15 May 2009
Millwall have made it to their first playoff final in the club’s history, after a gruelling, energy-sapping and magnificent 1-1 draw with Leeds United at Elland Road.
Midfield workhorse Nadjim Abdou capped his best performance in a Lions shirt with a sensational tap-in to cancel out Luciano Becchio’s opener, in an action packed second half that takes Kenny Jackett’s side to Wembley.
The constant roar of the 950 travelling Lions fans was only heard in part by the players over the decibel-defying atmosphere created by 37,000 Yorkshiremen, who will face yet another season in the third tier.
The game got off to a fiery start, with Adam Bolder proudly entering the referee’s book for his lunge on Robert Snodgrass just two minutes in, while Jonny Howson levelled our hero Jimmy moments later.
Jermaine Beckford had the first clear-cut chance of the evening, but he was foiled – not for the first time – by towering Lions stopper David Forde.
He raced onto Snodgrass’ pass before firing across the ‘keeper, who parried well down to his right and recovered quickly to gather Fabian Delph’s rebound.
As the game wore on, Leeds’ magnificent passing in midfield started to go astray as the mighty Lions continued to harass, press and close down as if their lives depended on it.
A flurry of Leeds chances came in the final moments of the first half. There were huge appeals for a penalty, when Alan Dunne bundled over sub Andy Robinson after a deep cross from the right.
Moments later, Robinson curled a free kick just a whisker over the bar, after Craig felled Becchio 25 yards from goal.
The hosts fired out of the traps and Beckford was handed a mysterious spot kick just three minutes after the restart. Ref Mark Halsey spotted Andy Frampton’s tug of Sam Sodje’s shirt and pointed to the spot.
But Forde guessed right as cool as cucumber Beckford cockily side-footed towards the bottom corner and Elland Road fell silent. The smug grin on the Millwall bench was quickly wiped away as Leeds did take the lead on 52 minutes. Full back Ben Parker got down the left and picked out the long-haired Italian as Becchio slid home.
But then David Martin’s dart down the left, his deep cross, Lewis Grabban’s cross-shot back across the face of goal, and Abdou’s vital touch put Millwall were level and planning that stroll up Wembley Way.
There was huge pressure put on the back four – which became a back five with the return of skipper Paul Robinson from the subs' bench – who stood strong to their task as corners, crosses and huge long punts were batted away to safety. And despite seven minutes' injury time awarded by Fourth Official Mr A Bates (no relation to Ken) – the Lions clung on to a momentous and historic victory.
Were you there? Did you see the voucher for discount travel to Wembley for Leeds fans? Were you held for hours at Woolley Edge service station…
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