MATCH REPORT: Millwall 1 Fleetwood 0
Fleetwood did everything but score as they squandered a host of opportunities in an unjust 1-0 defeat at Millwall.
Town should have had a penalty just before the break when Mark Beevers chopped down Jimmy Ryan in the box but referee Ross Joyce controversially waved away his claim with the hostile home support constantly on his back.
In fact it was one of the only times the Den’s cauldron of noise was calmed as the hosts waited with baited breath for a whistle that hearbreakingly never came.
And clinical Millwall scored with their only real clear cut chance as a Town clearance was nodded back into the mix by substitute Jamie Philpot into the path of Steve Morison who majestically chipped keeper Chris Maxwell who was just a whisker off his line.
That piece of magic was all that was to come from a Lions side that failed to roar and could barely string four passes together at a time.
In comparison, at times, Fleetwood swept the ball around the pitch like a European giant but as with many games this season, Steven Pressley’s men paid the price for missed opportunities.
Bobby Grant, Wes Burns, Ryan and Antoni Sarcevic all had chances to hit the back of the net but it was not to be.
And now Town - who remain 19th due to Shrewsbury’s defeat - face a massive survival fight against local rivals Blackpool on Saturday.
Pressley named an unchanged side for the fourth game in a row as his side aimed to make it six games unbeaten.
It was a quiet start with Millwall just shading the opening 20 minutes but Town’s resolute defence and talismanic centre-halves Stephen Jordan and Nathan Pond kept them at bay.
The first real notable chance was a long range effort from Jimmy Ryan that flew wide of the right stick.
But within seconds Millwall nodded the ball the wrong side of the woodwork as Aiden O’Brien out leapt Conor McLaughlin at the back stick but could only head right-back Mahlon Romeo’s deflected right-wing cross wide.
Ryan tried his look from distance once again, Archer spilled the fierce effort but just as Burns steamed in to mop up the rebound he was ruled offside
Gregory - who was a doubt before kick-off due to an injury- had his first real glimpse of goal as he collected the ball at the top of the box, spun and just curled the ball over the bar.
Fleetwood bossed possession with Eggert Jonsson constantly making interceptions and fizzing the ball across the park but they only started to pose a real threat up front after the half hour mark when, with the help of Jonsson’s interventions, they started to break through Millwall’s press and give Scougall, Sarcevic, Burns, Grant and Burns room to really probe the Lions.
Romeo was booked for bringing down Burns on the left flank, must to the hostile home crowd’s disgust in the 30th minute, but Scougall’s subsequent set-piece was unintentionally headed across the box by Jonsson into the path of a blue and white shirt who hoofed clear.
Fleetwood pounced on a Millwall loose pass as the lively Scougall found a pocket of space in between the Lions’ midfield and defence to send Sarcevic storming into their lair.
Sarcevic steamed his way into the box and his shot deflected neatly into the path of Bobby Grant in space on the left but his first time effort clattered back off the crossbar in the 41st minute.
As Millwall continued to sit back and allow Town time and space on the ball they started to grow in confidence just before the half-time whistle with Sarcevic drilling the ball straight at Archer from an angle.
But there was a major moment of controversy just before the end of the half as Jimmy Ryan was blatantly upended in the box by Beevers but it appeared the only person in the Den who thought it was not a penalty kick was the most important of them all, the man in the middle, as the turquoise-shirted referee Ross Joyce, failed to point to the spot.
The move all came from Fleetwood’s determination to win the ball back, Burns had lost it just outside the box but Ryan stormed in to rob it off a lethargic Millwall player and dance down the left hand side of the box before Beevers had an initial nibble before whipping his legs from underneath him as the ball trickled out of play.
Gregory, who was carrying an injury, was withdrawn at half-time with youngster Jamie Philpot entering the fray.
And the substitute made an almost immediate impact as he teed-up Morison to open the scoring in the 53rd minute.
A Fleetwood clearance was headed back into the mix towards Philpot who nodded the ball into the path of Morison who coolly chipped the ball over Maxwell.
Town responded well and carved open Millwall with Scougall once again falling off the Lions’ radar and slipping the ball to Bobby Grant who fired straight at Archer.
Morison whipped a delightful ball in but on-loan Blackburn Rover player Chris Taylor but he showed why he has been farmed out by the Championship club as he failed to hit the target from close range.
The game became heated as Stephen Jordan and Philpot were booked for an off the ball incident in the 58th minute and Pond went into the referee’s book moments later for dissent.
Town hunted for an equaliser with Scougall and Burns linking-up and running tirelessly for the cause to try and get an opening.
Ryan found Scougall in space and he slid the ball through the middle to Burns but the on-loan Bristol City man just curled the ball over from the edge of the box.
With the score locked at 1-0 to Millwall in the 81st minute Pressley made one last throw of the dice.
He brought off Scougall and Jonsson and threw on Ash Hunter and David Ball.
Hunter made an immediate impact as his fierce low effort from an angle on the right was just batted away by Archer.
Bell was felled 10-yards outside the box and Burns fired the subsequent set-piece wide of the left post as town continued to search for an equaliser.
Fleetwood pushed Pond up front as they threw everything but the kitchen sink at Millwall.
With Pond up in attack Millwall launched a swift counter but man-of-the-match Jordan showed his experience as he found himself in a two-on-one situation.
Jordan narrowed the gap for the pass and just stepped forward at the right time giving the linesman no option but to flag the pacey Philpot offside.
And Town nearly bagged yet another last gasp leveller as Burns found space in the box in the fourth minute of injury time.
The striker’s initial six-yard effort was blocked by Archer’s legs and the Welshman’s follow-up header looped into the keeper’s welcoming arms just before the full-time whistle.
Town’s fate is still in their hands but if they do not start taking their chances in front of goal they could be playing League Two football next term.
Fleetwood: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Pond, Jordan, Bell, Ryan, Jonsson (Hunter, 81), Sarcevic, Scougall (Ball 81), Burns, B Grant (Cole, 72). Subs not used: Gogic, Forbes, Hunter, Ball, Nilsson, Grant.
Millwall: Archer, Martin, Gregory (Philpot, 46), Beevers, Webster, Taylor, Morison (Onyedinma, 70) O’Brien (Upson, 88), Thompson, Abdou, Romeo. Subs not used: Forde, Edwards, Craig, Twardek.
Referee: Ross Joyce (Cleveland)
Attendance: 7865 (83 Fleetwood)