Scunthorpe keep Millwall at bay in League One play-off semi-final first leg
Scunthorpe took a significant step towards reaching the League One play-off final after resisting intense Millwall pressure to earn a 0-0 away draw in their semi-final first leg.
Graham Alexander’s team offered very little in attack but consistently absorbed the finest their hosts offered and, after five straight wins before their trip to The Den, they will expect to finish the job in the second leg on Sunday.
Millwall have been inconsistent in recent weeks, while this season, Scunthorpe have more home victories than any other League One team, with the exception of champions Sheffield United.
Should Millwall’s eventful season end in defeat on Sunday, it may even be their striker Lee Gregory who takes much of the blame.
An exceptional opportunity fell to him in the 26th minute, after a through-ball from Jed Wallace – who had replaced David Worrall in the only change to Neil Harris’ team – sent him one-on-one with Scunthorpe goalkeeper Joe Anyon. Gregory had both time and space to choose his spot, and that perhaps proved his problem as he shot poorly at Anyon, who dived low to produce a routine save.
The hosts continued to meet Scunthorpe’s organisation with impressive intensity, but with too few moments of quality to create similar opportunities.
In the 35th minute Wallace curled a free-kick low towards the bottom left corner, where the diving Anyon comfortably saved. Further pressure also forced Jordan Clarke to head just wide of his own post during first-half stoppage time, but the resultant corner came to little.
It was that same physicality that ensured they continued to stretch and overwhelm the visitors for much of the start of the second half, but also that same lack of incision that led to too few chances.
For all of Millwall’s pace and work-rate, the next time they again threatened was after a 56th-minute corner Scunthorpe struggled to clear, when the ball bounced kindly to Tony Craig on the edge of the area and from where he struck both high and wide.
Thereafter, the pressure that had steadily been building began to diminish, even if Scunthorpe offered little ambition in response.
Their captain Stephen Dawson had returned to Alexander’s starting XI. If he is fit to play on Sunday after hurting his hand in a clash with Craig, they will reflect that their evening was extremely positive.