions once again failed to build on their promising start to the season in front of their own fans.

With new signing Bob Peeters on show, Millwall were hot favourites to take all three points but they came unstuck against a Crewe side who came to claim a point and were unlucky not to take all three.

The game started brightly enough with both teams having chances in the opening stages but then the game got bogged down in midfield. While Crewe opted to play the ball on the ground, the Lions decided to hoof the ball up front to their new 6' 5" striker but neither side were able to create much in the way of chances.

The second half was a little more open and Crewe goalkeeper Clayton Ince produced a fantastic world class save to deny Tim Cahill on the hour. Shortly afterwards, Crewe went in front, thanks largely to Millwall keeper Tony Warner, who belied his recent form by running out of his area to claim a ball in no-man's land and clattering it against one of his own defenders. The ball fell kindly to Dean Ashton who neatly slotted it into the back of the net.

Millwall then panicked while Crewe simply ran the clock down. McGhee threw on Juan to give the team more width, but at the expense of Peeters to no real affect as the Railwaymen were content to simply play it between themselves.

Cahill missed a golden opportunity to level the scores on the 75 minute mark when he found himself onside with only the goalkeeper to beat. But the ball got stuck under his feet and Ince smoothered it well to deny the Aussie midfielder.

McGhee's last throw of the dice saw him pull of both fullbacks as the Lions went to a 3-4-3 formation with Richard Sadlier making his long-awaited return and against the odds, the gamble paid off. Dennis Wise, free on the right, drifted a cross in and found Noel Whelan, who's looping header beat Ince at the far post just as the clock ticked into injury time.

After that it was all Millwall and the Lions almost snatched victory at the death when Andy Robert's cross found Dennis Wise in the box, but his weak shot failed to trouble Ince in the Crewe goal.

A fair result overall, but the game could have been a whole lot better had referee Steve Tomlin allowed the game to flow. Instead, the game had a stop-start feel to it as he blew for every minor foul but failed to stamp his authority on the game when he declined to send of Crewe's Kenny Lunt for a petulant kick at Dennis Wise, despite the linesman having a perfect view of the whole incident.

For Mark McGhee, it's back to the drawing board. Bob Peeters made a promising start but the Lions had no width and no real threat up front with Neil Harris once again walking about the pitch like an Serie A prima donna.

A disappointing and frustrating day all round.

Millwall Mad Ratings:
Tony Warner 5 - Had a howler, rounded off by his mistake for the Crewe goal
Matt Lawrence 6 - A steady performance, good coming forward
Robbie Ryan 6 - Got caught in possession on occasion but as steady as ever
Tim Cahill 6 - Did not impose himself enough on the game
Stuart Nethercott 7 - An improved performance from Nethers
Darren Ward 8 - Excellent at the back, not at fault for their goal
Dennis Wise 6 - Never really got going until late on in the game
Andy Roberts 7 - Best of the midfielders, played some lovely balls across field
Bob Peeters 6 - A promising debut, suffered from a lack of service
Neil Harris 6 - Improved in the second half but was one-dimensional in the first
Noel Whelan 6 - Lost on the left wing, came good up front

Richard Sadlier 6 - Good to see him back. Ran his socks off.
Charlie Hearn 6 - Tried to play himself into the game
Juan 5 - Got lost when he came on.