Story of the match
As the curtain closes on another Sky Bet Championship season for Millwall and Peterborough United, both sides came together at The Den with their fates sealed for next season.
After having their relegation to League One confirmed with defeat at home to Nottingham Forest a week ago, the visitors made two changes to their starting line-up. Jack Marriot and Joe Ward coming into the side for Kwame Poku and Ricky-Jade Jones.
Millwall, consigned to missing out on the play-offs after Sheffield United’s victory yesterday, also made two changes as Ryan Leonard and Billy Mitchell returned to the side in place of Maikel Kieftenbeld and Daniel Ballard.
Roared on by a sell-out crowd, with all four sides of the ground hosting home fans for the first in memory, Millwall dominated the first thirty minutes.
Loanee, Oliver Burke and academy product Danny McNamara controlled the Millwall right as the hosts dictated the tempo but they had little to show for it.
Against the run of play, the first chance of the game fell to the visitors in the 39th minute.
Peterborough striker, Marriot capitalised on some lazy Millwall defending to intercept the ball in the final third and slide the ball into the box for Jonson Clarke-Harris. One-on-one with Bartosz Białkowski, Clarke-Harris tried a clever first time flick to beat the Millwall goalkeeper but also beat the near post by a couple of inches as a golden chance went begging.
With Millwall moving from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 formation in the second half, it took less than a minute for the game to spark into life with the first shot on target.
Leonard found Saville eight yards out with a cut-back but Saville fired his effort straight at Peterborough’s goalkeeper, David Cornell, who kept it out with his legs.
Suddenly the game came alive.
Four minutes later and Białkowski did well to tip a 20 yard effort from Marriot wide of his left post.
In the 52nd minute, Millwall finally broke the deadlock.
A long-throw by Leonard from the right bounced it’s way through to Afobe. With his first effort swiping the air, he turned and drilled the ball past Cornell into the bottom corner.
The Den erupted and Millwall continued to push forward.
A minute later Jed Wallace was greeted by a standing ovation for what could be his final appearance at the Den and made an instant impact as he fizzed a cross into the six yard box that evaded everyone – it was a sign of things to come.
Millwall struck the woodwork twice in the space of thirty seconds as a deflected Murray Wallace shot hit the bar from 14 yards before Saville saw his header rebound off the post four yards out.
Jed Wallace’s delivery continued to cause havoc in the Peterborough ranks and as inevitable as time itself, the Millwall talisman supplied his 12th and 13th assists of the season.
In the 73rd minute, Jed Wallace’s cross was turned into the net by an unfortunate Josh Knight and three minutes later, Saville headed in from a Wallace cross at the back-post.
The visitors couldn’t get out of their own half as Millwall
Takeaways from the match
So close yet so far
After missing out on a Sky Bet Championship play-off spot in 2018 by three points, 2020 by two points and this season falling tantalisingly close once more, Millwall continue to punch well above their weight.
After just one win in five by the end of January, the Lions were 15th in the table but a run of form that has seen Gary Rowett’s side lose only twice since early February rocketed Millwall up to 7th.
For much of today’s game the performance epitomised Millwall’s end to the season as it was full of energy and creativity but that final pass, final product was missing.
Afobe showed his fancy footwork, Burke his pace and Bradshaw his movement but all to little avail as Millwall failed to finish off their visitors. Then came Jed Wallace and the rest, as they say, is history, but Jed won’t be around forever.
A busy summer ahead
Tom Bradshaw has already extended his contract to 2024, Millwall have made an early loan enquiry for Newcastle youngster, Eliot Anderson, and Luke Freeman seems destined to return to the Den on loan after injury limited playing-time this season.
However, with Jed Wallace and Afobe are not easily replaced.
Contributing 18 goals and 16 assists between them – more than a third of all goal involvements this season – Millwall are losing attacking threat and product.
If Millwall are to achieve the play-off spot their consistency deserves, they will need to a good transfer window.
With one league goal all season, Saville could never be called prolific in front of goal, but today he resembled the very best in wing-back football.
With five key passes, three shots and a goal for his 71 touches, Saville showed his capacity to perform at the very highest level.
Saville’s header from Jed Wallace’s cross showed his attacking instinct and if Rowett can continue to get the best out of the defender, Millwall have an asset that could cause Championship defences significant trouble next season.
Millwall travel away to AFC Bournemouth on the final day of the season.
Peterborough United welcome Blackpool.