League One play-off final preview: Barnsley vs. Millwall

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

MILLWALL will give Byron Webster every chance to recover from the strained hamstring that forced him off late on against Bradford.

The Lions defender was at Wembley on Thursday as the team visited the stadium ahead of Sunday’s Sky Bet League One play-off final against Barnsley.

Carlos Edwards will once again deputise at right-back with Mahlon Romeo serving the final game of his three-game suspension.

Manager Neil Harris has treated leading goalscorer Lee Gregory with caution after the striker returned from stomach surgery prior to the play-off semi-finals, and the Lions’ top marksman looks set to start up front with strike partner Steve Morison, both of whom have contributed to almost 60 goals this season.

Tykes caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom has a fully fit squad to choose from ahead of Sunday’s final.

Leading scorer Sam Winnall is certain to start up front with Adam Hammill and Conor Hourihane also likely to feature.

Captain Alfie Mawson, a Millwall target last summer, is also expected to partner Marc Roberts in the heart of Barnsley’s defence.

What the managers say  


Paul Heckingbottom said: “It’s about us being as good as we can possibly be and that’s how we’ll approach it.”

"We’re not going to change things drastically, we’re comfortable in how we’re going to do things and what is expected from the players, they understand that and that’s why they’re performing well.

“We know when we’re playing Millwall that at some point they’ll be putting us under severe pressure, but so what. They’re going to have to do that if they want to beat us, but likewise we’ll have to try and cope with that and impose ourselves on them. It shouldn’t bother us, we should just deal with it and go on to hurt them.”

“They are used to performing under pressure and they know how to prepare themselves for winning big games. In the back end of the season when we’ve had to perform in big games we have done it.

“More importantly, in terms of performance which we can affect, we have not frozen in the way we want to play because that gives us the best possible chance of winning.”

He continued: “We’ve had good form since the turn of the year. Those games have gone but what we can take is our knowledge and preparation.

“How we’ve trained, what our application has been like and what it’s taken to get the win because that’s what we need to do.

“We can’t help what Millwall do except impose our game on them and that’s what we’ll be trying to do.”


Neil Harris said: We’re playing against a really good side and it’s going to be a really good game of football. The biggest thing is we’re looking forward to it.

“They’re two good teams and quite evenly matched. It’s who handles the occasion, who out of the two teams performs on the day, definitely. A little bit of luck is also key if you get that. And then you rely on your big-part players to perform on the day also.

“It’s going to be a tough game for us, but Paul will be the saying the same.

“We’re always diligent with the opposition, I’ve seen a lot of them and they’ve got some good players. But we really focus on ourselves.

“All over the park is key. We’ve scored a lot of goals this season, a lot since Christmas. Barnsley have got a really attacking intent to them as well.

“The middle of the park will be key, it always is in play-off finals.”

On the possibility of penalties, Harris added: “We practised them before the second leg against Bradford and we will before Sunday because, like it or not, it could be 120 minutes of football, there’s not a lot between the teams.

“It could go all the way and we have to prepare for every outcome possible.

“I’ve got some penalty takers in my team and some players who take good penalties out on the training pitch. Whether they put their hand up on Sunday, I don’t know. But they’ll all practise.

Millwall record against Barnsley:

Played 55

Won 21  Drawn 12  Lost 22

Form guide (Last five games):

Millwall: WWWWD

Bradford: DDWWW

Sky Bet odds:

Barnsley 13/8  Draw 21/10  Millwall 9/5

Probable teams:

Bradford: 4-4-2: Davis; Scowen, Roberts, Mawson, G Williams; Isgrove, Brownhill, Hourihane, Hammill; Winnall, Fletcher.

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

Last meeting:

Sky Bet League One:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Barnsley 2

Winnall 12, 67

Millwall 1

Morison 61


Barnsley: Davies, Wabara, Long, Mawson, White (Bree, 87), Watkins (Smith, 87), Pearson, Isgrove, Hurihane, Hammill, Winnall.

Subs not used: Townsend, Williams, White, Roberts, Templeton.

Millwall: Forde, Edwards (Abdou, 68), Martin, Beevers, Webster, Upson (Ferguson, 46), Williams, Saville, Onyedinma (Gregory, 46), O'Brien, Morison.

Subs not used: Archer, Nelson, Thompson, Philpot.

The Danger

Sam Winnall is Barnsley's main threat heading into Sunday’s final. The striker has scored 23 goals this season, helping fire the Tyke’s from relegation certainties on Boxing Day to a League One play-off final, and a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to boot.

The Lions’ centre back paring of Mark Beevers and, if declared fit, Byron Webster, will need to be at their resolute best against a striker full of confidence.

Winnall, however, did not score in Barnsley's previous visit to Wembley this season in the 3-1 JPT win over Oxford back last month.

Keep Conor Hourihane and Adam Hammill quiet

Barnsley will match Millwall’s 4-4-2 with Lloyd Isgrove and Hammill certainties to start on the wings for the Tykes.

The pitch at the national stadium will suit the Yorkshire outfit’s style of play with Isgrove and Hamill deadly in wider areas. Barnsley, through Hourihane, can dictate the play from the middle of the park, too.

The dimensions of the playing area will give the wide men space and time to arrow in balls to Winnall and Ashley Fletcher who should be leading the line for Heckingbottom’s men.

Hammill has five assists this season but is a constant danger with Hourihane assisting 11 goals during Barnsley’s revival since the turn of the year.

Battle of the pairings

The game is won and lost in both boxes, and both sides have pairings of equal importance. Lee Gregory and Steve Morison have scored 46 goals between them this season. Fletcher and Winnall have 29 between them.

Both are capable of winning any game, and both will be doing their best to get past either side’s defensive pairings.

Beevers and Webster for Millwall, Roberts and Mawson for Barnsley – both are stubborn defensive partnerships that, like their attacking counterparts, are capable of making important contributions to their sides.

The game will come down to whoever can handle the occasion better, and which attacking pair will get the better of their defensive adversaries on the day.