No one likes them, as is well known, and no one likes playing them on days like these. For more than 40 minutes of a vibrant Cup tie, Millwall, revitalised by their rookie manager David Tuttle, were on course to cause an upset. But just as the first derisive chants of "Premiership? You're having a laugh" echoed round New Cross, Everton remembered their status and FA Cup pedigree.
The introduction of Duncan Ferguson and James Beattie changed the tie, though it was the third substitute, Leon Osman, who saved Merseyside bacon with his first goal since February, finally defeating the heroic goalkeeper Andy Marshall. Earlier, Millwall had an unlikely scorer in Marvin Williams, an 18-year-old striker making his full debut and taking the first senior goal of his career with admirable coolness on the day he signed a professional contract.
"We're giving youngsters a chance here," said Tuttle, who has lifted the team off the foot of the Championship and remains unbeaten in five matches since Colin Lee was shunted upstairs by the club's new chairman Peter de Savary, who must have been prepared for stormy waters but says he has been gratified by the "spirit and determination" that have usually been evident in the Lions' Den.
It would have been tempting to clutch at one of the competition's most popular clichés and describe the tie as Millwall's Cup final had they not taken part in the real thing only two seasons ago. That most downbeat of days in Cardiff was not only the last time Manchester United won anything but the last appearance in a Millwall shirt of Tim Cahill, who had scored the winning goal of the semi-final against Sunderland.
For most of the time on a damp south London afternoon, he was the main threat to them, despite having been greeted no more warmly than his Everton team-mates. Only the Welcome To Hell signs were missing and the atmosphere was cranked up with film on the big screen of Millwall's FA Cup victory at Goodison in 1973 and a pitch appearance by Barry Kitchener, one of the heroes of that day and so many others.
Throughout the first half, the home side did enough to give some substance to the crowd's boisterous optimism and in the 39th minute the roofs threatened to come off three sides of the New Den. Ben May knocked a pass forward for his nippy young partner Williams, who darted past Matteo Ferrari - the defender's pace belying his name - and placed the ball neatly past Richard Wright.
Ten minutes earlier, May had met Barry Cogan's corner with a header that Tony Hibbert scraped off the line. Everton's work was too often spoilt by the weak finishing that their supporters might have feared with Beattie and Ferguson initially left shivering in the dug-out. Marcus Bent and James McFadden started in their place and both missed opportunities before their team fell behind. Even then, Cahill, Everton's leading scorer last season, might twice have equalised just before the interval. Marshall just managed to push his first header on to the bar, and from the resulting corner Kevin Braniff stopped another Cahill header on the line.
The former Norwich goalkeeper was between the posts only because Birmingham City did not want Colin Doyle, who is on loan, Cup-tied. He was particularly busy in the last half-hour after David Moyes sent on Beattie and Ferguson. Beattie side-footed Phil Neville's cross over the bar and then drove in a low centre from the right that Marshall scrambled away from Kevin Kilbane, who had seemed certain to score.
Ferguson forced Marshall into three saves before the deserved equaliser arrived in the 79th minute as Osman met Kilbane's cross with a left-footed shot, which was parried by Marshall, and headed in the rebound.
Suddenly the home side were hanging on for a replay. Osman almost denied them it with a chip that Marshall touched over, and Kilbane spooned Cahill's inviting pass too high. Everton, in the end, were profligate, but Millwall deserved the applause of their fans and their goalkeeper had earned Tuttle's hug.Reuse content