A warm Iron Bru welcome to Earl Priestley, who discusses what went wrong as the Iron lost out to Millwall in the League One play off semi finals.
Thursday at Millwall discussing the line up. We were all in agreement that whilst the three changes were as expected, that we were playing for the draw. It had a negative feel to it and we weren’t wrong. We played for the draw and got it- fair enough. But we need to get into them on Sunday. Get an early goal and play to our strengths. Three up front was even mentioned between us. Mentally we were planning for another day out in London, the feeling was positive. And why not?
Sunday, 6.45. The team news. No changes. No changes? The same side and formation that never looked liked winning at Milwall are suddenly going to beat the same side three days later? I couldn’t see it. Was I wrong? Unfortunately not. Yes, we did take the lead in the 19th minute, but what did we really do in that first half that said we’re winning this?
Millwall looked composed and at ease with the ball, never showing signs of panic. Ask any manager about the worst time to concede and nearly all will say ‘just before the break’. The equalizer came on 45 minutes. Moments later Millwall went close again. Their tails were up. We needed the whistle, just to regroup.
Half time and I’m thinking we just need to take back control. Composure, pass the ball around and build from that. Do in this game what had served us well for much of the season. But we didn’t. An hour on the clock and we’re 3-1 down. Game over. I’m not seeing enough to think we are going to get this back. Yes, Dawson scored a consolation goal but that was a speculative shot, that could have gone anywhere, as good as it was.
The introduction of Holmes saw us at our best as Dawson moved into the middle. Duane has an energy and pace that we had been missing. Alas it was all too little to late. Six minutes of added time was met with a mighty roar from the stands but not on the pitch. Begrudging credit to Millwall though as the better side were the victors.
So where did it all go wrong on the night? A negative lineup and too many players not performing. You’re at home and need to win. Go positive. Where were the players playing wide who could whip a cross in. How often do we defend a corner and leave nobody up the field for a potential breakaway? Two men on on a corner. Why? Has it ever really made a difference?
A week ago we saw a piece of individual brilliance from Hakeeb for a wonderful goal. He wasn’t even on the bench for either leg and no reason was given as to why. A player who can produce a piece of magic and worry defences was nowhere to be seen. A game that was there to be won, that wasn’t. We must learn from this.
So where does this leave us then? A third season in League One, having made progression again. That’s a positive in itself but could the progression have been so much more? Yes. At Chrismas we sat on top of the table and look well placed for promotion.
A run across February and March of one win in 11, left us questioning even whether we would cling on to a play off place. A run of three months with no away wins, including an unprecedented hat trick of penalties conceded at Gillingham, culminated in a 3-1 defeat at Millwall. Arguably our worst performance of the season, which posed many questions. Five wins on the bounce sealed the play off place and took us so close to second place, it left us thinking what might have been.
The key to what we can achieve next season is about learning from the mistakes made in this one. With the right recruitment, and mixing them in with best of this season’s side, then further progression is possible.
Only time will tell.