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Match Reports

Lions advance with Cheltenham victory

Carabao Cup action in SE16...

15 September 2020

Ryan Leonard, Connor Mahoney and Matt Smith were all on target as Millwall eased to a 3-1 Carabao Cup Second Round victory over Cheltenham Town at The Den on Tuesday evening.

Leonard opened the scoring with a powerful effort in the first half, before strikes from Mahoney and Smith ended the game as a contest around the hour-mark. Finn Azaz's goal got The Robins on the scoresheet, but Millwall held firm to advance to Round Three and a meeting with either Burnley or Sheffield United in SE16 next week.

Gary Rowett opted to field a strong side against The Robins, with Murray Wallace, Tom Bradshaw, Smith, Shane Ferguson, Mahlon Romeo, Ryan Woods and Mahoney all coming into the starting XI.

Millwall dominated the ball in the opening stages without threatening the Cheltenham penalty area - and it was actually The Robins who could have fashioned the first chance of the evening, but after Woods lost possession, Reuben Reid's through-ball to Alfie May was too long.

The Lions continued to hog the ball and nearly found a way through to goal with 11 minutes on the clock, but Mahoney's cross was just too far for the despairing dive of Bradshaw.

William Boyle made Bartosz Bialkowski work for the first time with a header three minutes later, before Smith nodded just wide at the other end. Mahoney then had Cheltenham goalkeeper Josh Griffiths scrambling to save with an effort from distance as chances began to become commonplace, with one of them turning into the opening goal of the evening on 19 minutes.

Murray Wallace looked for Smith with a lofted ball, and after the striker headed into the path of Bradshaw, his lay-off allowed the oncoming Leonard to rifle a vicious hit into the bottom corner and score the first goal of the game.

On the half-hour mark, two of those almost combined to double the lead, but after Smith met Mahoney's corner, Leonard glanced wide of the near post. The midfielder, clearly hungry for goals, then set up to strike from distance, but shot over the crossbar.

Shortly before the half-time break, May wriggled his way around the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a strike across goal which had Bialkowski grasping at thin air, but the ball went wide in the visitors' best chance to date. May then thought he had sprung the offside trap before slotting into the net, but he was ruled offside.

It took just four second-half minutes for The Lions to double their lead. Ferguson broke away down the left-hand side and crossed to the back post, where Mahoney was waiting to poke a difficult bouncing ball into the far corner of the net.

If The Robins were going to get back into the game it was going to come through May, and the frontman once again found the ball at his feet inside the penalty area on 55 minutes, but his attempt was well blocked by Shaun Hutchinson.

A third, however, was to follow for The Lions on 62 minutes, as substitute Jiri Skalak's cross was scuffed into the path of Smith by Ferguson, with the striker having no problems lifting the ball into the net from close range.

The Robins reduced the arrears on 69 minutes, though, as substitute Azaz's fierce shot was too hot for Bialkowski to handle - the stopper parrying the effort into the bottom corner.

Cheltenham's number 18 nearly doubled his and his side's tally five minutes later, but after twisting and turning his way past a dogged Woods, his effort was tipped wide by Bialkowski.

As the closing moments came into view, a Woods ball forward was cushioned into the path of Bradshaw but substitute Mason Bennett, but the striker dragged his effort wide. Cheltenham defender Boyle then directed a downward header towards goal in six minutes of stoppage-time, but Bialkowski gathered with ease.

Millwall: Bialkowski, M. Wallace, Hutchinson, Cooper, Bradshaw, Smith (J. Wallace 70'), Ferguson (Bennett 79'), Romeo (Skalak 60'), Leonard, Woods, Mahoney. Subs not used: Wright, Thompson, Malone, Bodvarsson.

Scorer: Leonard 19', Mahoney 49', Smith 62'

Cheltenham Town: Griffiths, Hussey, Tozer, Raglan, Thomas, Reid, May (Addai 65'), Blair, Boyle, Bonds, Sercombe (Azaz 46'). Subs not used: Harris, Clements, Williams, Freestone, Lloyd.

Scorer: Azaz 69'

Booking: Boyle

Referee: John Busby


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