Millwall's challenging position at the top of the First Division was maintained in scarcely believable circumstances at the New Den last night thanks to a last-minute intervention from Chris Malkin.
Sent through by a long ball from Maurice Doyle, the second-half substitute produced the only moment of composure witnessed all evening as he drove the ball low inside the far post for a goal which had appeared utterly unlikely for the preceding 89 minutes.
Before the match, Mick McCarthy, the Millwall manager, appealed to his players to remember the good things from Saturday's 1-0 home defeat by Barnsley. On the evidence of the first half, there was nothing profitable to record. Keith Stevens, the Millwall skipper, produced the best effort for the home side just after the half hour with a low drive which Ian Feuer, an American keeper making his debut for Luton, did well to push away one- handed. At the other end Boncho Genchev, the Bulgarian formerly with Ipswich Town, wasted a decent opportunity to put his side ahead in the final minutes of the half.
Millwall's record of only six goals from six games was something which preoccupied McCarthy, and the prospect of improving that statistic appeared bleaker three minutes into the second half when their top scorer Kerry Dixon - with half this season's tally to his credit - injured himself in falling over the keeper as he gathered the ball. To Millwall's, the former Chelsea man resumed after treatment but an opening goal seemed no nearer.
The growing sense of frustration may have been reflected in Ben Thatcher's rash touchline challenge on Dwight Marshall which earned him a booking. In comparison with what was going on elsewhere, the incident was a major event. "The game was awful; we were awful," McCarthy said. "We didn't deserve to win but thank God we did. We were not very happy in the dressing- room but we are joint top of the table so things can't be all bleak."
Millwall (4-4-2): Keller; Newman, Witter, Stevens, Thatcher; Savage (Forbes, 70), Doyle, Bowry, Van Blerk (McRobert, 52); Dixon, Fuchs (Malkin, 58). Substitute not used: McRobert (gk).
Luton (4-4-2): Feuer; Peake, Davis, Vilstrup, Johnson (James, 4); Waddock, Marshall, Minton, Harvey; Oldfield, Genchev. Substitute not used: Evers (gk).
Referee: R Gifford (Mid-Glamorgan).Reuse content