Bradford v Millwall: Team news, predictions, stats & quotes for the Sky Bet League One play-off final
May 20 2017, 14:00
May 20 2017, 14:00
The match pack for the Sky Bet League One play-off final between Bradford City and Millwall includes team news, statistics, manager quotes, odds and our prediction.
The game kicks off at 1500 BST at Wembley, live on Sky Sports.
Our Nick Hext writes... There isn’t much in the odds for Saturday’s Sky Bet League One play-off final between Bradford and Millwall at Wembley.
Bradford are narrow 10/11 favourites to win promotion (with the option of victory via extra-time or penalties included) with Millwall just a touch bigger in price at even-money.
Like the layers, I’m finding it tough to pick a winner. I’d just about side with Bradford if forced but there are better ways to secure a profit in the final.
Going low on goals is a temptation but the bookies have that pretty well covered. Under 2.5 is a big odds-on shot and the potential for this match to unravel in the latter stages if one team is chasing the game is enough to put me off going any lower than that.
I’m instead finding myself scouring the odds concerning a quiet first half - at least in terms of goalmouth action.
A goalless opening 45 minutes at 17/11 (around 6/4 in old money) is worth consideration but I’m going to play it a little safer and back the draw at the break at just upwards of evens.
Bradford were level at half-time with Fleetwood in both legs of their play-off semi-final and the last clash between the Bantams and the Lions, which finished 1-1 in January, was also all-square after 45 minutes.
Millwall were drawing 1-1 with Scunthorpe at half-time in the second leg of their play-off semi-final and the opening encounter finished without a goal for either side.
I also think Millwall will be wary after the manner of their defeat in last season’s League One play-off final.
The Lions were 2-0 down to Barnsley inside 20 minutes and there was no way back from that as they ultimately went down 3-1.
Millwall boss Neil Harris will take being level at half-time to avoid the final being out of sight for the second year running and Bradford aren’t the quickest starters in the division.
The Bantams have only scored more than one goal in the first half in one their last eight matches and Stuart McCall’s style will see the Yorkshire club keep things tight as they wait for opportunities later in proceedings.
I think Bradford have the edge in quality to just about get over the line but there is very little between the teams so keep an eye as well on the chances of extra-time and penalties as the minutes tick by.
Prediction: Bradford City 1-0 Millwall
The Sky Sports pundit writes... This is a mouth-watering play-off final. Millwall were excellent in the second leg at Scunthorpe and they really had to survive an onslaught towards the end of the game.
They showed great control and were very clinical up front with Steve Morrison and Lee Gregory playing well together and they'll be hoping that continues at Wembley.
Obviously last season they came very close but bumped into a Barnsley team at Wembley who had picked up a momentum since the turn of the year which took them all the way.
Bradford will pose Millwall problems. The pace that they've got can cause plenty of problems.
Will the disappointment of last season fuel Millwall? If it does then I think they hold a slight advantage.
Neil Harris has plenty of experience and he'll have his side physically and mentally ready.
It will be close but I'm backing Millwall to use the heartbreak of last season to edge it after extra-time.
PRUTTON PREDICTS: Millwall to win 2-1 after extra-time (Sky Bet's odds: Millwall to win promotion - 4/5)
Stuart McCall (Bradford City)
On the chance to win promotion: "If come the final whistle we've won the game then it would probably eclipse anything I've done in football to be honest.
"I've been very lucky to have played for some good sides and won cups and leagues etc, but I think if you can manage a team at Wembley to win promotion, at a club that means a lot to you, it will probably eclipse everything.
"I don't want to think too far ahead or think too much about it, but it would be nice if we could do it."
He insisted the club's long-term plans do not hinge on victory on Saturday.
"No, 100 per cent not," McCall said.
"This has been a bonus, certainly for Stefan and Edin I think. They are excited and it's taken off in Germany, they're all talking about a Championship club!
"They never thought that would happen. But the philosophy will stay the same because already, for next season, we've brought in five or six kids who are 18 or 19.
"The development of them is key to what the owners want to do, but there's no doubt as well that if we were to get into the Championship money would have to be spent.
"Whatever happens at Wembley, it's been an achievement, better than we could have imagined this season.
"But I don't like thinking about it like that. We've still got one aim to achieve, we've still got that hill to climb and we still want to win."
Neil Harris (Millwall)
On last year's Wembley heartache: "We had to regroup and go again - it's not easy.
"The biggest similarity is we had really good leaders in that group (in 2010), and some young players coming through who were hungry, had legs, and drove the older players in training every day.
"That's a big similarity (with today). There's been a lot over the course of the season. We had difficult spells, and were questioned as a group.
"Experience of the day definitely helped. In 2009 we didn't perform to our best. In 2010 we were right at it, and very good, and got that little bit of luck, when Charlie Austin (then of Swindon) went through one-on-one and missed with 10 minutes to go with that bobble in front of him.
"You need that. You need both to perform to the best of your ability and you need a little bit of luck, and certainly to handle the occasion.
"The big games we've had this year, the play-off games and the final last year, and the FA Cup (run to the quarter-finals) this year, Charlton home and away, Bristol Rovers (a must-win to reach the playoffs), two Scunthorpe games (in the play-off semis) set us in really good stead.
"But there's no given right we're just going to perform - we have to make it happen."
These two sides met in the League One play-off semi-finals last year. Millwall won 3-1 at Bradford and drew 1-1 at the Den, before losing to Barnsley in the final at Wembley.
Millwall’s Lee Gregory has scored in each of his last three matches in all competitions against the Bantams, including a goal in each leg of the play-off semi-finals last season.
Indeed, Gregory also scored in the Lions’ 3-2 play-off semi-final win over Scunthorpe this season, with strike partner Steve Morison netting the other two.
Bradford finished fifth in League One. The last side to finish fifth in League One and reach the play-off final were Swindon Town in 2010; they lost 1-0 to Millwall in the final. Millwall have now reached the final in each of their last four play-off campaigns; 2009 (L), 2010 (W), 2016 (L).
Bradford have won promotion on both occasions they have made the play-off final in any tier; winning 2-0 vs Notts County in 1996 and winning 3-0 vs Northampton in 2013.
The team finishing fifth hasn’t won the League One play-offs since 2005/06, when Barnsley secured promotion to the Championship against Swansea City.
The team in sixth place won the League One play-offs last term (Barnsley); the last time the sixth-placed team won the third-tier play-offs in consecutive seasons was back in 1997 (Bradford in 95/96 & Crewe 96/97).
The Bantams have lost just one of their last nine matches in all competitions against Millwall, although they’ve won just twice (W2 D6 L1).
Since his debut for the club in February, Charlie Wyke (10) has been directly involved in more goals in all competitions than any other Bradford player (seven goals, three assists).
Stuart McCall's Bradford starting line-up will be dotted with players who have big-game experience.
Rory McArdle, whose solitary header against Fleetwood booked the Bantams' Wembley passage, scored in the 2013 League Two play-off final win against Northampton.
McArdle and fellow defenders Stephen Darby and James Meredith had also appeared at Wembley three months earlier in City's crazy League Cup adventure, while Nicky Law, Billy Clarke and goalkeeper Colin Doyle all have previous play-off final experience.
Defender Shaun Cummings faces a late fitness test before Neil Harris selects his Millwall team, but beyond him he has a fully-fit squad from which to choose.
Millwall are marginal favourites in the match betting but it's a close call with the Lions on offer at 13/8 to win the game in normal time and Bradford priced at 9/5.
The draw is 21/10, while either team to win promotion via a penalty shootout is a 9/2 chance.
Sky Bet's range of Price Boosts include Bradford's Billy Clarke to score first enhanced from 28/1 to 33/1.
A look at how the Sporting Life recommended bets have performed.
Check out all of our available betting tips and previews of the forthcoming sporting action.
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