Much of the football was disjointed and lacking in craft but, perversely, the match was redeemed by some high quality finishing, Derby's Dutch duo of Ron Willems and Robin van der Laan finding the target and Kingsley Black marking his first appearance for the London side with a superb free- kick.
The form of their foreign players - Willems was making only his third appearance of an injury-disrupted season - encouraged Derby to believe they might be on the verge of a recovery but Millwall may reflect that a more positive attitude in the second half might have been to their advantage.
They led after six minutes, Alex Rae racing into the penalty area to meet Jason van Blerk's square pass with a firm strike between Steve Sutton and the post. Willems squared the scores only three minutes later, steering the ball past Kasey Keller with the outside of his right boot after Sean Flynn's long ball had evaded Tony Witter's attempt to clear.
Derby then twice went close to seizing the upper hand, Keller blocking a David Preece effort before Darryl Powell, having burst through on the right, fired into the side netting.
Millwall's lead was restored on 25 minutes, after Gary Rowett impeded Uwe Fuchs 20 yards out on the right. From the free-kick, Black, on loan from Nottingham Forest, expertly curled the ball over the wall of defenders and into the top right-hand corner.
Millwall finished the first half on top and yet seemed to back-pedal thereafter. Van der Laan restored parity with 24 minutes left, shooting powerfully in from 20 yards and then Willems, with an ambitious attempt from wide on the right, almost embarrassed Millwall and Keller, who was grateful to turn a dipping shot over the bar.
Derby County (4-4-2): Sutton; Kavanagh, Yates, Wassall (Trollope, 84), Rowett; Flynn, Van der Laan, Preece, Simpson (Wrack, 68); Willems, Powell. Substitute not used: Hoult (gk).
Millwall (4-4-2): Keller; Newman, Witter, Stevens, Thatcher; Van Blerk, Bowry, Rae, Black (Savage, 81); Fuchs, Malkin (Dixon, 73). Substitute not used: Webber.
Referee: K Lynch (Knaresborough).Reuse content