Liddell header sinks Millwall

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The Independent Online

Wigan held their nerve under a late onslaught last night to go level with Walsall at the top of the Nationwide Second Division after a drab encounter that only came to life when Andy Liddell headed the decisive goal.

Wigan held their nerve under a late onslaught last night to go level with Walsall at the top of the Nationwide Second Division after a drab encounter that only came to life when Andy Liddell headed the decisive goal.

While rarely in any danger until the closing moments when Millwall surged into the heart of the Latics defence, their own forward forays had been fleeting and, with cleaner finishing and a less alert goalkeeper, the visitors might have nicked a deserved equaliser. But the highly-rated Roy Carroll was on top form, denying Neil Harris and Robbie Ryan in quick succession with magnificent reaction saves.

Mark McGhee, who has transformed Millwall's fortunes since his appointment earlier in the season, said: "To be honest, it was the proverbial 'we was robbed'. We played well in the second half and had all the possession but we were not as clinical in front of goal as I would like and their goalkeeper was superb. I'm disappointed by losing the game but not by the way we lost it."

While he had a point, it would be to overlook the chances which Wigan created. Prior to floating a fine cross for Liddell's goal, the veteran Neil Redfearn, a first-half substitute for the injured Kevin Nicholls, was unlucky not to open the scoring himself after latching on to a Darren Sheridan through-ball, but his shot lacked power.

Scott Green, with the simplest chance of the night, should have doubled the advantage when given a free-header from just six yards but, having done the hard work to find the space, he nodded wildly over with only the goalkeeper Tony Warner to beat.

"We showed tremendous character," said Bruce Rioch, the victorious manager, "and it always looked likely that a single goal might nick the game. While Roy made some terrific saves, our defence was very strong."

For periods, Wigan's passing and movement was impressive with Sheridan, in the centre of the pitch, the pivot around which Wigan developed their moves. Yet for all their agility in moving forwards, and the keenness to involve the orthodox winger Brian McLaughlin, their opponents - and rivals for promotion - were responded to most of the hazards presented, defending resolutely and keeping the Lancastrians at arm's length from Warner's goal, though Liddell had a curling strike which ricocheted off the bar in the first half in the first half.

If Millwall were less constructive, they had the towering frame of Richard Sadlier as an ideal target. He held the ball well and was quick to lay the ball off for an industrious midfield and could have netted himself but for a reactive smothering save from Carroll.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Carroll; McGibbon, Griffiths, De Zeeuw, Sharp; Green, Nicholls (Redfearn, 18), Sheridan, McLaughlin (Balmer, 90); Roberts, Liddell. Substitutes not used: Stillie (gk), Padula, Ashcroft.

Millwall (4-4-2): Warner; Lawrence, Nethercott, Dyche, Ryan; Neil (Odunsi, 89), Livermore, Cahill, Reid (Ifill, 74); Sadlier, Harris. Substitutes not used: Gueret (gk), Dolan, Parkin.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).

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