Spence provides winner in a Den thriller to lift Town to third
Jordan Spence’s header on 88 minutes maintained the perfect start for Town in a sensational game at the New Den.
The defender got on the end of Grant Ward’s fantastic free-kick to divert the ball into the net after Blues had twice led and been behind.
Former Lions loanee Martyn Waghorn grabbed a brace, with Joe Garner also on target after Jed Wallace had put the home side ahead in the first minute.
Aiden O’Brien and Tom Elliott cancelled out Town goals but Spence had the last say with his first goal for the Club to lift Blues into third in the table.
The injury and illness list at Portman Road is reaching epidemic proportions with Dean Gerken, Bersant Celina and Flynn Downes all unavailable, taking the tally to 10 players on the sidelines.
Manager Mick McCarthy naming surely one of the youngest benches in Town history for a League game with six aged 21 or under.
Blues got off to the worst possible start when Wallace got on the end of a cross that wasn’t dealt with and hooked the ball past Bart Bialkowski via a deflection.
Town responded almost immediately, Garner trying his luck from distance with a swerving effort that deceived Jordan Archer in the home goal to level the scores in a blistering opening to the game.
Steve Morison lifted the ball over the bar from close range, Town breathing a different sigh of relief seconds later when Luke Chambers had to receive lengthy treatment before continuing.
Morison went close again as the game began to take a breather - albeit briefly - , George Saville having a shot blocked on the edge of the box after good link up play in the Lions’ midfield.
Chambers cleared from Lee Gregory, then Millwall won a free-kick inches outside the area when Dominic Iorfa conceded a foul, Morison heading over.
James Meredith was yellow carded after going down in the Town box as he looked to get in, Jonas Knudsen clearing up the danger soon after as Morison threatened.
It was Town who found the net next though on 34 minutes and in terrific style, Grant Ward did superbly down the left to find space and from his cross, Waghorn finished first time.
Two minutes later, Millwall were level, O’Brien hooking the ball over the line - just - from six yards after Saville had hit the underside of the bar.
Waghorn was inches away from getting his head on a cross as the intensity turned up a notch again, Chambers’ flick averting the danger from Gregory’s cross.
Waghorn headed wide at the back post under pressure but the former Rangers striker wouldn’t be denied and slid the ball home after the dazzling feet of David McGoldrick had set him up to bring a pulsating first-half to an end with Blues in front.
McGoldrick was forced out as he looked to get on the end of Garner’s chip as the second-half continued in the same vein, at the other Bialkowski at full stretch to tip away O’Brien’s effort.
Jordan Spence covered the threat from Gregory, the Millwall striker then getting behind the back of the Town defence but letting the ball run out for a corner when a cross looked on.
Saville was denied by Spence’s challenge, Millwall appealing for handball but referee James Linington was having none of it, then Chambers’ header was deflected behind for a corner.
Garner couldn’t control his header from the flagkick ad Blues threatened to put daylight between the teams, Bialkowski saving on the line from Saville.
Danny Rowe replaced Waghorn for the last 15 minutes, while Millwall made three changes in quick succession, Elliott, Fred Onyedinma and Shane Ferguson entering the fray.
Elliott immediately made his mark, stabbing the ball home from close range 10 minutes from time following a free-kick.
Saville had a shot blocked as the Lions chased a winner, Blues showing the same desire to get the three points, with Rowe’s cross cleared by Byron Webster before Spence had the final word in an absolute thriller.
Millwall: Archer, McLaughlin, Meredith (Ferguson 74), Hutchinson, Williams, Gregory, Wallace, Webster, Morison (Elliott 75), O’Brien (Onyedinma 75), Saville. Subs not used: King, Craig, Thompson, Cooper. Booked: Meredith, Elliott.
Town: Bialkowski, Iorfa, Chambers, Spence, Knudsen, Waghorn (Rowe 75), Skuse, Ward, Sears, McGoldrick, Garner. Subs not used: Crowe, Nydam, Kenlock, Morris, McDonnell, Woolfenden. Booked: Ward, Garner, Chambers.