Smith strike and two own goals see Blues open Championship account
Town are up and running in the Championship with a well deserved win over Millwall thanks to three second-half goals.
A Shane Lowry own goal following a cross from Aaron Cresswell just past the hour and a towering header from Tommy Smith 10 minutes later gave Mick McCarthy’s side a grip on the game they never looked like releasing and Blues added a third late on when Mark Beevers diverted a cross in his own net.
Cresswell returned to the Town line-up for the first time this season after recovering from a thigh problem, replacing the injured Tyrone Mings in the only change from the team that went down to Reading in the opening Championship game of the campaign last weekend.
Blues could and should have been ahead on four minutes, David McGoldrick appeared to handle Cole Skuse’s pass but referee Graham Salisbury kept his whistle in his hand and Millwall needed Stephen Bywater to rob the Town frontman 10 yards from goal.
The former Blues’ loanee breathed a sigh of relief soon after when McGoldrick’s header drifted just wide of the far post but Millwall looked a threat on the break early on and Andy Keogh’s shot was blocked inside the Town box after Steve Morison had set him up.
Luke Chambers headed over from Carlos Edwards’ corner in what was a rare opening in the first half hour, McGoldrick – a danger for Town – bringing another save from Bywater as Blues start to edge the exchanges.
A flowing move between Skuse, Edwards and Elliott Hewitt carved out half a chance for Daryl Murphy, his header deflected for a corner, then McGoldrick was denied 10 yards out.
It was Blues’ turn to breathe uneasily as the second-half got underway, Richard Chaplow’s cross beating everyone inside the six yard box. Town responded, good work by Jay Tabb inside the Millwall box was curtailed by Beevers, then Elliott Hewitt’s cross landed on the top of Bywater’s net.
Danny Shittu did well to clear the danger from Murphy after McGoldrick had released him while at the other end Chaplow headed just wide after Derry got around the back.
There was another anxious moment for Town seconds later, James Henry the provider this time but Chaplow couldn’t get on the end of his cross.
Luke Hyam fired over from the edge of the box but Town got the breakthrough on 61 minutes, Cresswell found his way into the box, pushed the ball goalwards and Lowry diverted it over the line.
Paul Anderson and Ryan Tunnicliffe – making his debut on loan from Manchester United – were introduced into the action and Anderson immediately made his mark, crossing for Smith to climb high and head home.
Tunnicliffe’s cross was deflected off Shittu into the sidenetting, the loanee then failing to get enough on his shot to beat Bywater as Town pressed for a third that eventually came on 83 minutes when Beevers diverted the ball into his own net from Hewitt’s cross as Anderson went in for a header.
Millwall’s frustration was summed up when Henry and Scott McDonald got in each other’s way with the goal open, with Town going close to a fourth when Tunnicliffe burst through but he couldn’t beat Bywater as Blues repeated the 3-0 scoreline over the Lions last season.
Town: Loach, Hewitt, Chambers, Smith, Cresswell (Berra 85), Edwards (Anderson 62), Skuse, Hyam, Tabb (Tunnicliffe 62), Murphy, McGoldrick. Subs not used: Gerken, Veseli, Taylor, Nouble. Booked: Hewitt.
Millwall: Bywater, Smith, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry, Derry, Bailey, Henry, Chaplow (Feeney 66), Morison (McDonald 72), Keogh (Easter 52). Subs not used: Marshall, Dunne, Robinson, Abdou. Booked: Derry, Morison.
Att: 17, 183