Millwall held off Brighton’s challenge last night to stay in the Championship top six, but although the Lions have lost only once in 16 matches, this will feel like another defeat after they squandered a two-goal lead given them by two goals from former Brighton loan striker Chris Wood.
Brighton, who also hit the frame of the goal twice, struck back through Kazenga LuaLua and a late penalty by David Lopez. Gus Poyet’s team would have gone above Millwall with a win, but although they have drawn too many matches this was one occasion when a point was welcome.
The two meanest defences in the division produced a more open first half than might have been expected. Millwall had lost Andy Keogh, who had been struggling with a toe injury, during the warm-up, so Liam Trotter was pushed up into their attack.
Brighton found it hard to make any impression but after 25 minutes one of their former players showed them the way to goal. Wood, who is on loan to Millwall from West Bromwich Albion and who scored eight goals when on loan to the Seagulls in the 2010-11 season, beat Gordon Greer to Shane Lowry’s low cross from the left and flicked the ball past Kuszczak.
Millwall doubled their lead after 57 minutes, 120 seconds after Lopez’s free-kick for Brighton had come back off David Forde’s left-hand post. Again the scorer was Wood, this time turning inside from the right and hitting a fierce left-foot shot past Tomasz Kuszczak from the edge of the area.
That could have knocked the stuffing out of Brighton, but they halved the deficit in the 61st minute as the substitute Kazenga LuaLua hit the ball low past Forde from 23 yards. And they came within inches of levelling as Forde fumbled a header but neither Adam El-Abd nor Ashley Barnes could force the ball over the line.
But with three minutes to go, Craig Mackail-Smith hit the turf after a challenge by Liam Feeney and Lopez buried his effort with conviction.
Brighton & Hove Albion (3-5-2): Kuszczak; El-Abd, Greer, Dunk (LuaLua, 39); David Lopez, Hammond, Bridcutt (Hoskins, 77), Crofts (Barnes, 66), Bridge; Mackail-Smith, Buckley. Substitutes not used: Brezovan, Dobbie, Harley, March
Millwall (4-4-2): Forde; A Smith, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry; Henry, Wright, J Smith, C Taylor (Feeney, 51); Wood (Henderson, 88), Trotter. Substitutes not used: M Taylor, N’Guessan, Osborne, Malone, Batt. Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).