A fourth Wembley visit in seven years was booked last Friday night, as Lee Gregory’s 27th goal of the season helped the Lions on their way to a 1-1 draw (4-2 victory on aggregate) with Bradford City in the play-off semi-finals. This Sunday, Millwall head across London once more to take on Barnsley in the League One play-off final. Tykes fan Luke Tingle takes on the final ‘View From The Opposition’ of the season…
Name: Luke Tingle
First Barnsley game: Strangely, I haven’t got a clue. My Dad is a Sheffield United fan living in Barnsley, so he never took me to Barnsley games. My first game will have been as a young child getting a free ticket to go with my primary school – no idea who against, though. The first game I remember is the play-off final in 2006 when I was 11, but I definitely went to games within that season. I first got a season ticket in either 2007/08 or 2008/09.
Greatest moment following Barnsley: Unfortunately, I’m not old enough to remember the promotion to the Premier League. Obviously, the play-off final of 2006 is a great memory, as well as the FA Cup run of 2008, where we beat Liverpool and then Chelsea to get to Wembley. This season has been one of the most enjoyable seasons for a long time; we’re just one win away from making it very special.
The Tykes finished 6th in the regular league season and easily dispatched Walsall in the play-off semi-finals – considering that you were in the relegation zone around Christmas, I assume the fans are pleased with the clubs progress?: It has been an unbelievable turn around when you think about it. After Conor Hourihane’s 95th minute wonder strike salvaged a point against Sheffield United in November, we found ourselves somehow propping up the league.
I have no idea how we lost eight league games on the spin, because realistically, we weren’t that bad. I had full confidence that after a few decent results we’d get back on track – I never expected us to become as good as we currently are, though.
A massive amount of praise has to go to our board for sticking by manager Lee Johnson, as they must have felt an enormity of pressure by the fans to relieve him of his duties. The board were then rewarded by seven league wins on the trot, which left the majority of fans eating their words and meant we were looking up rather than down. Strangely, Lee Johnson repaid the owners faith in him by jumping ship the first chance he had.
The fans are really buzzing at the minute, though and there’s a great atmosphere in Barnsley. The relationships the staff and players have with us fans is the best it’s ever been, in my opinion.
Millwall finished 4th and defeated Bradford in the semi-finals – what did you make of their season? Did you expect to be facing the Lions in the final before the semis got underway?: Millwall have had a very strong season overall, particularly as it’s their first season following on from relegation.
My predictions of the 3 who came down from the Championship were mostly correct to an extent. I knew that Wigan Athletic would practically buy the league and go up comfortably. I also knew Blackpool were doomed and destined for League Two, even though they nearly survived. My opinion of Millwall was to be similar to our first season back in this league – a frustrating first six months with a strong finish, but to just come short of the play-offs. That’s almost what happened, but you seemed to get your act together pretty quickly and have been very good since we beat you in January. At one point, I thought you might even challenge for automatic promotion.
I did personally think that you would just beat Bradford over two legs. I thought it was going to be a low-scoring affair, so I was surprised to see you win so comfortably in the first leg and score three past what has been a very good Bradford defence this season.
Who are Barnsley’s ‘ones to watch’ on Sunday? Which players do you think will be the most dangerous on the Wembley turf?: All of them, really! The obvious threat is Adam Hammill – on his day he is simply unplayable and without doubt the best winger in this league. He has a wicked cross and on the Wembley stage he will punish you with his right foot if you let him. Obviously, Sam Winnall is our leading scorer and seems to have just got back into a good bit of form.
Our midfield pairing keep us ticking over superbly well and their ball retention stats must be staggering. Hourihane has probably got one of the best deliveries in the league with his wand of a left foot and he is easily the best player at the club. Both our centre halves are very good in the air, particularly Alfie Mawson, plus we also have a long-throw specialist in Marc Roberts, which is another string to our bow.
Our most in-form player at the minute is Lloyd Isgrove; his work rate is second to none and his pace is blistering – your left-back will have to be on top of his game to keep him quiet. He is well overdue a goal, too.
Likewise, which Millwall players do you think you will need to watch out for?: Lee Gregory and Steve Morison are obvious threats – you have a very good strike force there. However, our centre-halves are without a doubt one of – if not the – the best pairings in the league.
From what I’ve seen of you, you like a good ball up top for Morison to flick on – you will however struggle to beat Roberts in the air. It should be a good battle. You are also pretty good at the back – Ashley Fletcher will try and be a nuisance, whilst Winnall will play on the shoulder. It’ll be interesting to see how they fair against Beevers and Webster.
Finally, how do you see the game going? Do you think the fact that a) Barnsley having done the double over Millwall in the league season and b) the club already tasting Wembley and success there this season will make any difference to the outcome?: I was hoping for a Bradford victory from your semi-final, if I’m honest, for a few reasons. The main reason being that it would have been a fantastic weekend with all Yorkshire ties at Wembley, the second is the fact that you will greatly outnumber us on Sunday which is a shame, being that Wembley is practically in your back garden and that it’s a very expensive day out for us with travel costs etc.
What doesn’t help is that we did this all just last month [for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final], so many may not be able to afford it for a second time. The other reason is that we have already beaten you twice this season and with a fair bit of ease, too – you’re probably due a result against us!
In my opinion, the fact that we have played at Wembley just last month may give us a little edge, particularly in the first half, but that would mostly come down to how calm and assured you guys are. I honestly think that we have a better XI than you do and have more quality on the pitch. I expect you to come and try and frustrate our play and attempt to stop Hammill doing his thing, which may work to our advantage – I just hope you don’t try and kick us about for 90 minutes.
I have to be confident in our ability and I believe we will just have too much for you to cope with. Anything can happen in a play-off final, though – we may have a stinker! If you get the first goal, then I know you will make it as difficult as possible for us.
Score Prediction: Barnsley 3-1 Millwall.
Luke’s Team Prediction: Davies; Williams, Roberts, Mawson, White; Isgrove, Brownhill, Hourihane, Hammill; Winnall, Fletcher.
It’s Barnsley v Millwall in the League One play-off final this Sunday, May 29th, at Wembley Stadium. Kick-off is at 3pm and the tie is LIVE on Sky Sports.