United secure precious 1-0 win at Elland Road...
UNITED 1 (Mowatt 39), MILLWALL 0.
United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Bellusci, C Taylor, Mowatt, Cook, Murphy, Austin (Antenucci 69), Byram, Morison. Subs. S Taylor, Berardi, Sloth, Adryan, Cani, Sharp.
Millwall: Forde, Cummings, Dunne, Hooiveld, Harding, Angel (Upson 59), Williams, Woolford, Fabbrini (Fuller 59), Martin, Maierhofer (Gregory 46). Subs. Archer, Beevers, Abdou, O’Brien.
Referee: P Tierney
Booked: Austin, Mowatt, Cook (United), Maierhofer, Martinez (Millwall)
Att: 24,000 (234 Millwall)
The visit of Millwall saw United head coach Neil Redfearn make just one change from the midweek win at Reading as Rodolph Austin returned to replace the injured Tommaso Bianchi in midfield.
Backed by a vociferous home crowd, it was United who started on the front foot, forcing two early corners and asking questions of the Millwall defence. There was an air of confidence about Redfearn’s men in the early stages and they were agonisingly close from opening the scoring on eight minutes.
A flowing move down the left saw Alex Mowatt set Charlie Taylor free and hurtling towards the byline. The full-back whipped an inviting low cross towards the near-post where Sam Byram was arriving to side-foot his delivery inches wide.
But Millwall soon began to assert some pressure of their own as Stefan Maierhofer fired into Marco Silvestri’s arms on the turn before lashing wide from an acute angle. Jos Hooiveld then sent a towering header over the bar following a corner as the visitors started to pick things up.
Their clearest sight of goal came on 23 minutes and the travelling fans thought their side had taken the lead when Diego Fabbrini’s near-post strike was deflected into the side-netting.
United soon got back on the front foot, though, as Sol Bamba glanced a header wide from Luke Murphy’s floated free-kick before Byram’s effort was deflected behind.
The deadlock was eventually broken after 39 minutes, and deservedly so, as Mowatt notched his fifth goal of the season with a curling, left-footed free-kick. The midfielder’s effort looked to have taken the slightest of deflections off the Millwall defensive wall, leaving goalkeeper David Forde helpless as he scrambled across his line.
Mowatt’s strike signalled the start of a strong end to the first half as United looked to apply some sustained pressure upon the Millwall goal. Austin saw his acrobatic effort blocked by Forde after being picked out brilliantly by the selfless Steve Morison, before Morison himself was thwarted by Forde as he looked to take advantage of a loose back-pass.
United re-emerged unchanged from the interval and found themselves defending early on in the second half as Angel Martinez lashed a half-chance wide for Millwall. Morison then headed Murphy’s accurate cross over at the opposite end as Redfearn’s side looked to re-find their rhythm.
But a somewhat nervy period followed as the visitors pushed for an equalising goal. Silvestri was forced into a one-handed save to push away Byram’s backwards header from a free-kick before Martyn Woolford lashed well over the bar after being played into the area by substitute Lee Gregory.
Redfearn then made his first substitution of the afternoon on 69 minutes, replacing Austin with Mirco Antenucci in what appeared to be an attack-minded change. And the Italian was involved almost immediately, working his way towards the byline before teeing up a cross for Byram to smash over the bar after storming in at the back post.
Murphy then stung the palms of Forde from distance, forcing the Millwall stopper into a fine, two-handed save to beat away his effort after skipping away from two defenders.
Millwall started to press and Woolford again blazed over, this time from range, while Antenucci ballooned a first-time effort into the South Stand after the ball had rolled into his path.
An end-to-end finale ensued as Scott Wootton headed over Morison’s flick-on from six yards out, before Millwall substitute Ricardo Fuller clipped the side-netting with a low strike from inside the area. Huge gaps were appearing in the visitors’ defence as they pushed forward and the tireless Morison was twice blocked against his former team after quick breaks forward.
But there proved to be no second goal at Elland Road as referee Paul Tierney signalled for full-time, with Mowatt’s strike proving to be the difference as United made it back-to-back Championship wins.