SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY may have continued their unbeaten start to the season, but that felt like no consolation whatsoever to Owls supporters last night.
A last-gasp leveller in the fifth minute of stoppage time from substitute Magaye Gueye, who lashed home a shot high past Kieren Westwood in a madcap finale, cruelly destroyed Wednesday’s hopes of a win bonus and a first home league success at S6 since March 25.
Incidentally, that was the last occasion that Millwall tasted defeat on the road in the league, in a 2-1 reverse against Leeds.
This season, with the campaign just a week and a half old, Ian Holloway’s side have already emerged as White Rose spoilers twice, following up their opening-day victory over the Whites with another blow against God’s County with virtually the last kick of the game.
The fateful intervention from Gueye was the final act to a frenetic finish, which saw Westwood save an 84th-minute penalty from Shaun Williams to seemingly secure a keynote win for the Owls after Chris Maguire fired them in front with a free-kick three minutes before the hour mark.
The sting in the tail was bitter for the Owls, but about right with the hosts failing to hit the heights of their weekend draw with Derby.
As Stuart Gray alluded to after the game, the late draw felt like a defeat, with his utterances that the Owls’ game-management let them down in the final analysis as they failed to shut-out the game a sage one.
Maguire famously struck a late, late winner in a clash at Millwall in April 2013, but this time around it was the Londoners who were smiling at the death when Gueye blasted in after great work by Carlos Edwards and Ricardo Fuller.
It was perhaps no surprise that Maguire should come to the party again as he continued his penchant for decisive contributions against the Lions on 57 minutes.
But he reckoned without Gueye’s leveller, with the other main downside to the night for the Owls being a back injury sustained by Sam Hutchinson, who came off in the second half.
The Owls managed 21 efforts on goal against Derby at the weekend, but struggled for early continuity and possession – let alone chances – against the Lions, whose ease on the ball bore characteristics of manager Ian Holloway’s Blackpool side a few years back.
But for all their neat movement and interplay early on, the Londoners could manufacture just one worthwhile effort in the first half-hour with David Martin’s free-kick drifting wide, with the Owls eventually growing into proceedings.
A powerful Atdhe Nuhiu header from Maguire’s corner flew just over before Tom Lees saw his header grasped by David Forde following Jacques Maghoma’s flag-kick to liven up the crowd after an unremarkable start.
An improvised flick from Stevie May then flew off target following teasing wingplay from Maghoma, starting to warm to the task after being kept quiet early on.
Two telling moments in quick succession soon saw both sides go close to breaking the deadlock with Martyn Woolford shooting over following Lee Gregory’s slick pass before the Owls saw appeals for a penalty fall on deaf ears at the other end.
A weak clearance from Forde was latched onto by Maghoma, who homed towards goal before going down under pressure from the backtracking Williams, but referee Nigel Miller was unmoved.
Westwood helped serve up the move which led to Maguire’s opener. His quick throw-out following a Lions corner saw the Owls hit the visitors on the break with a cross striking the arm of Martin, racing back to help out his defence, with a free-kick awarded despite strong Millwall protests.
For Maguire, who unluckily saw a fine set-piece effort crash against the woodwork against Derby, the wheel of fortune come around instantly in his favour with his free-kick flying under a porous Millwall wall.
Westwood later provided a huge contribution on a night when he had little else to do by way of saving a penalty from Williams, awarded after the Owls custodian felled Martin, another a controversial call with the
goalkeeper appearing to make contact with the ball as well as man.
His block, low to his left to deny Williams, was the cue to mass cheers from the bulk of the 20,636 crowd, only for a late stunner to deny the Owls a fourth successive clean sheet in 2014-15.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Mattock; Maguire, Hutchinson (Coke 66), Semedo, Maghoma (Helan 78); May, Nuhiu (Madine 71). Unused substitutes: Kirkland, McCabe, Zayette, Corry.
Millwall: Forde; Edwards, Dunne, Beevers, Malone; Williams, Abdou (Gueye 60), McDonald; Woolford, Gregory (Fuller 60), Martin (Easter 90). Unused substitutes: Gerrar, Easter, Briggs, Webster.
Referee: N Miller (Co Durham).