A professional away performance from Millwall saw the promotion chasers overcome Hereford United 2-0 at Edgar Street this evening. The visitors took the lead in the second half when a double deflection saw Tony Craig open the scoring whilst in stoppage-time, Marc Laird followed up a Lewis Grabban shot to double their advantage in front of 3001 supporters, including 258 from South London.
United were unchanged following the 1-1 draw at Walsall on Tuesday with Sam Hewson failing to recover from a groin strain. Millwall, who beat Hereford 1-0 at the New Den in late-October, handed Charlton loanee Izale Mcleod a start up top with recent record breaker Neil Harris having to be content with a place on the bench. One time Bulls' target David Martin started on left-wing.
The first-half offered few chances at either end although Millwall were more dominant in possession. Good-work down the left-hand side by Andy Williams saw him provide a cross for Steve Guinan but his header lacked any power or direction. At the other end, a loose header was wildly struck by Martin and failed to call Craig Samson into action. The best chance of Hereford's first-half fell to Williams after he superbly bought down a long pass from Kris Taylor before spinning and hitting an early shot which flashed just past David Forde's far post.
The visitors started to take control in the midfield and put pressure on the Bulls' backline with Gary Alexander controlling a flicked pass before shooting through a crowd of players but it was straight at Samson who gathered. Andy Frampton's header from a Martin corner harmlessly flew over whilst link-up between Alexander and Mcleod allowed the former MK Dons hot-shot to shoot goalwards but it lacked power and Samson held on with ease. Millwall's best chance of the half fell to Grabban at the back post after good overlapping wing play from Frampton gave him the opportunity to pull a cross back; Grabban controlled but the angle was tight and Samson parried his effort around the post. Towards the end of the half, a burst from Williams was stopped by Paul Robinson and Hereford were awarded a free-kick but as has been the case this season, Taylor's effort failed to rustle the net and fell wide.
The Whites created an early chance in the second-half after good work from Williams out wide once again; neat footwork saw him nutmeg a Millwall defender before cutting back for Toumani Diagouraga who saw his left-foot shot blocked. Hereford won a number of set-pieces in good positions but Millwall were well organised at the back and dealt well with these; a Steve Guinan free-kick was tame and Forde had no trouble stopping the effort. Guinan also tried his luck with a flick header after Diagouraga had kicked the ball back into the box after a clearence but again Forde wasn't troubled. Alexander struck straight at Samson from long-range before Mcleod was replaced by Harris up top.
The visitors opened the scoring soon after the sub with a goal from a corner. Martin whipped it in deep to the back post where Craig rose to see his first header blocked but it rebounded back off him and into the net. The away side took confidence from the goal with Grabban showing superb pace to speed away from the half-way line before sending a rising shot over the bar from 30 yards. Hereford introduced Simon Johnson for the ineffective Jennison Myrie-Williams and the former Leeds man nearly had an instant impact, latching onto a deep free-kick by Taylor and turning it into the danger area where Millwall's Alan Dunne slid the ball out just past the post for a corner.
In the latter stages, Hereford had more of the ball but Millwall were looking dangerous on the break with Alexander twisting and turning to get past Taylor on the left before sending a powerful shot over the bar. At the other end, Johnson's low cross from the right was deflected into the path of Guinan who chested before dragging a volley past the post. Zak Whitbread replaced Martin late on before Millwall made sure of the points with a break-away goal. Grabban again used his pace to good effect to latch onto a forward pass from Alexander before swivelling on the edge of the box and shooting low towards the far corner; Samson made a fine-save to stop Grabban's effort but Laird was on hand to head into the open net. Millwall could have added a third deep into stoppage-time but Grabban's powerful left-foot strike was well held by Samson.
Following the two good results to start 2009, Hereford were over-come by a strong and well drilled Millwall side. The Bulls lacked the midfield dominance experienced against Oldham last time out at Edgar Street and will look to get Hewson back to fitness as soon as possible. With six days remaining of the transfer deadline, Graham Turner will be looking to bring in a number of players with calls for a goalkeeper, right-back and striker from the support. Next up for United is a trip to Stockport County on Saturday.
Hereford: Samson, Rose, Broadhurst, Gowling, Taylor, Myrie-Williams, Diagouraga, Smith, Done, Guinan, Williams.
Subs: Veiga, Jackson, Beckwith, Gwynne, Johnson.
Millwall: Forde, Dunne, Craig, Robinson, Frampton, Grabban, Laird, Abdou, Martin, Mcleod, Alexander.
Subs: Pidgeley, Hackett, Whitbread, Grimes, Harris.