Stoke City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
THE pantomime season it may be but at the New Den yesterday the finale was a farce. Two goalkeeping misjudgments as big as houses by Gordon Marshall in the last five minutes made a present to Millwall of a fortunate victory, one which lifts them to third place in the First Division.
Marshall, on loan from the Stoke manager Joe Jordan's former club Celtic until 4 January, had made two excellent saves to keep his side's sights on a point - and had David Regis's been surer it could have been three - before, being charitable, the swirling wind caught out the keeper.
First, Andy Roberts hit into the Stoke penalty area a hopeful high ball that looked hopeless. Ian Cranson left it to Marshall, who left it to bounce - over his head. A barely believing Alex Rae tapped home.
Then, in injury time, Lee Sandford touched back a pass and Marshall, dribbling out, sought to round the oncoming Mark Kennedy. He slipped and the 17-year-old substitute had a simple job to confirm victory for the home side, their fifth in succession as part of an unbeaten run of eight games that have yielded 20 points.
It was hard on Stoke, who had fashioned the better chances only to finish feebly. With the Icelander Thorvaldur Orlygsson showing good acceleration from a midfield mostly on top, they had spells of pressure midway through each half which should have yielded goals.
In the first Orlygsson was twice through, only to be brought down by Neil Emblen - lucky to be merely one of the four booked, three from Stoke in a sometimes tetchy match - then saw Kasey Keller turn his shot on to a post. In the second, Regis scooped a simple chance over the bar, having played a neat wall pass with Gary Bannister, still
inventive at 33.
Millwall rarely displayed the confidence their recent run should have engendered, with the gifted Dutchman Etienne Verveer and Roberts not sharp enough at the points fore and aft of their diamond midfield.
Millwall (4-4-2): Keller; Huxford, Stevens, Emblen, Dolby; Rae, Roberts, Verveer, Barber (Kennedy, 57); Mitchell, Goodman (Beard, 75). Substitute not used: Emberson (gk).
Stoke City (5-3-2): Marshall; Clarkson, Overson, Cranson, Sandford, Cowan; Orlygsson, Foley, Gleghorn; Regis, Bannister. Substitutes not used: Carruthers, Gynn, Prudhoe (gk).
Referee: E Monkton (Leicester).