16 April 2009
Millwall stormed back into the automatic promotion race with a convincing 2-0 win over second-placed Peterborough, in the stand-out team performance of the season at the Den.
Kenny Jackett's Lions were unrecognisable to the side that rolled over and died at Yeovil just three days earlier, leaving the playoffs the only foreseeable route to the Championship.
But his team - inspired by a raucous 10,000 crowd - played with passion and desire, combined with neat and penetrative passing and a hint of lady luck from the officials - which saw a memorable result on a great Easter Monday evening.
David Martin fired the Lions ahead from the spot after Gary Alexander had failed on his first two attempts with referee Keith Woolmer and his assistant Steve Creighton bizarrely citing Posh 'keeper Joe Lewis for creeping off his line to make both saves.
Star of the show Jason Price then tapped home his third in five starts since his arrival on loan, to cap an excellent move in the second half and hand the happy hosts a well-deserved win over an average-looking Peterborough side.
There was a lively start from both sides with the full glare of the live Sky cameras on the League One showpiece.
Martin was tripped in the second minute as he made a dart for the Posh penalty box and Alexander forced a smart save from Lewis from the resulting free kick.
Hot shot Aaron McLean, who was kept under wraps by Lions duo Zak Whitbread and Tony Craig all evening, fired a header just over the bar seconds later, having got on the end of George Boyd's accurate cross.
Premiership defender Gabriel Zakuani threw himself in front of two goal-bound headers from Alexander and then Marc Laird to keep the Lions out, as the hosts began to dominate in midfield.
The breakthrough came on 21 minutes when Martin was tripped in the box by Chris Whelpdale. But the goal, when it eventually came, was all about the persistence of Price.
Having danced down the right and then putting pressure on Zakuani's clearance, the Welshman pulled the ball back brilliantly for Martin, who was set to fire home before being clattered.
Up stepped Alexander to force a fine save from the £400k-rated stopper, who crept a yard off his line. Take two, the Kennington hitman blasted straight at Lewis, who was again accused of moving and left Alexander gutted. The Posh players, bench and 900-strong following were furious as the Cold Blow Lane End danced for joy.
Martin stepped up confidently to fire into the top corner at the third time of asking, leaving goal-line bound Lewis no chance. The visitors seemed stunned by the goal and were unable to get their passing going again, as the home fans finally got back into their seats ten minutes after taking the lead.
Millwall began to play with pride and purpose. Hard-working Jimmy Abdou and Adam Bolder combined well, with Marc Laird tucking in from his right-wing berth.
Abdou - who deserves a special mention - clattered into Shane Blackett right in front of the dugout and typified the Lions' performance as he leapt back to his feet, with the full back still shaking when he was subbed at half time.
Dean Keates almost equalised on the half-hour mark, as his curling left-foot free kick dipped just too late for Posh as it inched over the crossbar.
Craig Mackail-Smith wasted a great opportunity to level, having left Whitbread for dead five minutes before the break. His heavy touch allowed David Forde time to scarper from his line to gather, though the Dagenham star left his foot in to catch the Irishman's head with a trailing leg.
Millwall had strong penalty claims five minutes after the break, but even the most optimistic Lions fan couldn't expect four chances from the spot in one evening. Bolder ran onto Alexander's neat layoff before volleying towards Price in the box, hitting sub Chris Westwood plumb on the forearm, but to no avail.
As the half wore on, the backline continued to look impenetrable. By hook or by crook, nothing was getting past skipper Craig as Whitbread dominated in the air and Scott Barron played out of his skin once again.
But the result, the points, bragging rights and the renewed promotion push were in the bag on the hour mark, as Price tucked home from four yards.
Again, it was down to persistence and harassment - this time from Alexander. He hounded Westwood into a mistake that set Martin on a darting run down the left. From the byeline Martin dug out a perfect cross for the unmarked Price to swipe home and cue the pre-meditated 'Big Nose' celebration.
The remainder of the game petered out slowly, with Darren Ferguson's side offering very little. It was the Lions that continued to look the most dangerous, with Laird almost slotting in Alexander, who then should have done better to convert Barron's pin-point cross - that he headed straight at a thankful Lewis on 75 minutes.
McLean had one last chance twelve minutes from time to salvage something but was denied by a smart save from Forde. Keates threaded a neat ball through the Lions defence for the striker to race clear, but the Irishman stood up long enough to deny the tame effort.
Ferguson, unlike his father Sir Alex, refused to criticise the referee and admitted that the better team had won, while a proud as punch Jackett heralded his side’s performance.
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