Blackburn Rovers 0 Millwall 1 match report: Michael Appleton faces reality check as Danny Shittu seals Wembley date

 

Ewood Park

Time for Millwall to dust off their favourite banner again. It carries the words, legendary to their fans, which gave them a piece of television history in Only Fools and Horses. “Your dad always said that one day Del Boy would reach the top,” Grandad declares. “Then again, he always said Millwall would win the Cup.”

Wonders never cease. It's been a remarkable relationship between them and the FA Cup, and nine years after Manchester United and Ruud van Nistelrooy destroyed them in the 2004 final at the Millenium Stadium, they will believe that victory in a semi-final against Wigan Athletic is within their gift.

There is even Wembley history between those two sides, who met in the 1999 Auto Windscreens Shield Final which was decided by a goal from Wigan journeyman Paul Rogers, in the days when that club had many such players. It will be silk against steel on the weekend of 13/14 April: Roberto Martinez's elegant passing game against the physical defensive presence of a side subtly inspired by the quiet man, Kenny Jackett, Martinez's predecessor at Swansea City. Wigan will have their work cut out. Millwall have only conceded one goal in this season's FA Cup and Jackett has imbued them with a rare spirit.

The last asset is not in Blackburn's possession. There was no better measure of the diminution of a once fine Premier League club under its Indian ownership than the empty streets an hour before kick-off last night. The stadium, where there are rarely more than 14,000 these days, was barely a quarter full for a game which placed Arsenal's conquerors 90 minutes from Wembley. There were pleas for some noise, in the match programme, but to no real avail. A club which was once a byword for prudence and wise husbandry of limited resources, and where respected chairman John Williams agonised over the best course forward, has been dismantled in the space of two years. Their talisman, David Dunn, left the ground in tears.

It's also been a struggle for Millwall, who have won once in the Championship since New Year's Day, and in the second half last night they barely ventured beyond their own defensive lines. It was not the kind of stuff they advertise on those FA Cup roadside hoardings and hardly in keeping with the delirium of this season's competition, but it was enough to see Millwall home. After the Nigerian defender Danny Shittu had put them ahead, running five yards unchecked to head in Chris Taylor's corner in the six-yard box four minutes before the interval, they showed that they are capable of defending to the hilt. The professionals will tell you that Shittu is one of the most awkward – if basic – defenders you'll come up against. Jack Smith and goalkeeper David Forde were also outstanding

The corner, awarded after Taylor's shot ploughed, undeflected, straight into the side-netting, had seemed questionable. But no-one seemed to have the heart to complain. "There's a fine line between winning and losing. Millwall won – good luck to them," the Blackburn manager, Michael Appleton, said. Neither, in the euphoria of victory, was anyone grumbling that Millwall's Dany N'Guessan had a strong penalty appeal turned down when Scott Dann had both hands hovering around the ball.

Dunn – who deserves to have something named after him having hung around, despite everything, in the town he loves – provided brief sparks of Lancastrian light. And Leon Best almost equalised, running through to fire a shot which Shane Lowry cleared off the line. But it was otherwise a lost cause for Appleton.

"You can feel disappointed and sorry for yourself but only for so long because no-one is going to feel sorry for us," he said last night. "We are where we are. Some of them are not going to get that opportunity again. For two or three seasons now it's been acceptable to lose. That's the hardest thing for me to take. It hurts as much as it could do."

If results go against them, Blackburn could enter the bear pit of the east Lancashire derby with Burnley only three points off the drop zone on Sunday. Millwall are a point below them in the Championship table but now, like Grandad, they will believe that anything is possible.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2) Kean; Lowe, Dann, Hanley, Markus Olsson (Gomes, 46); King (Forrester, 75), Dunn, Pedersen, Martin Olsson; Best, Rhodes. Substitutes not used Sandomierski (gk), Givet, Rekik, Goodwillie, O’Sullivan.

Millwall (4-2-3-1): Forde; Dunne, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry; Smith, Taylor; Keogh, Trotter, N’Guessan (Abdou, 66); Hulse (Marquis, 85). Substitutes not used Taylor (gk),Tyson, Smith, Osborne, Saville.

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?