10-MAN LATICS EARN 0-0 AT MILLWALLIf there’s such a thing as huge point, this was as big as they can possibly come.
Down to ten men for over an hour against one of the other in-form sides of the division in front of their own vociferous supporters, Latics held out heroically, extending the unbeaten record in Sky Bet League One to 13 games and preserving the four point cushion to the play-off places below them.
After Sam Morsy’s 33rd minute sending off, Millwall threw everything at the ten men in the second half, Jussi Jaaskelainen was in inspired for at times and needed to be, although Latics rode their luck at times too as Millwall searched in vain for the breakthrough and became increasingly frustrated.
Marshalled by Craig Morgan and Jason Pearce at the back, Latics held firm and saluted the final whistle with immense relief.
Manager Gary Caldwell made just the one change from the weekend’s victory over Bury, Conor McAleny returning in place of Yanic Wildschut, who dropped to the bench.
Having weathered an early storm from their hosts, Latics settled down well and were the more dominant team when they were hit with the blow of losing Morsy to his second yellow card in quick succession in the 33rd minute, completely changing the complexion of the game.
Jed Wallace forced Jussi Jaaskelainenen into a fingertip save from distance before Byron Webster headed over from a Wallace free-kick but Latics responded well when Chris McCann back-heeled Conor McAleny’s low cross into the path of David Perkins, only a great tackle from Webster preventing a clean strike on goal.
A superb turn on the edge of the box from Colclough earned Latics a free-kick in a dangerous position after half an hour but McCann was not able to capitalise, hitting it straight into the wall.
A minute later and Morsy, only recently been booked for a late challenge, pulled down Lee Gregory on the half-way line as Millwall threatened to break and the referee had little option but to reach for his book again.
Latics actually finished the half on top, with shots from Colclough and McAleny going wide, and Caldwell’s men faced the prospect of a very difficult second half, which the manager prepared for by replacing Colclough with Leon Barnett at the break.
Millwall predictably came out firing for the second half and had Latics on the back foot with two dangerous early crosses - it was going to be a long 45 minutes.
Max Power did manage to briefly relieve the early pressure with a long range shot but back came Millwall, Steve Morrison blasted over from Shane Ferguson’s cross after 52 minutes.
Latics put together a spell of their own around the hour mark as Grigg managed to shoot after a patient build up eventually saw Reece Wabara cross dangerously, the ball bundled out for a corner.
Jaaskelainen had to claw away a Wallace free-kick, then scooped away an effort from Gregory on the follow up as back came Millwall, Wallace shooting wide from another opening.
Caldwell replaced McAleny with Craig Davies after 65 minutes but Millwall wasted an amazing chance immediately afterwards when Jaaskelainen saved from Gregory who had broken free and with the keeper still on the ground, Wallace blasted over with just McCann to beat on the line.
The former Finnish international showed his class again in the 70th minute, brilliantly parrying a rasping effort from Jimmy Abdou just inside the box. Stunning stuff.
Millwall came close again when Joe Martin headed just wide from Ferguson’s cross in the 79th minute.
Caldwell made his final change with ten minutes left, Wildschut coming on for Grigg – could the ten men hold out?
Millwall swarmed forwards again, the ball eventually falling to Wallace 25 yards from goal, his shot was powerful but a yard over the bar.
Wallace then drove in a free-kick from the right and Morrison was off target when the ball landed at his feet from the initial clearance.
Five minutes left and the tension was unbearable.
McCann and Mahlon Romeo both needed treatment after a nasty-looking clash of heads. Both were fine.
Latics forced a corner in the 89th minute to relieve a bit of pressure before five more agonising minutes were announced by the fourth official.
Ferguson whipped in another cross from the left as Millwall broke but thankfully it flew over everyone for a throw-in.
Free-kick to Millwall, 40 yards out, Webster reached the ball first but headed well wide. Relief.
Into the last minute of additional time and two monstrous headed clearances from Pearce and Morgan... Millwall 0 Latics 0.