The A-Z of Millwall – O is for… Old Trafford

© Action Plus
© Action Plus

OLD Trafford is the home of Manchester United Football Club – one of the most successful sides in English football history; the Theatre of Dreams, the Red Devils' lair.

However, on April 4th, 2004, it belonged to Millwall.

Having defeated Walsall, Telford United, Burnley and Tranmere Rovers, the Lions found themselves in their first FA Cup Semi Final since 1937, where they would meet fellow Division One side, Sunderland.

Dennis Wise's men would have to overcome an ex-Millwall boss – Mick McCarthy – to reach their first ever FA Cup Final, plus a side loaded with experience, such as former Liverpool midfielder, Jason McAteer.

The Lions, however, boasted experience of their own, in Kevin Muscat, Danny Dichio and Wise himself. It was sure to be a tense and nervy afternoon.

The teams took to the field to a cacophony of noise and shortly after, referee Paul Durkin blew on his whistle to signal the start of the game.

The opening exchanges were predictably edgy, with chances for both teams going begging. In the 26th minute, history was made.

Paul Ifill's jinking run down the right hand side and subsequent shot drew a save from the Mackems' Estonian goalkeeper, Mart Poom, but the ball fell to the Lions' star man, Tim Cahill. With a swing of his boot, the Aussie sent the ball towards goal, with it nestling in the net a second later. Millwall were ahead and on their way to the show-piece occasion in May – inevitably, the blue end of Old Trafford went bonkers.

The rest of the game seemed to take an age; seconds seemed like minutes, minutes seemed like hours, but eventually, via a McAteer red card, injuries to Ifill and Wise, an agonising miss from Sunderland's George McCartney and four excruciating minutes of stoppage time, Durkin blew his whistle for the final time – Millwall had done it. Cahill's goal had sent the club into their first ever FA Cup Final, where they would meet Manchester United.

As Let 'Em Come blasted around the Theatre of Dreams, Lions fans young and old embraced; some were deliriously happy, some were in tears of joy – some simply could not believe it. Not only would they be seeing their club in the greatest game on earth, but as a result of qualification, Millwall would participate in the following seasons UEFA Cup competition.

There have been many, many truly great days in the history of Millwall Football Club, but for sheer joy and ecstasy, has there been any better than 04/04/04?

Mark Litchfield