The play-offs have not been kind to either Lee Clark or Kenny Jackett, the respective Huddersfield Town and Millwall managers. It is fair to say that their opinion of the idea will hardly have improved yesterday afternoon as they watched their sides draw in a match that made for lively – but rarely compelling – viewing.
Clark lost at Wembley to Charlton Athletic on penalties as a Sunderland player back in 1998, while Jackett has twice been defeated in showpiece finals as a manager, first with Swansea City and then with his current side against Scunthorpe United last season.
One of these two men is destined to have his play-off agony extended this year, although this encounter gave precious little indication as to which manager will suffer. Only events at the New Den on Tuesday evening will make that clear.
Gary Roberts went close early on for Huddersfield while Danny Drinkwater and Jordan Rhodes both also wasted fine opportunities from close range, but the match never really ignited. Millwall were equally lacklustre going forward, although Scott Barron was convinced he was denied two penalties.
After 12 minutes his effort was stopped by Peter Clarke, who appeared to handball during his sliding block and the two were then at it again after the break, with Barron insistent that Clarke tripped him in the box. "It was a definite penalty, it couldn't have been any clearer," Barron said.
"I got a block in and it hit me square in the face, if it went on to my arm after that then I wasn't aware of it," the defender adamantly responded to the first allegation. Jackett could not resist backing up Barron. He said: "You'd certainly get one of them if not two, but to get neither was disappointing and I thought it was the wrong call."
A Neil Harris effort was disallowed for Millwall after he punched into the net during the second half, while the hosts' Lee Novak also had a goal ruled out for offside. But that was about it. The tie may well be too close to call but yesterday it was too tame for its own good, and the minor crowd trouble after the final whistle was probably provoked as much by frustration as anything else.
"If it had been down the other end I would have been asking as well," Clark admitted regarding the two penalty claims. "My lads put a magnificent effort in and were the dominant team. This game is not over by a long stretch."