Ol­lie’s un­earthed un­likely hero

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Joe Thomas To com­ment on this match go to http://boards.footy­mad.net/

IF Mill­wall fans had been look­ing for some­one to pin their sur­vival hopes on, it is a safe bet Ste­fan Maier­hofer was not the first per­son who sprang to mind.

When Aus­trian striker Maier­hofer landed at the Den last month on a short term deal, he had not played pro­fes­sion­ally since last sea­son and had been with­out a club since leav­ing FC Koln last sum­mer.

But af­ter Maier­hofer worked his way to­wards full match fit­ness, Mill­wall boss Ian Hol­loway has started to put him into bat­tle and he got his re­wards at the River­side Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

Maier­hofer, a pe­riph­eral for­mer Bay­ern Mu­nich for­ward, was hit a goal dou­ble in the 16th and the 30th min­utes to put Mill­wall in con­trol on Teesside and, de­spite a bril­liant free-kick from Em­manuel Ledesma ten min­utes be­fore the end, the vic­tory was se­cured. And, while Middlesbrough's play- offs hopes are ef­fec­tively over, the three points lift Mill­wall out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone ahead of to­mor­row’s visit of Don­caster, who are level on points with three games re­main­ing.

It could be that the tow­er­ing fig­ure of Maier­hofer has come good at just the right time – and Hol­loway is cer­tainly hop­ing so.

Hol­loway said: “We’ve got to keep go­ing. We’re un­beaten in five now. It’s a good job our fella’s big enough that he can head it in the net.They couldn’t han­dle our man up there. “I’m de­lighted for him. He’s helped our re­sults since I put him in the team. He’s an hon­est boy who works his socks off and he’s proved he can score.

“He’s unlocked the door for other people around him and Lee Martin is play­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well. He looks as good as he’s ever looked.”

Martin’s de­liv­er­ies cre­ated both goals for Maier­hofer and both were head­ers, the first cen­trally in the box af­ter a cor­ner was only half cleared and the sec­ond a back-post fin­ish when un­marked.

While Mill­wall are un­beaten in their last five, win­ning three, Middlesbrough’s four-match win­ning run came to an end. De­fen­sively they were poor af­ter Ai­tor Karanka scrapped the wing-backs and re­verted to a four-man de­fence af­ter the sec­ond goal had gone in.

Hope was raised when Ledesma curled in his 20-yard free-kick with ten min­utes re­main­ing af­ter Danny Gra­ham was fouled on the edge of the area. Still, though, Mill­wall cre­ated the clearer cut chances and Martin had a third ruled out for off­side when he re­acted to a Scott McDon­ald shot which was saved.

Karanka, whose side are now seven points shy of the top six



left ahead of the trip to Read­ing on Tues­day, said:“It’s dif­fi­cult for me to un­der­stand how a team of 11 play­ers who beat Burn­ley away last week couldn’t beat Mill­wall at home.

“I think we need to im­prove, to learn from this game, be­cause if we want to do some­thing in the fu­ture, we need to be stronger – not just on the pitch, we need to be stronger in our men­tal­ity.

“The prob­lem is that you can’t let them go 2-0 up at half-time. We had won four games in a row, and we had a very good op­por­tu­nity to get the fifth one and we didn’t get it. We need to learn from this for the fu­ture, be­cause It was very frus­trat­ing.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

BIG MO­MENT: Ste­fan Maier­hofer scores the first of his goal dou­ble for Mill­wall

free-kick TOO LATE:Ledesma scores

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