Play-off semi-final second-leg preview: Millwall vs. Bradford

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

MILLWALL boss Neil Harris could name an unchanged side for the return leg of their League One play-off semi-final with Bradford at The Den on Friday night.

The Lions hold a two-goal advantage going into the contest after last Sunday’s 3-1 win at Valley Parade. Barnsley await the winners in the final.

Carlos Edwards will continue at right-back in place of the suspended Mahlon Romeo. Harris took Lee Gregory off in the 66th minute of the first leg as a precaution after the striker’s recent stomach surgery.

Millwall are odds-on to progress to the final at Wembley on May 29 and will face a Bradford side again struggling with injuries to their front men.

James Hanson is out of the fixture but Phil Parkinson is more hopeful Billy Clarke, who fractured his cheekbone against Chesterfield, will be available after he took part in training on Thursday.

Bantams boss Parkinson could also call on on-loan West Ham defender Reece Burke. The 19-year-old defender trained last Saturday but was complaining of discomfort in his hip before Sunday’s contest. He also came through Thursday's training session.

Millwall haven’t lost at home in seven games to Bradford going back to 1988, but Parkinson’s side will have no fears about coming to London where they came from two goals down to stun Chelsea 4-2 in the fourth round of the FA Cup last season.

They reached the League Cup final three years ago as a League Two side after wins over Watford and Arsenal. Later that season they won promotion to League One having lost the first leg of their play-off semi-final 3-2 to Burton before winning the return fixture 3-1.

Parkinson promised his players would make Millwall “really earn” a place at Wembley for the first time since the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan in 2013, and their first play-off final since 2010.

Immediately after last Sunday’s win Harris was stressing his side will not be complacent ahead of a clash that will attract Millwall’s biggest crowd of the season.

By Monday the club had sold out their home tickets. Lions fans expect.

Millwall record against Bradford:

Played 43

Won 18 Drawn 15  Lost 10

Form guide (Last five games):

Millwall: WWWWW

Bradford: LWWWL

Sky Bet odds:

Millwall 6/5  Draw 12/5  Bradford 9/4

Probable teams:

Millwall: 4-4-2: Archer; Edwards, Webster, Beevers, J Martin; Taylor, Abdou, Thompson, Ferguson; Gregory, Morison.

Bradford: 4-4-2: Williams; Darby, McArdle, N Clarke, Merdith; McMahon, Evans, Cullen, Reid; Clarke, Proctor.

Last meeting:

Play off semi-final first leg:

Sunday, May 15

Bradford 1 McMahon 13’ (pen)

Millwall 3 Gregory 15’, Morison 34’, J Martin 45’

Teams:

Bradford: 4-4-2: Williams; Darby, McArdle, N Clarke, Meredith; McMahon (Anderson, 82), Cullen, Evans, Reid; Morais (Davies, 70), Proctor.

Millwall: 4-4-2: Archer; Edwards, Webster, Beevers, J Martin (Craig, 71); Taylor, Abdou, Thompson, Ferguson (Williams, 90); Morison, Gregory (O'Brien, 66).

The dangers

Neil Harris spoke last week of the determination to bring a positive result back to The Den, but he could hardly have imagined his players would take such a decisive step towards Wembley.

Now he’s faced with a new kind of challenge: Stick or twist.

Bradford have to attack, and that might suit Millwall who can sit and strike on the counter.

These are three of the keys to keeping Bradford out and progressing to the final.

Keep Jamie Proctor quiet

The big striker is a Millwall-type player.

He should have had an assist last Sunday when after robbing Carlos Edwards of possession he played the ball across goal but Filipe Morais fired wide.

Proctor plays on the last line and has no problem dishing it out, as Byron Webster and Mark Beevers, who were superb at Valley Parade, found out.

Bradford could have done with Billy Clarke or James Hanson alongside Proctor last weekend. If Clarke or Steven Davies start on Friday Millwall’s centre-backs will have their hands full.

Cut out the supply out wide

Bradford will match Millwall’s 4-4-2, with Tony McMahon and Kyel Reid likely to start in the wide midfield positions.

Bradford went for Millwall in the second half at Valley Parade and it was noticeable how much more support full-backs James Meredith and Stephen Darby gave their wingers as they sought to cut the deficit.

The Bantams will try to start with the same tempo in the second leg and Millwall must cut out the supply route into their penalty area.

Don’t give away free-kicks in dangerous areas

Millwall already know McMahon can deliver a quality cross. It was his free-kick that lead to the penalty last Sunday that gave Bradford the perfect start.

Bradford have plenty of height in the side and will test Millwall at set-plays. They dominated possession after the break in the first leg but Millwall were disciplined to repel 11 corners and numerous free-kicks directed into their box.

While Joe Martin was successful with his free-kick, Lee Evans showed he strikes a mean dead ball and was inches away from finding the net from 25 yards out late on.

Millwall will need to keep their opponents at arm’s length.

John Kelly

(@jkelly1882)