Millwall 1 Pompey 0

Pompey captain Brett Pitman

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Pompey were nudged to a narrow defeat at Millwall yesterday.

And Lions striker Dany N’Guessan took it literally during a controversial finale at The Den.

With the Boxing Day encounter entering the 81st minute, the impressive Liam Feeney swung in a cross from the right.

Liam Trotter rose highest to flick the ball on – and then N’Guessan played his dastardly part.

The powerfully-built front man appeared to push Hayden Mullins out of the way as he turned and pounced.

Replays certainly highlighted as much as the Blues midfielder tumbled to the floor in untimely fashion.

While Millwall fans celebrated and their team mobbed the match-winner, Pompey’s players gathered around the referee.

Nigel Miller was not interested, though, much to the disgust of the visiting players.

Prior to the incident, the County Durham official had long been a target of the hostile Den crowd, who were often left furious by his decisions.

Ultimately, he played a crucial part in their 1-0 victory as N’Guessan’s goal was allowed to stand.

For Michael Appleton, it was a first defeat in five matches as he has steadily began to haul Pompey up the league.

They were certainly the better side during the first half, with some neat play and clever football at times.

But goal-scoring has long been the Achilles heel of this Pompey squad and so it proved once again.

Steve Mildenhall had one save to make for the Lions during the entire 90 minutes.

That was after three minutes, when David Norris crashed a 25-yarder straight at him, failing to cause the stopper too much trouble.

Meanwhile, Liam Lawrence wasted a free header eight yards out from Erik Huseklepp’s cross on the stroke of half-time.

Not good enough, especially considering the amount of possession they enjoyed at times.

Unfortunately for Pompey, it was the hosts who finished far stronger – even before the controversial winner.

Indeed, Appleton’s side couldn’t even muster a reaction to that moment, as Millwall continued to pour forward looking to add to their tally.

Nonetheless, come the final whistle, both Mullins and then Lawrence angrily confronted the referee in the centre of the pitch.

The duo clearly thought they were hard done by in that decisive 81st minute.

Having studied action replays, they certainly had a point – not that it mattered as Millwall edged themselves to a win which put space between them and relegation zone.

For Pompey, controversy aside, their goal-scoring problems remain and next up is a tough trip to Leicester on New Year’s Eve.

Before the match, Lawrence was declared fit after being troubled by a sore hamstring following his last outing.

That Southampton encounter represented the skipper’s comeback match after six weeks out of action.

Despite that concern, he was able to keep his place for the visit to The Den and operated in the centre of midfield.

It was the recall of George Thorne by West Brom which prompted the only change to the side which drew against Southampton last weekend.

His return to the Baggies opened up a spot in midfield, with Huseklepp coming back into the team.

The Norwegian international returned to the left flank, with the in-form Joel Ward continuing on the right-hand side of midfield.

There was also a recall for Ryan Williams on the bench, the first time he had made a Pompey squad since October.

On that occasion he made the trip to Leeds for Steve Cotterill’s last match in charge – but he hasn’t made the match-day 16 since.

Meanwhile, Luke Varney was still absent with a medial knee ligament strain, his second match on the sidelines.

It was Pompey who had the first attempt on goal as early as the third minute.

The ball invitingly fell to Norris some 25-yards out in the centre of the pitch and he fired in a half-volley which was straight down the throat of Mildenhall.

The visitors had a scare in the 13th minute when Feeney tricked his way past Joe Mattock and whipped in a dangerous cross. Ricardo Rocha managed to get his head on it before Joel Ward hacked it clear with Millwall players ready to pounce.

The Blues had appeals for a penalty in the 18th minute when Ward was nudged over by Shane Lowry as he attempted to meet Dave Kitson’s cross.

But referee Miller was not interested and play continued, much to the away fans’ disappointment. Norris had another sniff of goal in the 42nd minute when he poked the ball past substitute Alan Dunne to put himself clean through.

But as the midfielder lined-up a half-volley he lost his footing and the moment had gone.

Soon after, Huseklepp’s cross from the left picked out Lawrence with a free header from eight yards out.

But somehow the skipper managed to send his attempt embarrassingly wide when in truth he should have opened the scoring.

On the stroke of half-time, Feeney drove in an angled shot which Stephen Henderson did brilliantly to parry.

Then Trotter’s follow-up into an empty net was magnificently blocked by the flying body of Jason Pearce and the visitors cleared.

Ward went off injured in the 48th minute, appearing to pull up after a run and cross down the flank.

He was replaced by Aaron Mokoena, with the South African slotting in at right-back and Greg Halford moving forward to the right-hand side of midfield.

Henderson produced a magnificent fingertip save to beat out Brian Howard’s 66th minute free-kick, which appeared to be rocketing into the top corner of the net.

Minutes later, substitute John Marquis found himself in space on the right.

But he crashed a first-time right-foot shot across the face of goal when he should have done better.

Then in the 82nd minute came the match-winning moment.

Feeney crossed, Trotter got his head to the ball then came N’Guessan’s nudge.

And that was game, set and match amid controversial circumstances as Pompey’s recent revival hit the buffers.