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).

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
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

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick