Millwall 2 Preston North End 1 match report: Lilywhites throw away the lead and lose at The Den
Preston North End were unable to hang on to an early lead and went down to defeat against Millwall at The Den.
Ched Evans' superb 12th minute volley from outside the box saw North End surge in front in South London.
It was an advantage they held until six minutes before half-time when Scott Malone fired home from 20 yards to pull the home side level.
The Lions did most of the second-half attacking, North End's performance rather leggy and tired.
It looked like they would hang on to get a share of the spoils against a Millwall side who are the Championship's draw specialists but there was a sting in the tail.
Four minutes from time, the visitors were caught out by a long ball over the top, one which Mason Bennett got to before the hesitant Daniel Iversen to jump and head the ball over him into the net.
Although North End were below par, they still will have been disappointed to let the points slip after taking the lead.
Traditionally, if they score the first goal in a game they tend to get something out of it, but not on this occasion.
Jayson Molumby replacing injured skipper Alan Browne had been the only change made to the starting XI by Alex Neil, this a return to South London for the Irishman after he spent last season on here with the Lions.
On the bench there was a first inclusion in the senior squad for first-year scholar Lewis Leigh - the midfielder a Preston lad who attended Ashton High School.
The early action saw Jon Dadi Bodvarsson send a shot well side of the target, while Ben Whiteman tried his luck with a free-kick which skidded wide.
North End took the lead in the 12th minute, a moment of quality from Evans with his finish.
They broke up a Millwall attack, the ball moved down the right-wing to Scott Sinclair who looked up and played a diagonal ball towards the edge of the box where Anthony Gordon and Brad Potts were both lurking.
George Evans headed it away on the edge of the box but the ball fell to Evans who let fly with a left-foot volley across the keeper into the corner of the net.
It was an outstanding strike and piece of opportunism, that the Welshman's third goal in Preston colours.
North End soaked up pressure as the first half went on, looking to break on the counter whenever the chance arose.
Millwall began to have more joy with their attacking play, Sepp van den Berg blocking a shot on the turn from Shaun Hutchinson in the six-yard box.
The home side equalised six minutes before half-time, Malone's finish a very good one but PNE will be disappointed with their defending.
Mahlon Romeo's pass found Malone on the left, the wing-back allowed to take the ball forward a few strides without before challenged, before unleashing a shot from outside the box which fell into the top corner.
Six minutes into the second half, Whiteman's corner from the right was cleared as far as Andrew Hughes just inside the box, the defender's left-foot clearing the bar.
North End made their first change of the night before the hour mark had been reached, Tom Barkhuizen replacing Gordon - probably with the impact Barkhuizen had made off the bench against Huddersfield in mind.
A couple of chances fell the home side's way, the second of which PNE could consider a let-off that it was missed.
The first saw Romeo's long throw-in flicked to Bodvarsson who sent a header straight at Ivernsen.
Then Bennett lifted the ball over the bar from eight yards after Hughes had lost possession on the ball crossed from Millwall's right.
Millwall's pressure began to grow and they went close in the 76th minute as they caught North End on the break.
Greg Cunningham was tackled by Romeo in the hosts half, Ryan Woods taking possession and advancing up the pitch as PNE backed off.
Woods slipped a pass down the right hand side of the box to find Jed Wallace, his low shot flashing across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
Malone then chanced his arm again, shooting from a similar position in which he scored the equaliser, this time the ball clearing the bar.
Daniel Johnson replaced Sinclair with 10 minutes left, Potts moving out to the right to accommodate DJ behind Evans.
Millwall took the lead in the 86th minute with a goal which was a poor one to concede.
Iversen's goal kick was won in the air by the Millwall defence, Woods getting to the second ball and knocking a long ball over the top.
Bennett chased it and as Iversen hesitated as he came to claim, the Millwall striker headed it over him into the net.
Millwall: Bialkowski, Hutchinson, Cooper, Evans, Romeo, Mitchell, Woods, Malone, Wallace, Bennett (Thompson 90), Bodvarsson (Smith 85). Subs (not used): Williams, Ferguson, Pearce, McNamara, Tiensia, Burey, Fielding.
PNE: Iversen, van den Berg, Storey, Hughes, Cunningham, Whiteman, Molumby, Sinclair (Johnson 80), Potts (Riis 89), Gordon (Barkhuizen 58), Evans. Subs (not used): Bayliss, Rafferty, Huntington, Rodwell-Grant, Leigh, Ripley.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
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