Chesterfield suffered a first home defeat of the season as Steve Morison’s first-half brace helped Millwall to a 3-1 victory in North Derbyshire.
Shane Ferguson put the visitors ahead inside a quarter of an hour, before Morison scored twice in four minutes to give the Lions a three-goal lead at the interval.
The Spireites battled in the second half and Sam Hird’s 65th minute header appeared to give them a glimmer of hope. However, they struggled to break down the solid Millwall backline and, in truth, a comeback rarely looked likely as the Lions travelled home with all three points.
Danny Wilson’s side returned to the Proact Stadium this afternoon hoping to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointment and retain their 100% home league record for the new campaign.
The momentum from comfortable home victories over Swindon Town and Walsall in the space of four days had been somewhat halted at the Greenhous Meadow on Saturday, as Adam El-Abd’s late header condemned the Spireites to their first defeat of the season.
Today’s opponents Millwall, making only their second ever visit to the new stadium, were themselves looking to defend a personal 100% record having won 2-1 on their only previous trip to the Proact last season.
However, the 2004 FA Cup finalists and one of the favourites for promotion had made a mixed start to the 2016/17 season – picking up seven points from their first four games, the same total as the hosts, having bounced back from a surprise 5-1 hammering at Peterborough to defeat Sheffield United 2-1 at the New Den last weekend.
The Lions were without their Sheffield-born striker Lee Gregory this afternoon but Millwall veteran Morison, already with two goals to his name this season, was among the biggest threats for the visitors.
Meanwhile, Wilson decided not to panic following a first defeat of the campaign and named the same starting eleven for a fourth straight outing – which included the division’s joint-top scorer Ched Evans and the much-speculated winger Gboly Ariyibi.
It was Millwall, wearing their yellow away strip, who got the proceeding underway and almost broke the deadlock in the very first minute as Shaun Williams’ strike from the edge of the area crashed off the crossbar.
The Spireites quickly hit back, however, as their dangerous attacking trio linked up – Jay O’Shea charging down the left before cutting back to Evans, only for the off-balance Welshman to misfire. The ball then dropped to Ariyibi just yards from goal, but goalkeeper Jordan Archer did well to charge to effort down and keep the game scoreless.
Evans was again a threat in the eleventh minute when, looking to silence the vocal travelling supporters behind the goal, he turned his marker in the area and dragged a low driven effort wide of the near post.
But with 13 minutes on the clock, it was the visitors who went ahead courtesy of a well-worked attacking move. Morison, David Worrall and Aiden O’Brien linked up to leave Ferguson with the job of slotting the ball home, to which he duly obliged.
Chesterfield’s hunt for an instant response saw Dan Gardner blast a volley wide of Archer’s goal. However, Millwall were quickly back on the attack in this open, fast-paced encounter and Worrall came close to finding another for the Lions with a far post header that flew off-target.
A short spell of Millwall dominance quickly ended when O’Shea burst forward on the counter with Jon Nolan in acres of space, but the Irishman’s through ball was too late and in the end only a corner, which ultimately came to nothing, could be made of the attack.
The Spireites continued to knock on the door without much success, and their task was made considerably tougher in the 38th minute as Morison doubled the visitors’ advantage with a powerful strike past Ryan Fulton.
Just three minutes later, Morison had his second and Milwall’s third as the forward latched on to a long ball and confidently lobbed the Chesterfield goalkeeper from around 40 yards as he stood helplessly on the edge of his area.
Getting the second period underway, Wilson’s men knew they had a massive mountain to climb to overcome the three-goal deficit.
Naturally, this meant that the home side saw the majority of the ball in the half, but they struggled to break down the regimented Millwall defence who were obviously more than happy to sit back and defend their considerable advantage.
Seven minutes after the restart, Ian Evatt was handed a half chance when a corner missed everyone and landed with the veteran defender at the far post, but he couldn’t keep his effort down and it flew just over the top corner.
In the 65th minute, Hird finally gave the hosts a glimmer of belief with a glancing header that finally put the ball past Archer and into the net to reduce the deficit to two.
For a short time, this brought some new-found optimism to the Proact crowd as they roared on their side in hope of a comeback; although this was nearly brought to an abrupt halt three minutes after the goal as O’Brien forced Fulton into a diving save following some shoddy defensive work from the home outfit.
However, at times Chesterfield looked out of ideas as they failed to get past the brick wall of Millwall defenders time and time again – Evans’ deflected free kick looking for a moment like it would set up an exciting conclusion, only to denied by the head of captain Tony Craig on the line.
Reflecting on a first home defeat of the season, manager Wilson said: “The manner in which we conceded the goals was amateurish. Being 3-0 down against a team like Millwall is always going to be difficult. Before that I thought we had enough in our locker to win the game, but we conceded soft goals and we’ve got to learn from that.”
The Chesterfield boss had praise for double-goalscorer Morison: “I wish he was playing for us! He’s a veteran player and he shows how to lead the line. We don’t have a player like that at our club and it’s a good lesson for the younger players to learn.”
Wilson admitted that he expects no further arrivals before the transfer deadline next week, while also speaking about the speculation surrounding the possible departure of Gboly Ariyibi: “If someone doesn’t come up with the valuation we’ve set them we keep him, and I’m happy with that.”
The Spireites are next in action on Tuesday evening against a youthful Wolves side at the Proact in the controversial EFL Trophy. However, Wilson confirms that despite possible changes they will be going out to win: “There will be changes, there has to be. We don’t carry a big enough squad to play week in, week out. But we have to put a decent team out – one we think can win the game.”
Line-up: Ryan Fulton, Paul McGinn, Sam Hird, Gary Liddle, Ian Evatt, Dan Gardner (Reece Mitchell ’52), Ched Evans, Jon Nolan, Dion Donohue, Jay O’Shea (Kristian Dennis ’59), Gboly Ariyibi
Unused Subs: Charlie Raglan, Conor Dimaio, Lloyd Allinson, Rai Simons, Derek Daly
Scorers: Sam Hird ’65
Line-up: Jordan Archer, Joe Martin (Fred Onyedinma ’39 (Sid Nelson ’46)), Tony Craig, Shaun Williams, David Worrall, Ben Thompson, Mahlon Romeo, Byron Webster, Shane Ferguson (Callum Butcher ’82), Steve Morison, Aiden O’Brien
Unused subs: Gregg Wylde, Jimmy Abdou, Jamie Philpo, Tom King
Scorers: Shane Ferguson ’13, Steve Morison ’38 ’41
Date: 27th August 2016
Attendance: 5,630 (489 away)
Competition: League 1
Referee: Mr Lee Probert
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