MATCH REPORT: Millwall 2 Fleetwood 1
Fleetwood's winning streak juddered to a halt at the Den as two penalties fired Millwall to a 2-1 victory.
Millwall dominated the first-half but the Lions were failing to roar until Town gave them an opportunity they could not turn down.
Fred Onyedinma was tugged back by centre half Ashley Eastham in the box and referee Carl Boyeson pointed to the spot.
Lee Gregory stepped up to blast the spot-kick home in the 31st minute.
And Town were 2-0 down just minutes into the second half as captain Nathan Pond was controversially ruled to have impeded Byron Webster at the back stick with Boyeson awarding another penalty that was dispatched by Gregory.
Town regained their focus with Ash Hunter coming off the bench to pull a goal back in the 65th minute but they could not find an equaliser.
The big team news was the return of Chris Neal, the keeper came off in just the ninth minute of Town’s 1-0 win at Chesterfield after he was accidentally kneed in the head by Gary Liddle, but he was ruled fit to start at the Den.
Long returned from injury to replace Hunter up top with Martyn Woolford returning to the starting line-up at his old stomping ground in place of youngster Jack Sowerby.
The opening 10 minutes were as dull as dishwater with Millwall looking the stronger of the two teams but unable to capitalise on some uncharacteristic defensive slip-ups with as Town’s normal unflappable defence making a shaky start under pressure from Millwall’s burly front two Lee Gregory and Steve Morison.
In-between Millwall’s dominance Town produced some crisp, cross-field passing football but could not find a cutting edge up front.
Despite the presence of danger-men Gregory and Morison lurking menacingly around the back line Millwall were also toothless in the opening exchanges.
But Town were nearly a goal down thanks to another individual error, Woolford recalled to the starting XI against his old club, made a rash challenge on the edge of the box as he flew in on Ben Thompson.
He was booked for his troubles and it took a fine diving fingertip save from Neal to tip away Shaun Williams’ curling set-piece as Millwall began to edge closer to an opener.
Town got lucky as Gregory tamely fired straight at Neal after worming his way into space in the box but their luck was to turn moments later.
Onyedinma raced into the box from the right flank, danced past Bell before tumbling to the ground under pressure from Eastham.
Referee’s are clamping down on shirt-pulling and Boyeson, who awarded a last minute penalty the last time he officiated Town in their controversial 2-2 draw with Sheffield United at Highbury last march, took his time before pointing to the spot and awarding a soft penalty that Gregory dispatched with ease in the 31st minute.
Woolford, who had nodded a Grant right wing cross earlier in the game, blasted wide after some neat work by Dempsey as Town failed to get a single effort on target in the first half.
Mr Boyeson was the centre of attention once again as Williams whipped in a corner from the right towards Webster and Pond at the back stick, the duo tangled and both ended up clattered on the deck but the referee ruled that Pond had fouled the defender and pointed to the spot.
Gregory stepped up once again and his penalty flew in off Neal’s toes in the 48th minute.
The forward should have completed his hat-trick in the opening five minutes of the second half as Morison rolled the ball past Town’s rocked defence for Gregory to sprint one-on-one but he fired the ball straight at Neal.
With Town 2-0 down Rosler made an attacking substitution bringing Woolford off and putting the pacey Hunter on to link up with Long up top and Ball moving in to an attacking midfield role just before the hour mark.
The move gave Fleetwood more danger up-top and all three all combined to make something out of nothing minutes later.
And the tactical shift paid dividends as Ball won the ball in Millwall’s half, fed Long on the edge of the box who rolled the ball back to Hunter to thunder home.
The goal sparked a lacklustre Town back into life and they twice got around the back of Millwall but Bell and Ryan’s crosses into the six-yard box could not be turned home by a red shirt.
Ryan was booked for chopping Shane Ferguson down instead of letting him run into the side of the box and the hosts wasted the set-piece.
Rolser made another tactical shift in the 82nd minute bringing Eastham off to go three at the back and throwing giant defender Cian Bolger into the mix up top as a target man.
Cole made the wrong choice as he raced towards goal with Hunter for company but instead of sliding his team mate in he ran into a defender and a possible chance was wasted.
With five minutes added time Town had a free-kick and two corners to try and find a late leveller but the best they could muster from the dead balls was a Ryan shot from outside the box as Town reworked the second ball.
Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Eastham, Pond, Bell, Grant, Dempsey, Ryan, Woolford (Hunter, 59), Ball, Long (Cole, 69). Subs not used: Cairns, Jonsson, Bolger, Wallace, Sowerby.
Millwall: Archer, Craig, Williams, Thompson, Gregory (Hutchinson, 90), Onyedinma, Romeo, Webster, Ferguson, Morison, O’Brien (Abdou, 76). Subs not used: King, Martin, Worrall, Wylde, Butcher.
Referee: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire)
Attendance: 8085 (Fleetwood 89)