Wembley failure gives Adkins iron will to succeed
Sunday 24 May 2009
Nigel Adkins is confident that the pain of having lost at Wembley already this season will spur on his Scunthorpe side when they walk out on to the pitch today. The Iron take on Millwall in the League One play-off final only seven weeks after meeting Luton Town in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final. They lost 3-2 but have been galvanised sufficiently by Adkins to put themselves in with a chance of an instant return to the Championship.
"It is going to be very beneficial," he said. "It's not nice to lose at Wembley, believe me, but we tried to gather that feeling straight away. So when we go back again, we don't want to experience that feeling and hopefully it can just drive us on that little bit more, and when those legs are tired and weak, we can just hopefully dig deep into the memory bank and say, 'No, I'm not going to have failure.'
"We've sampled Wembley, it's a horrible place to lose, we're going there with the mindset to win the game. It's not about the occasion, it's about winning a game of football now."
Scunthorpe earned their place in the final with a penalty shoot-out win over the MK Dons last weekend and come up against a Millwall side who battled their way past Leeds over the course of two bruising encounters. And Adkins, who has seen his team beat Millwall twice in the League this season, knows how tough a prospect is in store.
"We're the underdogs, clearly," said the 44-year-old, who was the club's physio when they last went up through the play-offs, in 1999. "We've beaten Millwall twice this year and it shows how well this group of players have performed, consistently, over the year. There's an inner belief about the group but, believe me, we know we are in for one hard game of football."
Kenny Jackett, the manager of Millwall, has also experienced Wembley heartbreak, albeit a quarter of a century ago, having been on the losing side with Watford against Everton in the 1984 FA Cup final.
"Finals are horrible to lose in," he said. "It's terrific to be involved, it will be a great day but we want to cap it all by winning. Scunthorpe made a good fist of the Championship last year and have had a very successful season so far this year.
"They have some very good players, they've beaten us twice so we know what we are up against. It's a big challenge but there is no reason why we can't overcome it."
Scunthorpe have sold just short of 10,000 tickets for the final and their support will be dwarfed by Millwall, who are expected to take as many as 50,000 fans from south-east to north-west London. Millwall midfielder Adam Bolder feels that importing the Den atmosphere into the national stadium will give the players a huge boost.
"With us having the majority of the fans behind us it will be like a home game to us," Bolder said. "That's what we've got to try to turn it into – at home we are a very positive team.
"We showed in the semi-final against Leeds how positive we could be and over the two legs we fully deserved to go through. This club is going in the right direction; a Wembley final is the first step and let's get into the Championship – and that's where the club will move forward. You don't want to come to a place like Wembley and look back in five years and say 'if only'. It's about getting the win and making sure we are the ones playing in the Championship next year."
Jackett will have Zak Whitbread available, the defender having recovered from the head he injury suffered against Leeds. Neil Harris has overcome a dead leg and is also likely to start, while Lewis Grabban will come in for James Henry, whose loan period from Reading has finished. Gary Hooper, Scunthorpe's leading scorer, is fit again after a groin problem while Andrew Wright (facial wound) and Joseph Mills (ankle) could also feature. But Marcus Williams is definitely out with an achilles injury.
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