REPORT: TOWN 0 – 3 MILLWALL
Lions end Hatters dream.
The Hatters FA Cup fairytale was put to bed by a clinical Millwall performance in front of goal. The Hatters had the lion share of possession and pushed their Championship counterparts from whistle to whistle but goals from James Henry, Rob Hulse and Dany N'Guessan put Millwall's name into the hat for the quarter finals.
Paul Buckle elected his eleven and thrust them forward to face the lions captained by Ronnie Henry who slots in a centre half allowing Greg Taylor to return at full back. JJ O'Donnell and Alex Lawless provided the Hatters width with Arnaud Mendy and Jonathan Smith in the heart of the Hatters fight. Cup champions up top with player of the round and Norwich goalscoring hero Scott Rendell given a starting spot alongside Andre Gray.
The Hatters started off proceedings with Gray and Rendell marking the game's opening from the centre circle. All the talking was over and now the action was under way. A cup clash that will forever be remembered, loud, passionate and exciting in front of a 9,768 strong Kenilworth Road crowd.
A bright spell began for the Hatters and they were first to register an attempt on target. Good link up play between Rendell and Gray forced the latter wide. Shifting the ball back to Howells and darting inside, Howells returned the favour and after a quick turn David Forde was called into action standing tall to clutch onto the effort.
Seconds later and the Lions roared into the game. A slick passing move allowed Rob Hulse so surge through on goal but he dragged his shot wide of the far upright.
Gray continued to outfox the Millwall back line early on registering his second attempt on goal within the first five minutes. Howells quick throw in saw Gray role Abdou and after a desparate lunge from the Millwall skipper speed into the box. Opening his body up and with little options inside the area Gray thundered towards the near post, nearly catching Forde off guard who at the last second stuck up a hand to prevent the opener.
Despite the Hatters impressive start to the game it was the visitors who opened the scoring. A long clearance from Forde was pumped towards Henry who flicked the ball onto Kovacs. Unaware of James Henry sneaking in behind Kovacs allowed the ball to drop and Henry made no mistake, rounding the keeper to slot in for 1-0.
Another superb save from Forde prevented an instant reply. A long searching ball from Henry found Rendell peeling off at the far post. He nodded the ball back across the face, met by an acrobatic effort from Mendy who slammed the ball into the palms of Forde. The richochet fell inches away from the sprawling Kovacs as it was thundered clear.
The Hatters continued to press but Millwall threatened on the counter. Goalscorer James Henry galloped away from the challenge to tease a cross in from the byline. Hulse connected with an acrobatic effort which sailed over the crossbar.
O'Donnell and Gray were the Hatters main source of threat towards the Millwall goal and shortly after the half hour mark they were at it again to have the Hatters fans on the edge of their seat. Good hold up play by Gray on the edge of the 18-yard-box as he shrugged off the challenge. Seeing the run of O'Donnell down the corner he slipped the pass into his feet before O'Donnell lashed a cross towards the front post. Norwich-esk Rendell sneaked into the area but Abdou nipped in to clear the danger in a scrappy goalmouth.
The second came for Millwall on 36 minutes however after Henry again caused problems. A sumptious first touch brought the ball under control before posting up a teasing cross towards the far post. Hulse's first effort at goal looped skywards but instead of allowing the ball to drop he swung a leg at it in midair over his shoulder and watched it creep into the far corner.
The final chance of the half again fell to the Hatters, who for large spells had been the better side. Gray scampered away down the right flank and into Osborne at the expense of a corner. Howells delivery found Kovacs head but his header cannoned off sideways from yards out. The melee that followed underneath the crossbar was ended when Trotter lashed the ball to safety.
Frustration began to creep in shortly after the second period begun as Rendell became the first name in Lee Proberts notebook. The Town frontman felt aggreived for a number of unpunished challenges on on himself resulting in his frustrations being taken accountable for his reaction to another decision against the Hatters.
The first real chance of the second half came, once again, for the dominant Hatters. Lawless retained possesion in middle and strung a pass through the defence to leave Gray with a race against Forde. The keeper was there early to block Gray's toepoke which looked set to break the Hatters duck.
A corner soon followed and Kovacs header had the Kenilworth pulling their hair out. A delicious delivery from Howells found the tall Hungarian who leapt highest to power goalwards. His powerful header looked destined for the net but climbed inches over the crossbar.
Millwall introduced Dany N'Guessan to replace Liam Feeney on the right side of midfield but they were mere bystanders to Smith's perfectly weighted ball to the onrushing Gray at the far post. A heaby first touch allowed Forde in again to smother at his feet.
As the hour mark passed the Hatters introduced Staurt Fleetwood as they looked to overturn the two goal deficit, replacing O'Donnell on the left hand side.
There could have been a third for Millwall as they launched their first real threat of the half. N'Guessan drove into the heart of the Town defence before his deflected shot looped up into the path of Keogh. Tyler was out quickly to narrow the angle, forcing Keogh to blaze it over.
Keogh followed his early miss with another one that could have sealed the tie. Henry again dropped the shoulder on Taylor and whipped in a cross toward the far post. The cross evaded all, except Keogh who from point blank range failed to hit the target.
Ten minutes remained and the bouyant Hatters continued to search for a way back into the fairytale. Howells again swung a corner into a dangerous area but when the ball bobbled out to Lawless 25-yards from goal time stood still. The ball dropped kindly for the Welshman and with one swift swipe of the right foot it thundered towards goal through a barrage of bodies. Greated with an ooh as the ball landed just outside the upright.
A third did arrive for the visitors with time ticking down as N'Guessan converted from close range. Trotter picked out Marquis at the far who looked to slide the ball into the far corner. Tyler was down early to parry but only as far as N'Guessan who slid in to turn home for a flattering third.
Still persistant the Hatters pushed forward searching for their rewards for a positive approach. A deep corner finally dropped to Shaw at the far post who drilled into the ground forcing another excellent stop from Forde.
The tie was decided and just enough time left for Gray again to warm the hands of Forde from an acute angle but the former Hatter loanee between the stick for the Lions completed a solid performance with an unblemished clean sheet.