The Crystal Palace manager, Iain Dowie, risked criticism yesterday by saying he wanted his team to be ready to fight a "football war". In the event, this was a placid affair, drowning in mediocrity and lacking drama until Millwall equalised at curtain fall.
Of the two, it was actually Millwall who most needed to be reminded of the need for passion, pride and points. In spite of the arrival of a new chairman, Peter de Savary, their fans had not been getting any happier. De Savary has made it clear that he is not going to throw good money after bad players and the better quality ones are out of the club's financial reach. So what little talent Millwall have must go a long way. They cannot afford to spurn goalscoring opportunities. Here that fault seemed to beset them from the start. Ben May was especially culpable.
Palace lacked Andy Johnson in their attack, but with Dougie Freedman and Clinton Morrison there they still had the potential for making Millwall's defence look frail. Indeed, Freedman had an important first-minute save from Andy Marshall when no one spotted the threat.
Spotting any quality in a match of declining interest was difficult. The midfield area was a featureless desert, and even the Palace captain, Michael Hughes, who can usually brighten such occasions, did nothing eye-catching until the 67th minute.
Millwall were still adjusting after making two substitutions when Hughes broke free on the left and played a diagonal pass to Ben Watson who prodded in a goal that at last brought some spirit to the day.
Millwall's lack of scoring opportunities disheartened their supporters, and even when Barry Cogan began to add pace down the right side, his centres went unmet. To some extent that was a result of stout defending.
With two minutes remaining it looked highly unlikely that Millwall would have any share of the points. However, when Matt Lawrence sent the ball deep into the Palace penalty area, this time the defence failed to close in effectively on May, who managed to twist on the ball and hack in an equaliser that was so important to Millwall and could prove costly promotion-wise to Palace. Ironically, Dowie complemented Millwall on their "fighting spirit".Reuse content