CAN Bradford overturn a 3-1 deficit in this League Two play-off semi-final second leg from The Den? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) analyses the odds.
Millwall v Bradford | Friday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Millwall took control of their League One play-off semi-final against Bradford with a 3-1 win at Valley Parade and they start favourites for the second leg at The Den on Friday night.
The Lions enjoyed just 31% of the ball in the Saturday sun but Neil Harris’ troops bagged three first-half goals as their front two of Lee Gregory and Steve Morison outmuscled the Bantams in an excellent away performance.
The Londoners took command of the midfield skirmishes and were clinical in the final third as Harris’ tried-and-trusted 4-4-2 formation worked a treat. The capital club are now tantalisingly close to making their fifth Wembley trip in 12 years.
Having predicted a tight and tense first fixture, the opening 45 minutes were anything but. After the interval and with three goals to their name, Millwall sat back and were happy to hand over the initiative with centre-backs Byron Webster and Mark Beevers defending stoically.
For Bradford, manager Phil Parkinson admitted his side hadn’t been at the races but has promised travelling fans that the Bantams will go hell for leather in search of a route back into this tie.
In the opening encounter, the Yorkshire side struggled to assert themselves in the midfield battle and failed to make a serious impact in the final third without top scorer James Hanson nor Billy Clarke as aerial targets. Hanson misses out again here but Clarke’s expected to play a part.
Centre-back Reece Burke should also return to the fold for Bradford, bulking up their backline so a repeat of their dodgy defending at The Den appears unlikely. Previously the Bantams had shipped just two goals in 10 outings and hadn’t conceded three goals at Valley Parade for 13 months.
My fear for the visitors is their lack of goals as guests. Only eight clubs netted fewer than Bradford’s 23-goal tally on their travels and on only four occasions did Parkinson’s posse grab more than a single goal on the road. Is the Bantams boss tactically astute enough to change the away side’s approach?
City do have experience of overturning a first leg deficit – only in 2013 the side came back from a 3-2 reverse to win at Burton 3-1 in the second leg and progress to Wembley but recent road form hasn’t impressed (W5-D3-L6) whilst only three of their away triumphs this term have come by a margin of two goals or more.
In contrast, Millwall have won six of their last seven in front of their home supporters, scoring 17 goals. The Lions have W8-D2-L1 of their last 11 as hosts and have shutout Burton, Wigan, Sheffield United and Peterborough in their 11 clean sheets across their last 19.
In Gregory and Morison the Londoners boast a deadly duo that have a combined for of 45 goals and that offensive threat is likely to prove decisive if and when Bradford decide to gamble in search of their goals. With second leg home sides returning W16-D6-L8 in League One play-offs, suffering one loss since 2008/09, I wouldn’t want to oppose the Lions.
I’ve a feeling Millwall will be happy to sit back and soak up the Bradford pressure, as they did in the second-half at Valley Parade. These two are well matched across the board and although second leg semi-finals have a clear bias towards goal-heavy games, I’m going to oppose Over 2.5 Goals here.
Cumulatively these two teams saw 28/46 (61%) of their home/away league games feature fewer than three goals and at 3/4 (Marathon) there’s a slice of value in this encounter following a similar pattern on Friday night.
Millwall v Bradford – Under 2.5 Goals (3/4 Marathon)