Where did it all go wrong?

Bradford City 1

McMahon 13 (pen)

Millwall 3

Gregory 15, Morison 34, Martin 45

Sunday 15 May, 2016

By Jason McKeown

It was brutal. It was clinical. It was heart-breaking.

Bradford City’s promotion dream lies tatters. Only the most insanely optimistic of us still believe that the situation can be rescued at the Den on Friday. Even for a football club that has borne witness to some pretty amazing miracles over the past four years, this one looks completely beyond us.

That Millwall gave themselves so much daylight over the Bantams, so early in the two-legged tie, was crushing. They were robust, physical but plainly exceptional too. There was nothing subtle about their direct and uncompromising approach. They absolutely bullied a Bradford City team who have so often over-powered opponents in a similar manner. They overcame early adversity, and a hostile crowd, to sail into a sizeable half time advantage, and then they saw it out.

There is plenty of bluster and positive talk emanating out of Valley Parade in the aftermath; but however much Phil Parkinson and his players defiantly talk about the tie not being over yet, right now such words feel nothing more than token, well-what-else-could-they-say type of comment. There really are only the fewest crumbs of comfort to take down to London on Friday night. This first leg could not have gone much worse for the Bantams.

They are so much better than what they showed today, and that is the greatest crime. Defeat wasn’t caused by a lack of effort, or through a badly-thought out game plan. Several players froze. People who for weeks have looked flawless suddenly fell to pieces. Their composure went out the window, and they looked devoid of the self-assurance that has taken them to such heights.

This was despite been given a helping hand – quite literally – that for 90 wonderful seconds brought the dream of reaching another Wembley final tantilisingly close. Early doors Tony McMahon had craftily delivered a free kick to the far post, where Jamie Proctor had pulled away from his marker. His header back across goal was waiting for Filipe Morais to head home, but Millwall’s Joe Martin stuck up his hand, preventing the ball reaching the Portuguese and prompting the awarding of a penalty.

McMahon duly dispatched from 12 yards, and three sides of a heaving Valley Parade let out an almighty roar. And at that point, after 10 minutes of promising City play, and with a wonderfully charged atmosphere generating amazing levels of volume, the script looked good. For a few seconds, we ignored the fact Millwall had also looked purposeful early on, and that McMahon’s altercation with Chris Taylor as he prepared to take the penalty – the City man should have been sent off for shoving the former Oldham man in the face – offered hints that our players weren’t exactly handling the occasion brilliantly.

It was all looking so good, but then it crumbled apart.

A minute after McMahon’s opener, a deep free kick from Millwall saw Steve Morison easily get free of Rory McArdle, and the Welsh international flicked the ball to Lee Gregory, who turned Nathan Clarke with ease and smashed it past an unsighted Ben Williams. It was a deadly piece of finishing. Gregory raced over to the corner of the Kop and goaded home fans – an interesting reaction from the former Halifax man, suggesting he felt he had a point to prove today. The tie was all square straightaway.

Which was the cue for it all to go wrong for City. But before we pour over just what happened, it’s worth remembering one of the smaller but not insignificant narratives of this campaign – just how badly the team have reacted to adversity. When City lost at home to bottom-club Colchester at the beginning of March, it was despite the fact they had taken the lead and for a period had looked invincible. They conceded an equaliser, fell apart, and eventually lost the game. They couldn’t rediscover their authority and composure.

It wasn’t the first time this has happened this season either. City’s in-game management through difficult moments has not been good enough when it has been needed. Their record when falling behind in matches is woeful. Their powers of recovery have been insufficient.

All season long, Phil Parkinson has very quickly got his players to turn around a bad result through his work on the training ground, but he can’t do much in the middle of a match itself. City’s lack of leaders has been a hindrance at times, and left some unanswered questions in spite of the superb late season form.

Alas, it happened again here. At 1-1 City were stung. They were caught out by the speed of Millwall’s response, as though they had assumed their opponents might crumble from going 1-0 down in front of 19,000 people. Gregory’s excellent goal was a shock to their swagger, and they lost control of the match.

Millwall dominated the next 20 minutes, with City looking increasing fraught and anxious in possession. No where was this most evident than the central midfield, where Josh Cullen and, to a lesser extent, Lee Evans wilted under the pressure. They were battered by their more physical counterparts, who bulldozed their way through with ease. McMahon continued to be more keen on arguing with the referee than assisting his young colleagues, whilst Kyel Reid played with his head down.

It was so depressing to see Cullen – in so many ways the hero of the second half of the season – fall to pieces like that. He is such a talented young lad, and you can only hope that he will emerge a better player for going through such an ordeal. He will have learned a lot about the game today, and his mental strength is facing a severe test.

The ball kept coming back towards a City backline that was robbed of the services of the hugely influential Reece Burke. McArdle, despite his mistake for the equaliser, defended manfully. Nathan Clarke’s lack of pace was painfully exposed, and he had a tough afternoon. The home players tried to weather the storm, but it was unrelenting.

Millwall’s second goal had felt increasingly inevitable, but was scored in criminal fashion for City. A corner was swung over slowly and James Meredith lost sight of Morison. Jamie Proctor, whose job it was to attack balls into the box rather than mark anyone, failed to spot the danger. Morison was left unchallenged to produce a bullet header into the net.

Morison and Gregory have more than 40 goals between them and were simply too good for City today. They have a terrific relationship and offer a great combination of experience, brute force and craft. What a shame City couldn’t have afforded to have bought Gregory when he was knocking in goals for fun next door at the Shay.

The contrast at the other end could not have been greater. We knew that Billy Clarke was going to miss this game, but James Hanson’s late failure to prove his fitness was a major blow (there are rumours, too, that he is set to leave this summer).

City’s play off push has been built upon two different, but effective strike partnerships, and Parkinson went into this tie missing one from each duo. So he opted to select Proctor with Morais. They had never played together before, and boy did it show.

There is, inevitably, some criticism towards Parkinson for picking these two, but it’s hard to see what other choice he had. Steve Davies was back from suspension, but hasn’t started a game in months. He also has never partnered either Proctor or Morais. Parkinson had to select Proctor and Morais and hope, but it didn’t pay off.

The problem was obvious. Proctor likes to play with his back to goal, and so works well with a striker who plays deeper, namely Billy Clarke. In contrast, Hanson is more adept at flicking things on and charging into the box, and so fares better with a partner who will run the channels as the most forward player, a role Morais can perform.

So time and time again today, Proctor picked up the ball with his back to goal, and literally couldn’t see where Morais was. Morais made some good off-the-ball runs, but it wasn’t worked through to him quickly enough. It just didn’t work out. Morais barely touched the ball in the first half, save for a decent shot from the edge of the box that almost made it 2-2.

A minute before half time, Martin atoned for his earlier mistake in giving away a penalty by smashing a long range free kick into the top corner for 3-1. Williams probably could have done more to prevent it arrowing into the net. Gregory had a chance to make it four before the break. The referee’s half time whistle came as a huge relief.

It had been wretched. City’s lack of experience and leadership in the middle of the park was telling. And it might have already cost them this tie.

Parkinson’s words at half time had a positive effect. City were much better in the second half, as they battled to at least reduce the arrears. The midfield was better, Proctor continued to run his heart out, and James Meredith cemented his status as City man of the match from an admittedly weak field of contenders. Quite wonderfully, the crowd stayed behind their team. The noise levels remained impressive, the chanting and roars of encouragement helped to keep them going. This was not an afternoon to groan and boo. Our team needed us.

If City could have gotten a goal back during the very encouraging first 15 minutes of the second half, it might have proven a very different story. They certainly should have. Proctor chased a seemingly lost cause but won possession by the corner flag, he raced towards the box, pulled the ball back to the excellently positioned Morais, who had a lot of goal to aim at. But instead of the ball nestling into the net, Morais incredibly put it wide of the target. A truly shocking miss, and one that could have sealed his team’s fate.

Nathan Clarke saw a header from a corner tipped over, and Lee Evans flashed two long range efforts narrowly past the post. But for all of City’s second half dominance, they didn’t offer enough of a goal threat. The substitutes, Steve Davies and Paul Anderson, had limited impact. The clock ticked down troublingly quickly.

Millwall had stood firm. After the game the outstanding Morison talked of how they had known to expect the second half onslaught from City. Having bullied their opponents they proved that they could not be bullied back. It wasn’t pretty from them, and the extent of the time-wasting employed left a sour taste, but you have to admire their stubbornness. They stood up to everything City threw at them. They merited their first leg victory.

What hope is there for City to cling onto? Expect to hear lots of talk about Blackpool and Burton over the next few days, and whether this Bantams side can emulate such feats of overturning a first leg home defeat. There will be claims too that City are capable of going down to the Den and winning. Of scoring the required number of goals to claim an aggregate victory. It is true that they can, of course it is, but they have the slimmest of chances.

The victory over Blackpool was as much about the Tangerines’ complacency than it was Chris Kamara’s clever tactics. As for Burton three years ago, the crucial factor over those two ties was that – in the same situation as today of going in at half time 3-1 down in the first leg – City pulled a goal back in the second half through Garry Thompson’s blockbuster. That unnerved Burton, who knew they had blown a chance to effectively seal the tie. Millwall did not make that mistake today.

And, ultimately, Millwall don’t look like a team daft enough to be over-confident, or soft enough to let self-doubt creep in. They were fantastic here, and if they are half as good again on Friday – in front of a packed out home crowd – they will be celebrating achieving a trip to Wembley.

It looks utterly hopeless for City.

All of which leaves us, as supporters, in a strange position. There is such a widespread feel of deflation and heartbreak tonight. Some are angry at the team and the manager, but what exactly for is unclear. This wasn’t their finest hour for sure, but no can dispute how much they care and how much effort they put into the game. Some are talking up City’s chances and that is understandable. But for the rest of us in the middle, we are simply lost.

Do you allow hope to remain, knowing it will be almost definitely crushed in the second leg? Do we grieve about the failure to get promoted now, so that by Friday we can either shrug our shoulders in defiance or – if City somehow pull it off – celebrate like we’ve never celebrated before?

I suspect we will do both, at differing times this week. At first, with the pain at its rawest, we will not entertain credible thought to a miraculous recovery, and instead continue to bemoan where it all went wrong. But maybe by Wednesday or Thursday we will catch ourselves daydreaming at work or at school about a 3-0 victory at Millwall, and we will keep Sunday 29 May free in our diary, just in case. And then at 7.45pm on Friday at the Den we will either be at the Den or in front of a TV with a chink of hope that, if we could just get the first goal before half time, and if we can get to 70 minutes still in with a shout, then maybe, just maybe.

We’ll allow ourselves a small shot of belief, before we give up entirely on this season and this team.

I hope so, but right now such positivity is beyond me. I want to wallow in self-pity. Draw the curtains. Not venture outside. Avoid friends and work colleagues who will mock. Ignore anyone who happened to watch my team on TV and wants to share a misguided opinion on my players. Reflect and feel very miserable.

I just hope that it doesn’t last long, because I fear that I’ll be spending all summer reliving that Morais miss. I worry I’ll be daydreaming my way through a meeting at work in June and accidentally scream out “WHY WAS NO ONE MARKING MORISON?!”, unable to let it go.

We’ve had a great few years watching City, and this feels like the first major set back in a while, one that will take a long time to get over. I hope I’m wrong, and that this feeling is gone by Friday night, in the midst of beer-soaked celebrations about an unbelievable City triumph in Millwall. I’m still keeping Sunday 29 May free in my diary, just in case.

You just never know.

City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, N Clarke, Meredith, McMahon (Anderson 82), Cullen, Evans, Reid, Morais (Davies 70), Proctor

Not used: Cracknell, Leigh, Morris, Routis

Categories: Match Reviews, The 2015/16 play offs

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

36 replies

  1. i always agree with the vast majority of what you write, but as poor as the result was today, everything went right for Millwall.
    Will it on Friday/
    An early goal by City and its game on.
    Millwalls to lose!
    The pressure will certainly be on MIllwall, and City should go there with an attitude of nothing to lose, everything to gain.
    i wont write them off yet.
    It will be formidable, it will be difficult, and if I am honest the odds are stacked against us but it can be done.
    A few questions from today though.
    Why no card for the handling offence?
    (I agree McMahon may have gone for the reaction)
    Their player then tried through the entire game to provoke McMahon into doing something which would have earned a red card. Disgraceful behavior.
    Why don teams not put a player on each post for free kicks any more to prevent free kicks like that being placed near the posts?
    Why did the ref not spot some of the tactics employed by the two Millwall centre backs?

    Yes the odds are stacked against us, but we should know not to write of PP and this team.

    • We saw in the league game what type of team Millwall are so nothing surprised me about their physicality and over-the-line tackling. The ref kept his cards in his pocket all day when he could have booked a lot of people.

    • The lack of control by the referee seemed as though he was mindful of tv “entertainment” (better to see eleven v eleven) A clear hand ball to prevent a goal scoring opportunity should in my understanding result in a sending off but forgive me for sour grapes! Then Mcmahon should have got a red for raising his hands but if the defender had been off maybe the defender wouldn’t have been so provocative. But big decisions the ref. got entirely wrong imo.
      Why do keepers stand to one side inviting the shot to the other where he can’t reach it and if he can’t see the static ball make the wall smaller
      Millwall will have no fear about their chances on Friday so if we get the spins, ricochets and deflections for encouragement, we might just have half a chance, but I’ll be there

    • You were beaten by a team that went about the job at hand and scored 3 intelligently worked goals. …get over it

    • I always enjoy reading your match reports Jason. Most of what you have to say is always accurate and sensible. As is the case with this report on the Millwall game. However, I do find that like a very large percentage of fellow City fans, you do often tend to swing between euphoria and depression! Hence the reason for my very much out of character decision to comment publically.
      I have been a City fan for some 60 years and have developed a very simple philosophy towards my approach to being in this privileged position. I am always optimistic, and I always believe that my team can win their next game. Because I know that they are capable of a great performance. I accept that sometimes they will make mistakes, and be below par and lose games – or that that sometimes the other side will quite simply just be the better team on the day. Or as we so often say – it may just not be our day. I know that this situation can continue for one match, or several, or a whole season! But I also know that this will not always be so. I went to Chelsea with this belief – and I went to the Capital One cup final with this belief. So it doesn’t always work out.
      The one important thing I am certain of is that as a unit – management – players – fans – we have to believe that we can win our next game. If it is our day on Friday we will win by enough. If not, and we have carried that belief – at least we will have tried our best. And there will always be another season.

      • “I do find that like a very large percentage of fellow City fans, you do often tend to swing between euphoria and depression”

        Unfortunately I am plain and simply just a Bradford City fan. I’m not a professional like Simon Parker. With WOAP, I have and always will tell it how I see it, through my supporter eyes.

        Maybe one day I can be a football reporter on a team I have no feelings for, and keep the same reserved and professional tone throughout. Maybe one day I’ll get the call up to replace Simon Parker and have to rein it all in (it would be a dream job for sure). But until then, I’m just a City fan.

  2. Great article again Jason, as a city fan whom went to the game today all I can hope for is a repeat of the endeavor that was shown in the second half. This way if the result is not enough to make the play off final, then we can take hope that the players tried to make amends for a wretched first half. My heart says yes we can do it, and my brain will probably know at 9:30 Friday night. Come on CITY, I.P.W.T .

  3. gutted, gutted, gutted! We missed Burke today, not because Clarke is poor, but he doesn’t bring to the party what Burke does. Spot on comments about the strikers. A better City will turn up to the Den on Friday. I don’t think we’ll lose, but given City’s scoring record, I probably speak for many when I say I think Milwall will shut up shop and are probably just out of reach. City will put everything they have into trying to redress the balance.

  4. great report I would just like to add.
    1) Nathan Clarke was exposed. Despite playing well since his dodgy start I hope he is not one of our first choice centre back next season.
    2) I was confused as to why Morrais did not go on the right when davies was brought. It was clearly not working out for McMahon his set pieces were poor. Morrais could have got at the fullback and created a supply for davies n proctor.
    3) Why did Reid not attempt to take their full back on in the first 45?
    4) Gutted that Cullen and Evans bottled it in the first half. They have been fantastic in recent weeks. They got better in the 2nd half.
    5) I thought Anderson was brought on too late and he never went out wide when he came on.

    Leaving the game yesterday I was confident that we could do the impossible on Friday. However on reflecting I think this is as far as it goes this season.

  5. All about the next goal this one, for me. If we can get it, the nerves will definitely start to jangle.

    If they get it, we’re screwed.

    I don’t hold out a great deal of hope, but you just never know

  6. Excellent article.

    Millwall were different class.

    Our second half performance probably misleading. Millwall sat back and allowed ud oodles of possession but we lacked any ideas on how to hurt them.

    It is about the next goal and our goalscoring shortcomings have been masked recently as we have scraped 1-0 wins. Sadly as I feared and fear on Friday our ability to score will cost us. It’s not over but in reality it is.

  7. It was the best of times it was the worst of times……..

    Another great article Jason and it really sums up how I feel.

    You are absolutely right by Wednesday/Thursday our feeling of despair and despondency and ‘typical (insert adjective) City’ to have blown it will give way to a slither of optimism….. ‘if we get the first goal’… etc. etc.

    I VPN’d into the match today at 4am and like everyone else was absolutely gutted by the result. All week I’ve been reading brilliant articles here on WOAP (I especially enjoyed Katie’s from the other day) and then this happens. I think, for me, that the misery is compounded by the fact that I did not see this result happening at all. A victory by City? Yes. A narrow win? Likely. A draw? Possible. A 3-1 thumping? Certainly not.

    I think today just showed how important Reece and James are to our team, without whom we fell painfully short and let’s hope they will be with us next season and that the rumours are just rumours.

    I missed ‘Boro away in the play-offs back in ’88 (we lost), but was there at Blackpool away in ’96 (we won – Wembley) and got to Burton away in ’13 (we won – Wembley) and I’ll be there at the New Den on Friday night. I’m not expecting a miracle as on the previous two occasions as I really think Millwall will do a Reading reply to us.

    No, this final trip across the pond this season for me is to thank the Parkie, the backroom staff, the players and all the staff at the club for a great end to what has been a stop start season. Who would have thought we’d have got to the play-offs at all?

    Yes I’m super gutted and may point fingers about what went wrong today but what Parkie has done by getting us into the play offs is to create genuine optimism around the club with a feel good factor and that’s what’s needed to get bums on seats next season for our promotion push. It was a great call by the Club to announce ST prices for next season ahead of today’s match.

    I only wish we had one more match after Friday as that would be great finale for WOAP to finish on before the hiatus starts. Imagine the final report commenting on a Bradford win over Barnsley in the final – a very fitting end to a fantastic website.

    But….. who knows right? Crazier things have happened in footy haven’t they? I mean there is no way a team like Leicester can win the League, can they?

    Time for bed and to dream about the impossible…………..

    • The year of the underdog ! Leicester as Champions of the PL ? Whatever !! But they are !!
      Against form – Sheffield Wednesday 2 – 0 up, over Brighton ………..Derby car crashing against Hull, Barnsley storming into a 3 – 0 lead over Walsall, Wimbledon leading the tie against Accrington, who have been on a fantastic run. Just give me one more unlikely result …… City to defy all and every odds.

  8. I think you’re being a little harsh on Meredith and Williams for the 2nd and 3rd goals Jason. Mezza was blocked off by another Millwall player which allowed Morrison to get free (although why he was marking their biggest aerial threat, I’m not sure), and the free kick went in over the wall – the keepers job is to cover the other side, so I can’t be critical of him, it was just a cracking finish.

    I was as down as this article yesterday afternoon and hid in my shed away from a family gathering. But a couple of defiant tweets I read yesterday gave me a little hope. Its half time, City can, and I think will, play better. Who knows, maybe everything won’t go Millwall’s way on Friday like it did yesterday. Their players and fans behaved like they were already at Wembley after the final whistle and their celebrations for the goals were cockiness personified. PP should show the players footage of that.

    • Hi Leon
      The point I was making about keepers was illustrated by the free kick, the wall had no chance of an up over and dip so he needed to be able to cover the whole goal m or have someone on the line which has offside implications for follow up play. Its an issue for the keeper’s coach to address.

      • But then Williams would be doubly slated if he let a shot in on ‘his’ side. The way he did it is how most keepers set up to defend for free kicks. Its an imperfect defence, but means that only the best free kicks will go in, and that was one of them. It was right inside the post and Williams did brilliantly just to get a hand on it I thought.

  9. I feared this because I thought Millwall were a better team than City a month ago, and lost because they played negatively and dirtily.
    Remember the words of Brian Noble. …a good team does not become a bad team because it plays badly once.
    City were second-best today, but when you rely on 1-0 wins you struggle as soon as the opposition scores, and worse if they score twice. We need a few players with a bit more class.
    Remember also, about 4 years ago, City had to win at Northampton to be certain of staying in the Football League.
    They are now in the play-offs with a team of cast-offs, free agents and loanees.
    I expected top ten this season, I got top six.
    Let’s be proud of what we have done, and look forward. Maybe there will be a miracle.
    Finally, I thought the referee did well, allowing play to continue.

  10. If we play like we did 2nd half but with a little more composure in front of goal it is definitely possible.

    It will be difficult and what hasn’t been mentioned on here was Proctor 2nd half stone wall penalty.

    If we get these decisions to go our way we certainly have a chance

    If it doesn’t happen we have still improved and hopefully the usual idiots wont be out with Parky out

  11. I am surprised more hasn’t been made of the penalty incident. Martin realising that Morais is going to have a free header at goal, deliberately raises his hand to prevent this, which denies a clear goalscoring opportunity, and it should’ve been a red card.

    It is therefore unlikely the events that followed would’ve ensued, but going down to 10 men, Harris would’ve taken off one of his strikers, probably Gregory, who wouldn’t have been on the pitch to score the equaliser, and neither would Martin who scored the third.

    There was also the penalty that should’ve been given for the foul on Proctor.

    That’s why we get incredibly frustrated with officials as a lot of times it is their decisions that decide a game, which was none more in evidence yesterday. Granted we defended poorly first half, but everything just went for Millwall on the day, and if luck does even itself out, then surely we are due the same type of breaks in the return leg. Coupled with all that we have achieved over the last few seasons I wouldn’t rule us out just yet.

    • Is it a red card though? I’m not convinced. A booking yes, but it’s not denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. Even if Morais had got there, there were 2 defenders on the line. (If it had have gotten to Morais, he headed it at goal and the Millwall defender handled it, that would have been a red card).

      Equally, McMahon should have walked, so it would never have been 11 v 10.

      • On the McMahon incident I tend to agree that he should have got the red card – however I do have to question what Taylor was doing in there rolling the ball to a different place on the spot – which is what provoked McMahon.

        My understanding of the laws is that when a free kick has been given players of the opposing team have to retreat 10 yards. It always bugs me when they stand in front of the ball delaying the opposition or annoying them. As for much else in football, if referees took a stand and told teams that one weekend they would book all players who didn’t move away then it would stop more or less overnight.

        Bring on Friday.

      • Clearly the incident was beyond the ref’s capability as he wasn’t even booked! The messing about by the Millwall players had him bamboozled. I agree Mcmahon should have gone, I simply don’t think there is room for his mischief as it would seem to justify all the oposition’s feigning injury etc. But I agree the defender should have gone.

      • Even if there was someone on the line, if your opponent deliberately moves his hand towards the ball to stop the forward having an attempt on goal, that to me is still denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

        Maybe I am old school, but I thought the McMahon incident was no more than a yellow card. I would also argue that he wouldn’t have reacted in that way if he had just seen one of his opponents been sent off.

        Even if it had been 10 v 10, two of their goalscorers most probably wouldn’t have been on the pitch, so the penalty decision has had a massive impact on the game.

        Even if you take the Proctor penalty incident in isolation, which should’ve been given, then the difference between going there only one goal down, as opposed to the two is absolutely huge.

      • Law 12:

        There are two sending-off offences that deal with denying
        an opponent an obvious opportunity to score a goal:
        If a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious
        scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball.
        If a player denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an
        opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence
        punishable by a free kick (direct or indirect) or a penalty kick.

        If that is not a clear goal scoring opportunity for a professional footballer earning a couple of grand a week then something is wrong!

  12. As a Millwall fan, I would just like to thank you for your articulate and honest report…your assessment is pretty acurate, although not sure I’d agree that Millwall are a team that Bullies opposition, at least not in the traditional sense. I have to admit, that i was a doubter when Neil Harris was appointed as manager, after all, why would any club put a ” club legend” into a position where there are only two ways out…get sacked or resign. However, whatever he’s done on the training ground, has done the trick. All of a sudden we have something to cheer about, a reason to puff our chests out with pride again…and believe me it’s been a long ten years waiting for that!
    As for Bradford, you ARE one of our bogey teams, without doubt, and i thought your second half performance in the first leg was what was needed to satisfy your support, if only partly. Bradford were full of bluster, courage and good intent, but our defence has been pretty solid recently, and to be honest, didn’t think you had anything on the pitch that was going to breach it.
    And so to Friday night. You guys are going to experience the first full house (not quite full as the police place restrictions on us) for ten years and a cauldron of noise that you might not have experienced before (certainly not in the Premiership!), and i guess it’s how you handle it. As many of you rightly point out, an early goal for you will give you a fighting chance, and frankly if i was a neutral, that’s what I’d like to see because it will mean that there will be a battle for the rest of the evening.
    Anyway, whatever happens, may i wish you luck, for next season, in League one (hopefully).


    • You have probably not heard Valley Parade when its rocking (it was strangely subdued and maybe nervous on Sunday). I think you tend to overplay your reputation and the intimidation of the Den. Its nothing we are not used to. However I was shocked to see many of your fans on Sunday who certainly looked like a throwback to the 80s.
      In terms of bullying our players, certainly the right sided midfield player spent the entire game trying to provoke McMahon so that he would be sent off. That is disgraceful behaviour. Gregory dived to gain the free kick and was not even touched, and lots of times your players went down feigning injury when they were simply slowing down the City momentum. In addition the referee missed the pushes dished out by the two centre backs or bottled it. Whatever.

      • ‘I think you tend to overplay your reputation and the intimidation of the Den. Its nothing we are not used to’.

        You wait and see,

      • I think I might have to disagree with you here Mark.

        The few Millwall supporters I met at the weekend and certainly the guys that have commented on here are a million miles away from the ones you think of in the 80’s – to the point that I was actually quite surprised. It goes to show how you have to continually re-appraise the preconceptions you carry around in your head.

  13. Yes I agree a very good article, and thanks for your unbiased opinions. We are very lucky at Millwall at the moment with a team of Millwall players. You would only understand the term “Millwall players” if you were a long time supporter. Neil Harris knows what this means and has deliberatly built the team and instilled this into them.
    Last season we were a team of journeymen footballers managed by a journeyman manager “Holloway” he had the passion but a lot of the players were just doing a job.
    Thank god we are now a team of home grown talent and hand picked players with I think only one lonee.
    I would disagree with some of the comments that we are a bullying team, although we have met a few this season.
    One other point I would like to mention is the poor standard of referees this season, the one on Sunday just proving this point. You would have thought the premier ref’s would have been used for such high profile games.
    All the best to you next season
    John H

  14. Millwall fan here. Great article IMHO and pretty spot on. Id also agree that if you had scored one of those chances its more than likely that we also would have caved in the second half and we could argue we were slightly fortunate in that respect.

    I’m interested in some of the comments of the referee. In my opinion he was poor in terms of booking rash challenges for both sides and as fans of our team we often get drawn into “he is giving them more than us” as clearly two of yours could have been red carded by another referee for facial contact, as could have Morison for his raised hands too. Its all swings and roundabout.

    It was however, a great atmosphere. Whilst I’m not one for the drums, flags etc, it was great to see a stadium get behind their team in the way that yours did. Its a strange ground Valley Parade as an away fan being in that stand and I’m sure for many opposing teams its pretty daunting. Roll on Friday and I hope its a good game. Safe travels.

  15. Great write up Jason, good atmosphere and banter from the City fans on Sunday too. We look forward to welcoming you down the Den on Friday night. God bless the 56

    The Lions

  16. First of all I thought that was a great article.
    Interesting comments regarding the red cards. Joe Martins can not be a red card unless he handles it AFTER Morais heads on goal, you can not be sent off for handling a cross.
    I think we all agree McMahon should have seen straight red. Ref bottled that one. As for the rest, I thought both teams gave as good as they got. If we want to talk potential red cards then Proctors elbow on Beevers could have been deemed worthy of a red. You really cant have ago at our strong tactics when Hanson plays the same way. We were just more clinical on the day. Only half time so along way to go yet.

    • In actual fact Hanson does not `play the same way`. He is the victim of a lot of fouls by robust centre backs but rarely fouls. In fact a couple of our legends including Bobby Campbell have said he is too `nice` and need to develop a more physical side to his game. Unfortunately referees and fans of the opposition seem to think that he fouls, particularly when going up for the ball, but those of us who see him on regular basis know he does not.
      In terms of red cards, your right sided midfield player should have been sent off for continuing to provoke McMahon throughout the game, trying to get him sent off. Disgraceful behaviour.
      One of your fans talks about Harris building a team of `MIllwall players` and goes on to say we would not know what that means. I think we do.
      If your team had not been as cynical and intent on being dirty in the league game you might have got something.
      But Friday may be different and heres hoping we can get back into it.

    • Law 12:

      There are two sending-off offences that deal with denying
      an opponent an obvious opportunity to score a goal:
      If a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious
      scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball.
      If a player denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an
      opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence
      punishable by a free kick (direct or indirect) or a penalty kick.

      If that is not a clear goal scoring opportunity for a professional footballer earning a couple of grand a week then something is wrong!
      The more worrying thing is not to be booked at all for an intentional hand ball stopping his opponent from receiving possession!

  17. I agreed with most of the article, but disagreed with your assessment of Millwall’s plan for the second half, which interesting enough was partially confirmed by one of the Millwall fans posting on here. Surely the way to put the game out of reach & put Millwall on the road to Wembley would have been to carry on the second half the way they finished the first – another Millwall goal & the away leg would have ceased to matter. What they did was more like riding their luck, which luckily for them held. We had far more possession than any opposing team would have allowed, had they been in total control of the game. Had Morais’ chance gone in, or Proctor won a penalty & we got a goal back, then we would have been back in, Millwall would be frantically back pedalling when they appeared to have the game in the bag, & we could have pushed on & gone for another.
    Maybe you agree with me, maybe you don’t, but, if this is what actually happened, then it gives us an “in” for the second leg – they can be outthought, & if we can do that, we can go on & win, but we have to keep our head.

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