AT times this Mad Friday game lived right up to its name – but it was a moment of serene calm from Darren Pratley that ensured Wanderers took only their second league win from The Den.
Only the great John McGinlay could ever have claimed to score a winning goal in a league game at The Den for Wanderers.
But he has now been joined in the record books by unlikely hero Pratley, whose sublime 68th minute strike means Neil Lennon’s side join Bruce Rioch’s class of 1995 in beating the Lions in their own Den.
In what was a fourth clean sheet on the trot, Andy Lonergan also deserves immense credit for a brilliant sprawling save from Martyn Woolford – the man who had scored in the corresponding fixture last season to earn his side a point.
Eidur Gudjohnsen was brought in for his first start since returning to the club, with Josh Vela also restored to the back four as Lennon made two changes to the side held by Ipswich at the weekend.
Wanderers had Millwall on the rack early on and Tim Ream came exceptionally close to opening his account for the club on his 100th appearance with a near post header which was blocked on the line by keeper David Forde.
Darren Pratley also had a shot deflected wide by ex-Whites defender Danny Shittu but it was hundred-mile-an-hour stuff early on, and it wasn’t always easy to watch.
Wanderers got caught up in all the mess instead of keeping their heads and with Eidur Gudjohnsen looking a rather isolated figure midway through the first half, Millwall came within a couple of inches of opening the scoring.
Andy Wilkinson swept a long ball from the back which caught Dorian Dervite flat-footed but Lee Gregory’s angled shot drifted just wide of the post with Andy Lonergan beaten.
Wanderers needed to show some composure. And it was Darren Pratley who led the way, making a great challenge on half-way before keeping possession with a simple ball wide to Josh Vela. Moments later, Chung-Yong ripped through three challenges before laying off to Pratley, whose fierce shot was palmed away well by the Millwall keeper.
The Korean once again looked the best bet to create a goal for the Whites, although Ream was more effective in an attacking sense on the left than he ever has been – perhaps more evidence that he is settling into the left back role.
Wanderers finished the half with their tails up. And Lennon was back on prowling duty in his technical area after a good penalty shout was turned down late in the half.
Rob Hall was sent tumbling by a robust challenge by Alan Dunne right in the corner of the penalty box but with all eyes on Attwell, the Nuneaton ref didn’t want to know.
Millwall’s football could rarely be described as fluent in the first half but they put together a nice move on the right with Gueye and Wilkinson, the former crossing for Angel Martinez to volley just wide with a minute remaining.
Attwell took centre stage again after the restart but this time it was Ian Holloway going apoplectic.
A long ball over the top found Lee Gregory, he dinked the ball over Lonergan but then tumbled over the keeper.
You fully expected Attwell to point to the spot, and would have feared for Lonergan too but he waved away the Lions’ appeals.
The danger was not cleared, however, and Gregory again found the ball at his feet, ending up on his haunches after a challenge from Ream.
Dramatically and emphatically, Attwell waved away the protests again.
Play switched the other way and for the first time on the night Gudjohnsen found some space. Picked out by a great ball by Chung-Yong he got round Forde but had to clip a cross in towards Feeney, whose header on the stretch inadvertently took a chance away from Pratley following up behind him.
The Icelander’s night ended there, replaced by Liam Trotter. And the former Millwall midfielder very nearly rammed the jeers back down the throats of the home fans with a dipping volley that had to be scrambled away by Forde.
A goal was coming – and Hall thought he had it when Chung-Yong Lee’s cross found him at the far post. The youngster’s shot somehow managed to bounce off the inside of the post and off the goalkeeper before dribbling to safety.
Thankfully, Wanderers did not have to wait long. Chung-Yong played a world class ball through to Pratley, who shimmied past Shittu, steadied himself as he moved past Forde and then blasted into the roof of the net.
Millwall pushed hard to get back on level terms but their lack of composure counted against them.
The one and only time they breached the back four, Lonergan was lightning quick off his line to stifle Woolford’s shot and preserve a sixth hour of football without conceding a goal.
Though few in number thanks to the dreadful timing of this trip to the capital, not one of the 356 fans will be disappointed with what they saw. Their Christmas will be a very merry one indeed.