Millwall 1 Bradford City 1
The Bantams saw their season ended with an aggregate defeat to Millwall in the Play-Off Semi-Final. Knowing they had to overturn a two goal deficit to get through, City's hopes were dealt a blow when they went behind in the game to a Lee Gregory strike ten minutes before the break. Jamie Proctor levelled proceedings on the night just before half time, but the visitors couldn’t capitalise in the second period and it was Neil Harris’ side who progressed to the Wembley final against Barnsley.
The home side almost scored inside the opening sixty seconds of the game; Nathan Clarke’s clearance ricocheted off Josh Cullen and into the path of Morison, who then fed the ball through for Gregory to run onto. Ben Williams rushed out to make an important intervention and prevent a raucous home crowd from eruption.
You could’ve been forgiven for thinking Millwall were going to sit back for the best part of ninety minutes given their first leg lead but it certainly wasn’t the case in the first half. After an unfortunate slip by Stephen Darby, Gregory raced away on the counter-attack and found the supporting Ben Thompson, but as the latter looked set to score, Cullen made a vital block to halt the danger.
Tony McMahon’s set-pieces have been a threat season long for the opposition and this time a corner into the box was connected with by the head of Nathan Clarke, but he could only guide his header a couple of yards wide of the mark.
Seconds later down the other end, potential disaster struck when Gregory found the score-sheet. Morison showed good close control before he picked out his strike partner, who swept the ball past Williams from 15 yards out with a first time attempt. The first goal was always going to prove key and it ultimately did so in this contest, leaving City with an even bigger mountain to climb.
Joe Martin found the net with a superb free kick in the first leg and he almost duplicated that goal shortly afterwards. In an almost identical position to goal, he attempted to once more beat Williams, but the City stopper was equal to it on this occasion to push the ball over the bar alertly.
On the stroke of half time, Proctor scored to give Phil Parkinson’s side a real lifeline. Kyel Reid did superbly on the left hand side to make in-roads before delivering a low cross into the six yard box; Proctor’s first attempt was kept out by Jordan Archer, but he made no mistake with an emphatic follow-up into the roof of the net. Honours now even on the night, but still the two goal deficit to overturn for the Bantams.
Proctor had a chance to really bring the tie alive in additional time at the end of the half when he latched onto a sublime pass from Billy Clarke to move towards goal. The front-man failed to get his shot away when through though, allowing a recovering Mark Beevers to slow his progress. When Proctor eventually did pull the trigger, there were enough bodies back to block the effort.
Rotherham United loanee Tom Thorpe was introduced before the restart following an ankle injury picked up by Cullen late in the first half.
Millwall had a real chance at the start of the half to extend their advantage in the tie to three goals; Morison’s intelligent cross towards Gregory came out to the on-rushing Jimmy Abdou, but he made a mess of his volley, seeing an effort sail comfortably over the bar.
The next chance in the match occurred a couple of minutes after Abdou’s miss and it was another chance for the hosts; Chris Taylor delivered a corner to the far post where Byron Webster was free to try and find the net with a header, fortunately for City though, his attempt went inches wide of the target.
Big shouts for a penalty came from City shortly afterwards; Lee Evans found Thorpe in the box with a forward pass and the former Manchester United youngster went down under a challenge from Beevers. It was a fair shout by Phil Parkinson’s side, but the ref deemed the imposing central defender had got a touch on the ball as he made the tackle.
A flurry of yellow cards came in the latter stages for both sides; a couple of hefty challenges by Lee Evans and Kyel Reid brought cautions, with Millwall’s Taylor and Shane Ferguson both booked for time wasting. It was ultimately to be Millwall’s night as they secured a trip to Wembley next weekend in the play-off final. Bradford City will surely be back stronger next season. Thank you for your continually tremendous support throughout the season!