|Own Goal Agony|
Cusack lets Chelsea off the hook
By Nigel Clarke
Millwall 1, Chelsea 1 (Agg: 2-4)
MILLWALL'S chance of springing a Milk Cup miracle was torn away by another own goal last night.
The first leg of this second round tie was swung by Mickey Nutton's own goal at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago. This time one from Dave Cusack reprieved Chelsea. In a full-blooded battle in which six men were booked-four from Chelsea and two from Millwall - the biggest crowd at The Den for six years (11,157) roared Millwall to a seventh minute lead.
And for the next 18 minutes the Third Division side bossed this bruising encounter and had Chelsea-3-1 ahead from that 1st leg there for the taking.
But the old goal firm of David Speedie and Kerry Dixon combined to create an equaliser that was a twist of fate for George Graham's stylish side.
Speedie chipped from the left, Dixon got up highest and saw his header hit Cusack and divert into the net past the stranded Paul Sansome.
Millwall had taken the lead with a goal that caught Chelsea cold. Les Briley curled In a free kick that Steve Lovell headed beautifully into the net.
After the equaliser Millwall still might have won the tie. But they lost top scorer Dean Neal with a groin strain and substitute Teddy Sheringham fired wastefully high.
Then Lovell had another fine header blocked on the line.
In retaliation Speedie broke clear and lobbed Sansome but saw the ball agonisingly strike a post and bounce clear.
● Head Man: Steve Lovell heads Millwall into the lead
Chelsea manager John Neal today set his sights on a double Wembley target get
after his team had survived a stern test of nerve by Millwall's brave
third division fighters.
Chelsea emerged with a 1-1 draw from The Den last with a 4-2 aggregate success that puts them into tomorrow’s third round Milk Cup draw.
And Neal, a man who never wastes a chance to sing the praises of his side whenever an opportunity presents itself, said: “We are looking forward to the draw with great interest because both the Milk Cup and FA Cup are clear targets for us.”
“The match at Millwall was an ideal test for us but we were two goals ahead from first leg and not many sides are capable of pulling back that sort of lead against us.”
“They had us rocking a bit when they scored early on and kept coming at us in the opening minutes. But once our went in there were no problems.”
That Chelsea goal, turned into his own net by big defender Dave Cusack was
indeed a disaster for the battling Lions after Steve Lovell had headed
then back into the tie from skipper Les Briley's free kick after just
And an injury that robbed Millwall of top scorer Dean Neal nine minutes before half time was just as bad.
By then, two fizzing low drives from Kevin Bremner had finished inches the wrong side of the same Chelsea post and the First Division side had equalised when Davis Speedie set up an inviting header for Kerry Dixon in the 25th minute, the ball going in off Cusack's chest
Millwall boss Graham admitted “We just didn't have the firepower to take command again after that. Young Teddy Sheringham tried hard as Neal's replacement, but it was a tough baptism for a boy of 18 and he’s just not up to it yet.”
Graham, already without midfielder Nicky Chatterton for several weeks faces up to the near certainty that Neal, scorer of 8 goals in 12 games, will have to miss Saturdays important Derby with Brentford, with a groin strain.
Graham said “We played some nice football in spells and for 20 minutes we really had them going.”
● The Equaliser: Dixon's header goes in off Cusack
There were six bookings in the match - Dixon, Speedie, Keith Jones and Joe McLaughlin for Chelsea plus Millwall’s Keith Stevens and Lindsay Smith