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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Bradshaw's late leveller guides Millwall into a play-off slot

Millwall (0) 1 Bradshaw 85

Burnley (0) 1 Barnes 51

Often, a week can define an entire season in the Championship. Sometimes a campaign can even be summed up in four short days – as Millwall can surely now attest to.

Following a richly deserved 3-2 victory over second-placed Sheffield United at the weekend, a late Tom Bradshaw goal earned them a point against table-toppers Burnley on Tuesday night.

After falling short on more than once occasion in Gary Rowett’s time at the club so far, going undefeated against the two best sides in the division would appear the perfect start to hanging on for a top six spot as the season enters its final stretch.

On one of those nights at the Den that cannot be replicated at any other ground in the country, Vincent Kompany’s free-scoring, all-conquering total football outfit were forced to settle for a draw on their way to formalising an almost certain return to the Premier League.

Millwall’s sheer determination alone would make it seem unwise to bet against them joining the Clarets in the top flight next season. Bradshaw’s goals might just make it a reality.

If Saturday was all about Millwall showing they can pose a consistent attacking threat to the best sides in the division, this meeting with the runaway league leaders was all about reaffirming their time-honoured defensive resolve on home turf.

For all of Burnley’s possession they were rarely allowed opportunities to test George Long in the home goal. Even Ashley Barnes’ opener came after a pair of heroic blocks from the Millwall centre-backs.

Only hesitancy on Millwall’s behalf threatened to see them fall behind for the most part. First Anass Zaroury worked Long after George Saville had given away possession, and then Scott Twine angled a shot wide after Saville had been robbed once more.

Although the minds of Rowett’s men were firmly on defending their own goal, they did worry Burnley when they went direct.

On the rare occasions that the visiting backline did not resort to conceding a cheap foul to halt the attack, Zian Flemming became increasingly involved and went about finding his range.

With 10 goals already in his debut season in England, Flemming may well be in the Premier League along with Burnley next season; an ambitious effort from the halfway line that comfortably cleared the crossbar showed just how at home he feels in south-east London though.

Unsurprisingly, the Dutchman was the first Millwall player to work Arijanet Muric. A swerving shot following some effective pressing hardly troubled the Manchester City loanee but did raise the decibels at the Den and the level of belief even further.

That buoyancy was tested early in the second half when a deflected Twine shot fell perfectly into the path of Barnes to break the deadlock. A roar of defiance from the home crowd was a fair reflection of how competitive their team had been.

Their resilience was tested 10 minutes later as an almost perfectly placed Josh Brownhill shot bounced back off Long’s post.

With Bradshaw only fit to contribute 20 minutes following his hat-trick at the weekend, Millwall’s chances of finding the equaliser their supporters craved seemed slim as the minutes slipped away.

However, his continued development into a premium goal getter alongside his tireless work out of possession meant that one chance was all it took.

After Flemming’s cross was deflected into a dangerous area, there was an inevitably about it falling into the path of Millwall’s top-scorer as he swept home without taking a touch.

The increasing frustration of the crowd quickly turned to elation. This point takes Millwall back into the play-off places, but such an impressive sequence of results against such formidable opposition is surely the greatest indication that they may stay there.

Millwall: (4-4-1-1) Long – McNamara, Cresswell, Cooper, Wallace – Honeyman (Emakhu 87), Shackleton (Leonard 72), Saville (Esse), Watmore (Bradshaw 72) – Flemming – Voglsammer (Malone 87). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Evans

Burnley: (4-2-3-1) Muric – Roberts, Ekdal, Al-Dakhil, Maatsen (Taylor 82) – Cullen, Brownhill – Vitinho (Tella 87), Twine (Gudmundsson 73), Zaroury (Cork 82) – Barnes. Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Foster, Obafemi


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