by Brian Stater
MILLWALL boss George Graham is poised to swing the axe before tonight's Den clash with Derby.
The Millwall defence has come in for a slamming from Graham after conceding six goals in two matches.
Graham announced, “Lindsay Smith will definitely be back for the game with Derby, and I am considering further changes.”
Either Micky Nutton or Dave Cusack are expected to make way for the fit-again Smith, who returns after recovering from a gashed shin.
And Welsh midfield ace Steve Lowndes stands by for his first full Third Division match. Since dislocating a toe at Bolton in January.
Lowndes came on as substitute for Anton Otulakowski during Millwall's 3-2 defeat at Newport on Saturday and Graham said “Anton's place could be in danger and I pulled him off because he hadn't been playing as well as I hoped.”
But Graham reserved his harshest criticism the leaky rearguard, who also conceded three goals in the Milk Cup clash with Chelsea last week.
He stormed, “If we can't defend elementary attacks I've got to do something quickly.”
Midfield man Tony Kinsella has resumed training but is still a week away from full fitness.
Meanwhile Graham is continuing his hunt for a striker.
by Lesley Johnson
MILLWALL boss George Graham wants his players to repeat Tuesday's gutsy and determined display in tomorrow's crucial away clash at Gillingham.
After a valiant fight against crudely defensive Derby, Millwall clinched victory with an injury time penalty.
And manager Graham said, “If we get the same sort of confidence and commitment away from home that we get at the Den, then we will be at the top of the table.”
In a match marred by six bookings, much of the attacking came from persistent Millwall. Against the run of play Derby took the lead just before half-time when Kevin Wilson battled through the Lions' defence to thunder a drive past goalkeeper Paul Sansome.
Millwall picked up confidence after the break and soon forged golden chances. Steve Lowndes, recalled to first team action, forced ex-Palace keeper John Burridge to stretch for a screaming twelve yard shot, and moments later Burridge cleared a Kevin Bremner header.
Hot Shot: Kevin Bremner has a crack
The equaliser came in the 73rd minute, when Dean Neal looped a Dave Cusack header into the back of the net.
Well into injury time Derby defender Kenny Burns brought Anton Otulakowski down inside the box and saw substitute Steve Lovell power Millwall's winner from the spot.
MILLWALL: Sansome, Roffey, Briley, Smith, Cusack, Lowndes, Bremner, Neal, Chatterton (Lovell), Otulakowski.
Referee: David Letts (Aldershot). Attendance: 5,923
Millwall (0) 2
Lovell 90 (pen)
Derby (1) 1
Millwall 2 Derby 1
by Maurice Woolf
MILLWALL manager George Graham was beaming after his side's injury-time win over Derby at the Den on Tuesday.
He exclaimed: “Our new motto is we aim to please. We give the crowd exciting, attacking football. This was another great game. The atmosphere was tremendous and you felt the buzz around the ground. The crowd helped us to stage a tremendous fight-back.”
“I didn't think we were ever going to score after the chances we missed in the second half, but we got what we deserved in the end.”
Millwall looked like losing their 100 per cent home record when Kevin Wilson scored his 13th goal of the season in the 43rd minute.
Bill Roffey, who five minutes before had sliced his kick did it again and this allowed Wilson to latch on to the ball.
Paul Sansome managed to get his hands to the ball but couldn't stop it going in. Millwall had suffered cruel blow in the 30th minute when Nicky Chatterton had to come off with torn leg ligaments and Steve Lovell replaced him.
The Lions came out full of fire in the second half, but missed chance after chance, until Roffey broke down the left wing and centred for Anton Otulakowski to head on for Neal to equalise. There was no stopping the Lions now. They mounted attack after attack, and had shots kept out by the woodwork and the calm Derby defence, well marshalled by Kenny Burns.
But in injury time the home side received its reward. Otulakowski was brought down twice in the penalty area. The first time seemed a better case for a penalty, but referee David Letts pointed to the spot for the second.
Steve Lovell made no mistake, and Burns, who was one of four, Derby players booked (two Millwall players, Keith Stevens and Les Briley, also received cautions), led a protest, but Letts stuck to his decision.
MILLWALL: Sansome; Stevens, Roffey, Briley, Smith, Cusack, Lowndes, Bremner, Neal, Chatterton (Lovell 30 mins), Otulakowski.
DERBY: Burridge; Palmer, Buckley, Richardson, Streete, Burns, Taylor, Wilson, Davison, Hooks, Robertson. Sub: Pratley.
Ref: David Letts.
by Gerald Mortimer
Heroic defending and Kevin Wilson's 13th goal of the season counted for nothing at the Den last night.
Millwall substitute Steve Lovell scored from an injury time penalty and even then there was time for Derby County to have strong appeals turned down in the other area.
The Derby players felt cheated and Arthur Cox went on the field after the final whistle to make sure none of them abused Aldershot referee David Letts.
It was a wise precaution, for feeling had run high throughout a hectic and exciting game. The atmosphere at the Den is always hostile and heaven knows what it will be like when Chelsea are there in the Milk Cup next week.
The referee cautioned six players and seemed to imagine that waving his book around in this manner indicated that he had an iron grip on the game. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
While there is little point in railing at referees, who have a hard job and always have the final word, it would be idle to pretend that the standard in the Football League is particularly good
The second-half had lasted 47 minutes when Paul Richardson tried to stop Anton Otulakowski, the best midfield player the Rams have encountered in the Third Division this season.
There were appeals for a penalty but Richardson's second touch, which put the ball behind, appeared much cleaner. This time, however, the penalty was given and Lovell hit it in perfectly.
Derby, who, had battled tremendously hard, refused to give up even then and an excellent free kick by Floyd Streete was turned against the bar.
As Wilson went for the header to grab an equaliser, there was more than a hint of a push and a suggestion of handling. This time, however, a corner was the only outcome.
The barracking of Derby's coloured players by some of the London supporters was most unpleasant. Charlie Palmer was provoked into retaliatory gestures late in the game but Streete ran across to stop him.
It is easy to sympathise with Palmer but to be drawn like that is to lose concentration and Streete's greater experience showed.
Streete was one of four Derby players booked, along with Steve Buckley, Burns and Kevin Taylor. Keith Stevens and Les Briley made up the referee's bag for the night.
Burns was absolutely magnificent. He defended majestically, often under intense pressure, and Streete was not far behind him.
Derby's competitive spirit was tremendous and they deserved at least a point from their best away performance in the League this season.
Although one crashing header from Kevin Bremner was blocked, Millwall did not get through to John Burridge much in the first-half, despite Otulakowski's inventiveness.
The reward for fine defending came after 44 minutes when Bill Roffey sliced a clearance. Wilson collected the ball, raced through the centre of the Millwall defence and hit a low shot to which Sansome got a hand.
The goalkeeper could not keep the ball out and when half-time came after 50 minutes, including several stoppages, there were visions of Derby's first league away win for 11 months.
Burrridge saved superbly at Lowndes' feet before Millwall equalised after 73 minutes, Dave Cusack heading on a corner from Dean Neal to nod the ball in from close range.
Even before that, Derby had created chances by playing the ball so well from the back.
Streete, who saved on the line when Bremner beat Burridge, put Wilson away and Sansome had to save at Bobby Davison's feet. At 1-1, Paul Hooks turned into the penalty area, but hit a fierce shot over.
From another pass by John Robertson, Wilson left Lindsay Smith for dead but fluffed his centre.
Derby performed with guts and application, with the goalkeeper and back four absolutely excellent.
The penalty against them looked harsh but it was not entirely a hard luck story.
Splendid though the defence may be, more of a midfield shield is needed. Millwall were able to play through Derby's midfield because, with Steve Powell absent, there was no consistently reliable tackler in that department.
A strong midfield player must be top of Cox's priorities and the sooner the better because the Rams are developing on the right lines.
Millwall: Sansome; Stevens, Roffey, Briley, Smith, Cusack, Lowndes, Bremner, Neal, Chatterton, Otulakowski. Lovell replaced Chatterton after 36 minutes.
Derby County: Burridge; Palmer, Buckley, Richardson, Streete, Burns, Taylor, Wilson, Davison, Hooks, Robertson. Sub: Pratley.
Referee: D. Letts (Aldershot)