Report | Millwall 3-1 Port Vale
Millwall returned to winning ways as a three-goal first-half show was enough to secure a first home win of 2016 against fellow League One Play-Off hopefuls Port Vale.
Lee Gregory took his season's tally to 12 goals with a stunning headed 14th-minute opener before adding his - and Millwall's second - with a 34th-minute penalty before Steve Morison added a third right on half-time.
Vale reduced the arrears in the second-half with a hooked finish from sub JJ Hooper on 61 minutes, but The Lions held firm for a morale-boosting victory and first 'double' of the season.
Lions boss Neil Harris made two changes to the side that started against Oxford United, with goalkeeper Jordan Archer returning between the sticks for his first appearance since 19th December, whilst Aiden O' Brien stepped in on the left wing, with Shane Ferguson reverting to left-back and Joe Martin dropping to the bench.
The Lions boss had demanded a positive response from his players following Thursday night's JPT tie, and that is exactly what he got with midfielder Jimmy Abdou, making his 300th appearance for the club, symptomatic of the hard-working ethic that ultimately paid dividends in the shape of a trio of goals and three points.
There were just five minutes on the clock when skipper Morison went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock for The Lions. A delightful move down the right involving O'Brien and Gregory sliced open the Valiants defence and handed an opportunity for Morison in a central position, but the striker steered his effort a foot wide of the post.
O'Brien twice put over inviting crosses that were gathered by keeper Jak Alnwick, making his 50th appearance for Vale.
However there was little Alnwick could do to keep out Gregory's opener for Millwall on 14 minutes with a marvellously crafted goal. The irrepressible Jed Wallace worked an opening on the right, delivered a delicious cross that picked out Gregory at the back post and the No.9 showed great strength and technique to send a looping header back across goal and into the net.
The Lions had keeper Archer to thank for preventing Vale getting back onto level terms just three minutes later, saving at full stretch to parry Sam Foley's drive and then blocking AJ Leitch Smith's follow up.
There were further chances for Millwall, though, who stretched the Vale rearguard with full-backs Shaun Cummings and Shane Ferguson, constantly adding their pace and passing to supplement the excellent work of Wallace and O'Brien in front of them.
A second goal was always on the cards and Gregory extended Millwall's lead on 34 minutes, clinically despatching a penalty into the bottom left corner after he had been fouled in the area by Vale skipper Carl Dickinson.
At this stage The Lions were brimming with confidence and their attacking football was rewarded with goal number three bang on half-time; Gregory's initial shot was parried and the ball fell to Morison, who controlled before coolly slotting home.
Vale introduced Sam Kelly for Colin Daniel at the break, but it was the double substitution which saw Hooper and Sam Kelly enter the fray that, for a period, upset Millwall's rhythm and increased Vale's threat going forward.
The visitors reduced the arrears barely 10 minutes later when Michael O'Connor whipped over a free-kick from the left and Hooper was on hand to hit a crisp shot that gave Archer no chance in the home goal.
The Lions responded by bringing on Ed Upson for Wallace on 63 minutes and the sub spurned a great opportunity to restore Millwall's two-goal cushion seven minutes later. A quick kick by Archer found Gregory, he flicked into O'Brien's path who in turn unselfishly teed up Upson. Unfortunately the latter opted to try and place a shot from 10 yards rather than blast it, and his effort was blocked for a corner.
With the crowd getting right behind them, Harris' men continued to press for a fourth goal and certainly created some opportunities in the final quarter of an hour.
Ferguson's tantalising 78th-minute ball flew across the face of goal, Dickson was a whisker away from lashing the ball into his own net trying to clear another dangerous cross and then Morison's shot on the turn from an O'Brien flick-on flew over the bar.
A fourth goal was not to come, but a very welcome three points were in the bag as The Lions saw out this game to move to within one point of the top six.
Archer, Cummings, Ferguson, Beevers, Webster, O'Brien (Marquis, 88mins), Williams, Abdou, Wallace (Upson, 63mins), Gregory (Onyedinma, 87mins), Morison. Subs not used: Forde, Martin, Nelson, Thompson.
Wallace (41mins), Abdou (48mins)
Gregory (14mins, 34mins pen), Morison (45mins)
Alnwick, Purkiss, Dickinson, McGivern, Duffy, O'Connor, Foley (Hooper, 55mins), Daniel (Kelly, 46mins), Brown, Moore (Dodds, 55mins). Letch-Smith. Subs not used: Neal, Streete, Yates, Grant.
Dickinson (23mins), Foley (31mins)
7,773 (away 287)
Tweets by @MillwallFC