The Bantams suffered a blow to their hopes of promotion with a home loss at the hands of Millwall in the first leg of the Sky Bet League 1 Play-Offs semi-finals. Tony McMahon gave City a dream start from the penalty spot before Lee Gregory equalised almost immediately. Steve Morison headed the Lions ahead ten minutes from the break via a Shane Ferguson corner before Joe Martin’s free kick put the visitors in firm control on the stroke of half time. City were much better in the second half as they looked to break down a resilient Millwall side but they couldn’t find the net and it’s now all to down at The Den in the second leg next Friday evening.
Before play began, there was a minute's applause around the Coral Windows Stadium as a mark of respect to former City midfielder Chris Mitchell, who sadly passed away just over a week ago.
With barely a chance being created early in the game, City were awarded a penalty by the referee Dean Whitestone after Joe Martin handled Proctor’s header across the six yard box. Jeered by the flock of Millwall fans behind the goal, up stepped an unfazed Tony McMahon to send Jordan Archer the wrong way and give Phil Parkinson’s men the lead.
McMahon was actually booked in the build up to the penalty after raising his hand up to Chris Taylor as the Millwall winger tried to get in his ear.
City's lead was a short-lived one though, as Millwall levelled within less than two minutes. Byron Webster's free kick into the penalty area was headed down by Morison and former FC Halifax striker Gregory turned neatly to score his 26th goal of the season, despite Ben Williams getting a hand to the ball.
Gregory and Morison were linking up really well and causing City some problems and the two combined to create the next opportunity. The former controlled the ball well and hooked it over his head for the latter to latch onto with a header which was held onto routinely by Williams.
City had the next opportunity and it was a presentable one which fell to Filipe Morais. McMahon headed the ball into the path of Proctor and he teed up Morais, who saw a left-footed snap-shot from the edge of the box go a yard or so wide of the target to let the visitors off the hook.
Just after the half hour mark, Millwall took the lead for the first time. Posing as a real aerial threat, Morison was the sharpest in the penalty area to power a header in off the underside of the crossbar after latching onto Shane Ferguson’s corner.
Things got worse on the stroke of half-time as Neil Harris’ men added another. After Gregory had won a free kick 25 yards from goal, Martin set his sights and fired a left footed effort into the back of the net, leaving Williams with little chance of keeping it out and City going into the break with a real uphill task ahead of them.
The Bantams were a totally different side in the second half and should’ve pulled one back early doors through Morais. Carlos Edwards tried to guard the ball out of play for a goal kick but Proctor got the better of him to steal possession and make a move into the area, his low centre was met by Morais but he side-footed one wide of the target six yards out with the goal gaping.
After McMahon had seen a header hit the side-netting after connecting with a Kyel Reid cross, Morais then saw a shot on the turn inside the box blocked superbly by Mark Beevers after Proctor had intelligently picked him out.
City also saw a strong penalty appeal turned down later in the half when Proctor appeared to be tripped inside the box by Mark Beevers.
In the main, Archer had dealt with most of the corners into the box but one was allowed to fall and Nathan Clarke, on the ground, tried to scramble the ball home, but Millwall bodies were aplenty on the box and they managed to survive the scare and clear their lines capably.
Morison, who would later see a curling shot hit the top of City's goal, saw a vicious strike on the half volley from just inside the box go about half a yard over Williams’ crossbar but the majority of the chances were continuing to come in the visitors' box.
McMahon’s corner wasn’t attacked by a City player nor a Millwall player and the ball bounced into the path of Nathan Clarke, who saw a goal bound header tipped over the bar alertly by Archer.
Lee Evans came close with a free kick from all of 25 yards which went inches wide of the target with Archer at full stretch after Steven Davies had drawn a foul central to goal. The Welshman was very unlucky with his next attempt, two minutes into the five added on at the end of the game; winning the ball back just outside the penalty area, he clipped a shot towards goal but it just didn’t dip enough to beat a stranded Jordan Archer.
Rapturous celebration came from the away end at the full time whistle, with City knowing they have a real mountain to climb in the Capital next Friday evening. You could sense real disappointment and deflation around the ground at the end but football is a funny old game, and this deficit has been turned around before. We go in hope to The Den next week!