An FA Cup Final against Manchester United would be the zenith of the season for most Nationwide First Division clubs, but Millwall hope to have a second trip to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff before the end of their season to contest the play-off final. Yesterday, however, with Paul Ifill, player-manager Dennis Wise and captain Kevin Muscat all missing, the Lions went down 4-0 at Coventry City and slipped out of the top six.
"In the summer the play-offs were our priority and absolutely nothing has changed," Wise said. "We cannot have our minds on the Cup Final and have now got to get back to winning games again. I was particularly disappointed with our defending, if you do not mark properly at corners then you are always going to struggle."
Lion-tamer in chief was Julian Joachim who scored twice. In the sixth minute, a short corner routine saw the ball delivered to the far post and knocked back across goal for Joachim to hook in his 10th goal of the season. Six minutes later another a corner was sent to the far post and Eric Deloumeaux headed in his first Coventry goal.
Despite making three changes at half-time, Millwall fell further behind when Joachim took advantage of a mix-up between Andy Marshall and Darren Ward to tap in the third and Garry McSheffrey scored the fourth from the penalty spot.
Ipswich Town were the big winners of the day among the play-off contenders, beating Rotherham United 3-1 at Millmoor to move up four places to fifth. The Millers scored first but Jermaine Wright's 30-yard volley levelled the scores and goals in the last two minutes by Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi earned the three points for Ipswich.
Cardiff City and Crystal Palace have spent much of the past two months scuffling on the fringes of the play-offs but only Palace will continue to do so after a 2-0 win at Ninian Park. Andy Johnson's 26th goal of the season and, after Cardiff's Tony Vidmar was sent off five minutes from time, Wayne Routledge did the damage. "It is a shame our lingering play-off hopes have ended like a damp squib," Lennie Lawrence, the Cardiff manager, admitted. "Most sides at the top are falling to pieces and unfortunately after this display so are we."
Reading's play-off drive was blunted at Bradford City, who still look likely to join Wimbledon in the Second Division next season despite their 2-1 win. David Weatherall and substitute Lewis Emanuel were on target for the Bantams, and there were contentious sendings-off for Bradford's Michael Branch and Reading's Ivar Ingimarsson after a tussle with Dean Windass. "We need to win at least four of our five remaining games," the Bradford manager, Bryan Robson, calculated. "We have got a couple of tough away games, but Derby on Monday is the only one we are looking at. It is a massive game for us. If we lose it we can say we will be relegated. If we win it we have a chance."
At the bottom, Burnley moved four points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win over Walsall at the Bescot Stadium, Robbie Blake on target from the penalty spot. The Clarets entertain Watford tomorrow who are above them on goal difference after the Hornets' 2-1 home win over Crewe. Nottingham Forest edged further away from trouble after a goalless draw with Stoke and relegated Wimbledon drew 3-3 with Preston.
The Second Division leaders, Plymouth Argyle, beat the bottom club, Wycombe Wanderers, 2-1, second placed Queen's Park Rangers were 3-0 winners over Grimsby Town but third-placed Bristol City slipped back after they were held 1-1 at Swindon Town. Doncaster Rovers, the Third Division leaders, won 2-1 at Bristol Rovers to go six points clear.Reuse content