Millwall 1-0 Aston Villa: Shaun Williams penalty hands Millwall victory
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 06/05/18 4:08pm
Millwall secured their highest league finish since 2002 after Shaun Williams' penalty earned them a 1-0 victory over Championship play-off contenders Aston Villa.
Williams sent goalkeeper Mark Bunn the wrong way from 12 yards on the half-hour mark to secure a seventh-place finish for Neil Harris' side on the final day.
Villa meanwhile were already confirmed to finish fourth in the table and will face Middlesbrough in the play-offs after Patrick Bamford's injury-time equaliser against Ipswich.
Stand-in Villa goalkeeper Bunn, making his first start since January 2017, did well to prevent his side from going behind in the 15th minute.
Aiden O'Brien's attempted cross was heading goalwards, forcing the alert keeper to tip the ball over the bar.
However, he was well beaten by Williams' winner from the spot, awarded by referee Tim Robinson for Henri Lansbury's clumsy foul on Jed Wallace.
Villa's best spell of the first half came after they went behind. Josh Onomah wasted an opportunity, shooting tamely straight at Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer after good play by Albert Adomah.
Tottenham loanee Onomah also gave Archer an easy save with a long-range effort three minutes before half-time.
Millwall could have doubled their advantage twice in the early exchanges after the break. First, Williams narrowly headed over Ben Marshall's corner before Fred Onyedinma missed the target having been played through by leading scorer Steve Morison.
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Goalkeeper Archer and the Millwall defence were rarely troubled by Villa in the second half, with their best opportunities all coming from distance.
Onomah's spectacular curling effort sailed narrowly over the bar, and Conor Hourihane's drive from 20 yards flew past the upright.
Archer's best save of the game came shortly after the hour, as he flew through the air to tip James Bree's curling effort from the edge of the box out for a corner.
Villa boss Steve Bruce made a triple substitution 16 minutes from time, bringing on Jack Grealish, Robert Snodgrass and former Lions striker Lewis Grabban, to inject life into Villa's sluggish attacking play.
Hourihane tested Archer with a volley shortly after, before Grealish's attempt to equalise at the back post was crucially blocked by Shaun Hutchinson.
Ultimately only late heroics by Bunn prevented Villa falling further behind at The Den.
The Villa goalkeeper kept out Lee Gregory's late penalty, awarded following lengthy consideration by Robinson, after Bree handled Onyedinma's header.
He also, somehow, saved James Meredith's rebound with his feet to keep it at 1-0.
Neil Harris: "Our aim come August 1 is to get 50 points next season. There has to be a sense of realism in terms of what we've achieved this year. We've improved in every transfer window that I've been here for and that's our challenge again this summer. I'm not going to go out and spend £15million on a striker but we need improvements.
"I think I've got talented players and a great group of lads. We set some tremendous records this year but we've fallen slightly short. "I wanted seventh spot - Preston pipped us to that - but 73 points and eighth against the calibre of teams in this league is a fantastic achievement."
Aston Villa assistant Colin Calderwood: "We need to play at a different level in our next game. We have to be more towards our A game than we were today - and we will be. The magnitude of the clubs involved in the play-offs this season make them all exciting games - and hard to call. We can't think that a play-off semi-final is the limit of our success.
"One moment we were playing Derby, then Boro scored. In our heads we always thought that it would be Boro. They'll be ready for us; we'll be ready for them."