A fragile Aston Villa side suffered more cup woe, this time in the fourth round of the FA Cup as they succumbed to a late John Marquis winner at Millwall. Following their League Cup exit three nights ago to fourth-tier outfit Bradford, the last thing Paul Lambert's side needed was a tricky FA Cup tie against more lower-league opposition.
Darren Bent was recalled by Lambert and opened the scoring for the Premier League strugglers, but the pressure continues to mount on the former Norwich boss as headers from Danny Shittu and Marquis sealed a well-deserved win for Millwall.
Villa started like a team under pressure and looked nervy in possession, with Millwall only able to fire in a couple of harmless long-range efforts. Lambert's side seemed to shake off their early worries and went ahead in the 22nd minute through Bent.
Fabian Delph robbed Liam Feeney of possession and Andreas Weimann capitalised, running on to the ball before forcing David Forde into action for the first time. The Lions' goalkeeper could only palm Weimann's effort into the path of Bent, whose miskicked effort crept over the line to give the beleaguered top-flight side the lead.
Headed out of the cup
The goal did not act as a calming influence on the Villa players, though, as they nearly conceded a quick equaliser when Shittu headed on to the roof of the net from a corner. The lesson was not learnt, however, and just five minutes after falling behind the hosts were level, as James Henry's corner found Shittu at the back post and the Millwall skipper rose to power a header past Shay Given.
The equaliser led to the nerves creeping back into Villa's game and meant the Championship promotion hopefuls went in level at the break.
Shittu epitomised Millwall's drive as he marshalled his backline with his no-frills style of defending. Villa substitute Barry Bannan arrowed in a shot that Forde again decided to push away but this time the ball bounced to safety.
The tie looked set for a replay at Villa Park until Millwall striker Marquis headed Adam Smith's cross on to the bar before reacting quickest to nod home the rebound.