Three points, three goals and a seventh away win of the season.
Sheffield Wednesday recorded their first victory in eight Championship matches after a thrilling second-half performance at The Den last night. Given their recent slide down the table, it was Owls’ biggest result of the season.
Lewis McGugan was the driving force behind another success away from Hillsborough, claiming his second goal in as many matches in the 52nd minute.
Further strikes from Atdhe Nuhiu and substitute Stevie May ensured the Owls eased the pressure which was threatening to build on boss Stuart Gray and stretch their unbeaten run against Millwall to seven matches.
Diego Fabbrini grabbed a late consolation for the Lions but they were outclassed after the break and have not won in their own backyard since October. In the closing stages, the home fans aimed chants of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ to boss Ian Holloway.
With Wednesday losing their appeal against goalkeeper Keiren Westwood’s dismissal at Derby County last weekend, Chris Kirkland came in for his first Championship start in 10 months. The Football Association’s disciplinary panel upheld referee Darren Bond’s decision to send Westwood off in the closing stages at Derby for bringing down Tom Ince in the penalty area, forcing the Republic of Ireland international to serve a one-match ban. Westwood will be available for selection for Saturday’s Hillsborough meeting with automatic promotion contenders Middlesbrough.
Boss Gray also freshened up other departments of his team, recalling Claude Dielna at left-back and Jose Semedo in the middle of the park. Semedo, fit-again following a toe infection/ankle injury, was given the captain’s armband in the absence of Glenn Loovens. Sam Hutchinson and Jeremy Helan dropped to the substitutes bench.
Millwall, lying third-from-bottom, started on the front foot, with Sheffield-born former Staveley MW man Lee Gregory drilling a shot over the top after combining well with ex-Owls loanee Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who was making his first start since arriving on a temporary basis from Leicester City.
Lions midfielder Michael Tonge also failed to test Kirkland’s reflexes, curling a 25-yard free kick off target.
The visitors soaked up that early pressure and had their first meaningful sight at goal in the ninth minute when McGugan’s low free-kick was well kept out by David Forde.
Wednesday survived a big scare midway through the half as Kirkland produced a fine stop to foil Gregory after a great through ball by the lively Fabbrini. The rebound fell invitingly to Taylor-Fletcher, whose close range effort was brilliantly hacked off the goal line by Liam Palmer.
Millwall continued to cause Owls’ backline problems and Taylor-Fletcher’s clever backheel hit the side-netting following great play out wide by Martyn Woolford. A big proportion of Millwall’s fans celebrated believing Taylor-Fletcher had scored.
Ian Holloway’s men spurned another glorious opportunity to open the scoring in the 25th minute after Kamil Zayatte cleared Dan Harding’s dangerous delivery straight into the path of Taylor-Fletcher, who scuffed his shot wide when he should have done better.
Having weathered the storm, Wednesday started to fashion one or two openings, with McGugan and Will Keane having efforts blocked after quick counter attacks.
Keane, on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season, could have put Owls ahead in the 37th minute but he lacked composure when it mattered most, firing over from 12 yards after Forde had denied Nuhiu.
Kirkland had to be alert to tip over Tom Lees’ glancing header following an inswinging free kick by Shaun Williams as Owls’ defence stood firm and resolute. Two minutes before the interval, Claude Dielna ventured forward and unleashed a rasping left foot drive which was superbly pushed to safety by Forde.
Fabbrini, a constant menace, released Gregory on the right flank moments after the re-start and his cross was stabbed back into the danger zone by Lees. The ball ballooned up in the air and Kirkland bravely punched it away with Millwall substitute Aiden O’Brien ready to pounce.
Wednesday made Millwall pay for their profligacy as McGugan calmly slotted a left foot shot past Forde.
Holloway threw on experienced forward Ricardo Fuller to add some much needed power to his forward line.
But it was the Owls who carried the greater threat and Jacques Maghoma saw his fierce strike turned away by Forde following a dassy move involving Nuhiu and Dielna.
That chance briefly stirred Millwall into action and O’Brien prodded wide after a speedy run by Jimmy Abdou.
Any hopes of a Lions comeback were dashed in the 72nd minute when Nuhiu side-footed home following a neat one-two with Maghoma. It was a wonderful move and cool finish by Wednesday’s eight-goal top-scorer.
With seven minutes left, May added a third, sliding a shot underneath Forde following another skilful, mazy run by Maghoma.
Wednesday switched off defensively in added on time, allowing Fabbrini to lash home from close range but that was a slight blip on an excellent night.
Millwall: Forde; Abdou (Gueye 74), Dunne, Hooiveld, Harding; Tonge, Williams; Woolford (O’Brien 49), Fabbrini, Taylor-Fletcher; Gregory (Fuller 63). Substitutes: King, Beevers, Nelson, Upson.
Wednesday: Kirkland; Palmer, Lees, Zayatte, Dielna; Lee, Semedo, McGugan (Hutchinson 74), Maghoma (Helan 90); Keane (May 80), Nuhiu. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Mattock, Maguire, Vermijl. Bookings: Zayatte 18, Dielna 90
Referee: James Linington