A 98th minute penalty from Lee Gregory secured a 2-1 victory for Millwall at Gillingham last weekend, ending their regular season in fourth place with an 81-point haul. As a result, the Lions will now line up against Bradford City in a two-legged play-off semi-final, with the first leg taking place at Valley Parade this Sunday. Bantams fan Michael Holinski begins this special play-off edition of ‘The View From The Opposition’…
Name: Michael Holinski
First Bradford game: In all honesty, I don’t remember my first game. I started going to Bradford games from about the age of 6, so thinking about it now, a lot of them games at that age start to mix into one.
Greatest moment following Bradford: What a question! Where do I start with this one… I have been very lucky over the years to be at many games that I could class as great moments, such as beating Wolves to get promoted to the Premier League, beating Liverpool to stay in the Premier League, the Capital One Cup run, beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – but I have had the lows to go with this as well.
But to answer the question, for me, it would be when we beat Burton Albion in the play-off semi-finals over two legs back in the 2012/13 season. We lost the home tie 3-2 and we then had a small allocation of tickets for the second leg, so as you can imagine, tickets were of high demand – this led me to queuing/sleeping overnight outside Valley Parade for ten hours to ensure I got tickets for when they went on sale. We won the second leg 3-1, which took us to Wembley. After six seasons in League Two and that whole experience, the feeling I got on that day at Burton is certainly up there.
A fifth-placed finish for the Bantams this season – is that above expectation, or just about right?: For me it was right on point. In our first season back in League One we finished 11th and then the season after 7th, missing the play-offs by four points. Going into our third season at this level, I wanted us to carry on our progression, which for me was securing a play-off place.
At times during the season this was in question, but a great run towards the back end of the season made sure we was in the mix. I think overall it was a successful season and one which I am happy with. Let’s just hope we can carry on that success in the play-offs!
Millwall finished in fourth position, therefore you face them in a two-legged play-off semi-final – are you pleased with the opponents, or would you rather have avoided the Lions? Would you rather have the second leg at home?: I am a strong believer that it doesn’t matter who you face, if you are going to do it then you have to beat the best teams. I do believe Millwall are the toughest opponent we could have got, but I am glad we have got them over two legs – I would be slightly more worried playing them over just a 90-minute period in a one off game.
Barnsley and Walsall are also two very strong opponents, so I don’t think there is an easy tie. I’m not a big believer that playing away first will make that much of a difference; in the League Two play-offs, we played at home first (same as this weekend) and look what happened there – we got promoted!
Who are Bradford’s ‘ones to watch’ this Sunday?: We have a very good balance in our team and have many players that could cause Millwall problems. We have also kept 22 clean sheets this season, so we have a consistent and strong back five who don’t leak many goals.
But, the ones to watch for me who can make the real difference on Sunday are Kyle Reid, Lee Evans and Filipe Morais. Reid and Evans have been very good all season and a lot of our play goes through them – expect to see these two influencing and creating chances on Sunday. Morais has just come back from missing the majority of the season with a broken leg; its a timely return for the Bradford fans. A fan favourite from last season and now back to match fitness after appearing in the last few games, I believe he could have a big say in the play-offs in his new role behind the front man.
Likewise, which Millwall players do you think Phil Parkinson will need to watch out for?: I don’t think you can look any further than your three top goal-scorers: Lee Gregory, Steve Morison and Aiden O’Brien. Three players who have contributed 43 league goals between them, which is 59% of Millwall’s overall league goals for the season.
If they get the right service from midfield, they will be our biggest threat as they know where the goal is. It’s going to be an interesting match-up with Millwall the second-highest goal-scorers in the league taking on a Bradford team who have the second best defensive record in the league.
Finally, how do you see the game going? First legs are usually tight, cagey affairs…: I think over the two legs, it will go down to the final moments and I even think it could be a moment of who handles the pressure better.
Score Prediction: Bradford City 2-1 Millwall.
Michael’s Team Prediction: Williams; Darby, Burke, McArdle, Meredith; McMahon, Evans, Cullen, Reid; Morais; Hanson.
The League One play-off semi-final first leg between Bradford City and Millwall takes place at Valley Parade this Sunday, May 15th. Kick-off is at 12:15pm and the tie is LIVE on Sky Sports.