At the end of last season, Ian Holloway was celebrating taking Crystal Palace out of the Championship. Yesterday he was celebrating keeping Millwall in it. In the end, his team would have survived whatever their result, but capping an eight-match unbeaten run with his team's first home win since 18 January had the Bristolian in excellent spirits.
Millwall propped up the table on March 29 and Holloway credited his players' efforts in rescuing the situation. “Everybody has rallied, been honest and hard-working – typical of this place,” he said. “We wouldn't have done it without everyone pulling together. Now we need to keep the ball better and be braver but I'm excited about the young players at the club and looking forward. It was electric today and I want to keep those fans coming back.”
Bournemouth ended up tenth, their best league finish and perhaps some reward for the £15m losses reported last week, and pushed their hosts all the way, forcing three excellent saves from David Forde, Millwall's Ireland goalkeeper and player of the year. “We got caught up in the atmosphere and didn't get in our normal rhythm, but found their goalkeeper in good form,” Eddie Howe, their manager, said. “If we keep the group together, the signs are good.”
Both teams looked as nervy and wound-up as each other. The visitors, technically with nothing to play for, tackled as fiercely as Millwall and had the liveliest forward on the field in South African Tokelo Rantie. Millwall needed a goal to settle them, and after Steve Morison volleyed against the crossbar, Martyn Woolford glanced a 29th-minute header past Lee Camp from Owen Garvan's left-wing cross.
All was joy, not that it prevented Holloway getting in an argument with the Bournemouth bench as the challenges continued to fly in. The news that Birmingham had gone behind improved the mood and Forde kept it positive by keeping out Shaun MacDonald's header. Simeon Jackson, twice, former Cherries defender Scott Malone, with an acrobatic long-range effort, and Garvan, with a free kick that curled off a post, could have made sure before Forde further improved his chances of a new contract with further saves from Andrew Surman and Rantie.
Millwall (4-3-3): Forde; Edwards, Dunne, Beevers (Robinson 34), Malone (Fredericks 86); Woolford, Bailey, Williams; Maierhofer (Jackson 64), Garvan, Morison.
AFC Bournemouth (4-4-2): Camp; Smith (Francis ht), Elphick, Cook, Daniels; Ritchie, O'Kane (MacDonald ht), Surman, Fraser (Pitman 71); Kermorgant, Rantie.
Referee: M Naylor.
Man of the match: Forde (Millwall)
Match rating: 7/10