Millwall had the longer spells of pressure in their League One Play-Off semi-final first leg with Scunthorpe, but neither side could break the deadlock. Here’s seven key points from Thursday’s scrappy clash at the Den.
Millwall’s first half pressure
As soon as Millwall won the ball, they would look for target man Steve Morison, play direct and push numbers forward. Shaun Williams showed class in midfield, right winger Jed Wallace put some good balls into the box from deep while left winger Shane Ferguson posed a threat from set pieces.
Scunthorpe’s last-ditch defending
The only reason these Millwall deliveries did not result in clear cut chances was because Scunthorpe defended their area well. Centre-backs Murray Wallace and David Mirfin always got the ball clear while right-back Jordan Clarke made three crucial interventions in his six-yard box.
Morison and Gregory’s work rate
The first half work of Scunthorpe’s defence at times necessitated giving away corners or ceding territory. Much of that was down to the work rate of Morison and his strike partner, Lee Gregory, who forced the defence into desperate actions, allowing Millwall’s midfield to get further up the pitch. Gregory had the best chance of the game on 26 minutes when Neal Bishop slipped and Wallace played him through, but the ex-Halifax striker was denied one-on-one by Joe Anyon.
Scunthorpe’s quiet forwards
Paddy Madden and Ivan Toney did not provide the qualities of Morison and Gregory in the first half. Barring Dawson however, Scunthorpe’s midfield did not show the inclination to get further up the pitch when chances to do so arose.
Millwall need to shoot more
Millwall’s direct, high-octane football helped them apply pressure for much of the first hour, but the energy the style requires dictates that it cannot be sustained for 90 minutes. While the Lions were on top, they could have recognized the aerial strength of the opposing defence and rather than cross, have a shot from distance. That Neil Harris’ side had just seven shots, in a game in which their opponents showed no attacking ambition, suggests the players need to pull the trigger more often.
Scunthorpe slow on subs
As Millwall’s pressure waned in the final half hour, Scunthorpe’s position stabilized but the visitors could have capitalized further with another substitution. Though lacking physicality to do a defensive job, Duane Holmes provides pace and could have been a useful weapon from the bench against a tiring defence. Graham Alexander however, did not make a substitution until the 90th minute, when Dawson had to come off due to an accidental stamp on his arm from Tony Craig. The manager favoured players who stuck to the task, rather than ones who might have extended the task’s success.
Delicately-poised second leg
Some will say that Scunthorpe are over the worst, others will say that they still have much to prove after taking just four shots all evening. Some might argue that Millwall were the better side, others that they lacked the imagination to score while on top. The bookies verdict? They have not even instilled a favourite for Sunday’s second leg at Glanford Park – more questions have been raised than answered at the Den.