Photos: Millwall 2, Burnley 2
A well struck volley from Millwall’s Scott McDonald and a deflected Danny Shittu strike had given the hosts a two-goal cushion, but Sean Dyche’s side responded through Sam Vokes and an own goal from substitute Shane Lowry.
Patience proved a beneficial virtue for the Clarets in south east London as Millwall set out to restrict and frustrate the Clarets by limiting the space for their opponents to work in, refusing to allow them possession on the deck, while pumping the percentage passes to force an aerial battle.
And it took the away side some time to adjust to the conditions of the fixture, with Steve Lomas’s side profiting from a pedestrian start. Lions’ midfielder Nicky Bailey tried his luck early on when forcing Tom Heaton to save low to his right with a bending left-footed effort from distance.
The Clarets stopper then denied Martyn Waghorn moments later when the winger’s drilled cross from the bye-line squirmed through the goalkeeper’s legs but crawled wide of the near post.
Leading scorer Danny Ings forced the first opening for the visitors when exploiting the space in behind full back Lowry down the right before cutting past Shittu on the angle of the area but the defender recovered well to block the striker’s effort.
However, the home side opened the scoring midway through the half when Bailey’s centre clipped the head of Michael Duff and fell kindly in to the path of McDonald who rifled a delightful volley across Heaton and in to the corner.
Ings sought an instant response when profiting from a mix-up between Bailey and McDonald but his effort from distance was saved by David Forde while the Lions’ goal scorer watched an effort from the angle of the penalty area drift over the angle via a deflection.
But distaster struck in the 37th minute when another airborne pass fell fortuitously for Shittu who lashed the ball goalwards and watched his attempt find the corner courtesy of a wicked deflection off the boot of Vokes.
That tested the character and attitude of the Clarets, and their reply was instant. Within a minute the away side worked the ball wide to Trippier whose cross looped in to the air off the head of substitute Lowry - who had earlier replaced the injured Scott Malone - and Vokes reacted the quickest to climb above his marker and float a header in to the corner.
The immediate response provided the spark the Clarets had been yearning for, and they continued that rhythm through to the second half. Harbouring an attacking mentality from the outset, Dyche applied a high defensive line to force the hosts on the back foot and enable the Clarets to play in behind the Millwall midfield.
And in the opening 10 minutes of the half the Championship leaders had their reward. While David Edgar and Shaun Derry lay grounded from a hefty challenge, Ings broke and threaded a pass to Michael Kightly to his left; the Stoke City loan man then glided past Jack Smith before shaping an effort towards the far corner which Lowry helped past the line. Derry would later be substituted and replaced by Liam Feeney as a consequence of the collision.
Edgar’s determination in the challenge epitomised the hunger and spirit of Burnley’s second half showing and their one-touch ensemble started to unearth weaknesses in a limited opposition. Scott Arfield, returning to action from injury, latched on to an incisive pass from Ings and rounded Forde but with the angle too tight to find the target the midfielder opted to cross there wasn’t a team mate in the vicinity.
Arfield went even closer moments later when a sublime, sweeping move resulted in Ing’s pass carving a hole in the Millwall rearguard and the former Terrier stepped past Paul Robinson before smashing an effort against the face of the post. In the follow up, Vokes demonstrated animatedly for a spot kick after being felled but his protests earned a yellow card.
As the half wore on, Arfield then cranked his neck muscles to power a header just over the bar when unmarked at the back post after Kightly and Trippier had combined tremendously down the right and though the visitors continued to press they couldn’t find the winner.
The result extended Dyche’s emphatic unbeaten record at the Den to 12 games, which includes 10 wins and two draws. Meanwhile, Leicester’s 3-0 win over Watford in the earlier kick-off means that the Clarets lead at the top has been cut to a single point.