JOB done, Steve Morison was the first Millwall player packed and ready to go.
He emerged through the tunnel, blue and yellow wheelie-case in tow, past the grinning Byron Webster and Aiden O’Brien, who were doing their post-match interviews.
You wouldn’t necessarily tell from Morison’s expression he had just scored two goals and got an assist to send Millwall through to another play-off final at Wembley.
And he would have quietly slipped out to the carpark and headed back to his home in Northampton if he hadn’t been required to give his post-match assessment.
Morison, 33, prefers to do his talking on the pitch, but when he speaks off it his statements are always as resounding as the one he made between the white lines at Glanford Park.
Asked if it gets sweeter the older he gets, Morison, 33, said: “Yeah, I love it. I have spent my life getting abused by people around the country. You say one thing and you’re the worst person in the world. It’s part and parcel of the game. People want to keep knocking me. Two goals and a lovely assist, and off to Wembley we go.
“We had 11, 12, 13 heroes out there [Sunday]. I’m going to happily take the headlines, which is fine by me. I’m getting older. Everyone wants to write you off every week. Everywhere I go they tell me I’m too old and I’m not very good. I told a few of them today, ‘I am not very good, I know, but I do alright’.”
That last part was a characteristic understatement and it wouldn't be stretching it to say that Millwall would not be going to Wembley for the fifth time in eight years without him.
He scored his first goal on Sunday evening to pull Millwall level after Ivan Toney’s opener. Not only was it an aggressive far-post header from Tony Craig’s cross but the timing of it was perfect, just before half-time and suddenly both managers’ team-talks became very different, Millwall now buoyant, Scunthorpe unsure.
Lions boss Neil Harris said afterwards his players were “bouncing” at the break, and he asked them to consider how Scunthorpe’s players must be feeling.
That became clear in the first 13minutes of the second half. From being so dominant the Iron’s centre-backs David Mirfin and Murray Wallace were now exposed and hesitant.
“We have got plenty of players in this team who have played in big games,” Morison said. “We went 1-0 down but we knew we would get chances. It was a great ball from Tony and you could sense in the ground they were deflated. It was like a morgue after that. We came out in the second half and ran all over them for 20 minutes.”
In front of the Sky Sports cameras, Morison was still showing the qualities that took him from Millwall to Norwich City in 2011 and into the Premier League.
In the 52nd minute he spun off Wallace to receive a long pass from goalkeeper Jordan Archer, flipped the ball over the defender, and then, in such a pressure situation, gently crafted a cross for Lee Gregory to head in at the far post and give Millwall the lead for the first time in the tie.
“It’s being calm,” Morison explained. “I lifted it over to Greggs and he did the rest. It’s just about being calm in those pressure moments. If I get that chance again at Wembley in a couple of weeks I will be calm again. We were fantastic, coming from behind.
“I was quietly confident going there. They had to come and get at us. If you leave me and Lee Gregory two-on-two against anyone in this league we are going to score goals.”
“They made that mistake in the second half.”
Morison scored his second six minutes after Gregory’s header, both players now on 18 goals this season.
Scunthorpe recovered their composure and rallied, and midfielder Stephen Dawson’s 81st-minute strike made it a nerve-jangling end, with six minutes of injury-time and Millwall players blocking a number of late shots in and around their own box.
“We like to make it exciting,” Morison said. “It was much better than the game on Thursday night for the TV cameras. We had a great following. They made some serious noise.”
Morison has been on the winning side once in his two Wembley visits with Millwall – the 2010 League One play-off final.
Last year’s final against Barnsley began with personal disappointment for Morison when Byron Webster’s injury in the warm-up meant he lost the captain’s armband to Craig.
But he insisted that has not added to his motivation.
“No, that was just a disappointing end and the way it all happened,” he said. “I totally understand why the gaffer took the captaincy off me. It is what it is. We go to Wembley this year, the gaffer and Tony will lead us out and hopefully I can be a hero again.”
“It is massive,” he continued. “I’m quite quick to dust myself down and go again. I have learned you cannot worry about failures, it is what makes you stronger. And I think that is the reason we are going to Wembley now. We had that burning desire to get to Wembley and have done it the hard way. We all want to be in the Championship. There are some big teams in there. I would rather be playing there than places like Plymouth and Portsmouth and teams like that last year.
“I definitely think [the experience of the 2016 final] will help, especially the younger players who had never been there before. I think a few of them would admit themselves that they froze last year when they got there and did not have the best of games.”
On his heels and eager to get going, Morison headed for the Glanford Park exit, but not before one more defiant message.
“No excuses this time,” he said. “We go to Wembley full of optimism and hope.”
Image: Millwall FC