The play-offs have not been kind to Millwall. Five failures prior to yesterday, including losing the League One final to Scunthorpe last year, meant that most of the supporters approached this game with varying degrees of trepidation. There was indeed some late cause for concern at Wembley, but Kenny Jackett's men showed that sixth time can be lucky. Now, after half a dozen years, thanks to Paul Robinson's strike, the Lions have returned to the second tier of English football and consigned that play-off hoodoo to a dustbin in South Bermondsey.
Jackett reflected on how that defeat to Scunthorpe, from 2-1 up before losing 3-2, motivated his players. He said: "This is a stark contrast to a year ago. We talked about Scunthorpe. I used the anger from last year and I'm pleased to say the players have seen it through. It takes something to keep going after a play-off defeat. Our experience last year stood us in good stead." His opposite number, Danny Wilson, could only speak of "devastation" in his dressing room before citing Millwall's ability to recover as an inspiration to his own players.
Robinson sums up Millwall's powers of recovery. A year ago he was a late substitute, having been out injured. Now he is captain and a mainstay of the team. The centre-half has been with the club for nine years. "Gold dust" was how Jackett described him and it was something of a golden goal, with this game worth £5 million to the victors.
Millwall dominated early on and Steve Morison, after running on to Danny Schofield's pass, saw his chip float just over David Lucas. Neil Harris, the club's all-time leading scorer, tried his luck from a tight angle but Lucas palmed it over. The pressure appeared to have told after half an hour, when Kevin Amankwaah, the Swindon defender, sent a header past his own goalkeeper but he was saved by a Millwall player straying offside.
That was a sign of things to come and six minutes before the interval, the south London side were in front. Two Swindon defenders failed to get a header to Schofield's corner, the ball came off Robinson's chest and he reacted quickest to prod his shot home from six yards.
Wilson's side took half an hour just to fashion their first chance, when Alan Sheehan shot over from 25 yards. The threat of Billy Paynter, with 29 goals this season, and Charlie Austin was cancelled out by Millwall's organised back four.
But a mistake by one of those four let Austin in for what should have been an equaliser. With 18 minutes remaining, Robinson's header went straight to the former bricklayer, who homed in on goal.
To Robinson's eternal relief, Austin, who started the season combining his job as a brickie with playing for Poole in the Wessex League, curled his shot a yard wide. If he was looking for an excuse, the ball bobbled as he shot, but he still made a pure contact.
Wilson certainly found an excuse. He said: "The pitch is a bone of contention. I would have put my house on him scoring. He didn't miss. It was a bobble. But he feels it's all his fault. I'm not criticising him though."
Despite an abject team performance, Swindon, and Austin, could still have forced extra time. In the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, the ball fell to the forward and his shot spun off the turf. The goalkeeper, David Forde, got his hands to the ball but it slipped out of his grasp, and squirmed only inches past the post. By the narrowest of margins, Millwall were back in the Championship.Reuse content