Harris lands first blow for Millwall

Millwall 1 Leeds United

Conrad Leach
Saturday 12 October 2013 02:15

Millwall made some progress towards the League One play-off final, thanks to Neil Harris's strike, although some fans of the south London club showed they have still not made the great leap forward. After Harris beat Casper Ankergren from 10 yards, two fans ran on to the pitch and faced up to and ran around the Danish goalkeeper, taunting him with hand signals. Ankergren, to his credit, ignored them until a couple of stewards turned up and eventually escorted them away.

Kenny Jackett had just overseen the Lions' first win in a play-off game, at the ninth attempt, and so naturally he was keen to downplay what he regarded as only a very minor incident. The Millwall manager said: "There was one or two, that was all it was, very minimal, just a couple of kids."

Simon Grayson, Jackett's opposite number, was equally keen to brush over an incident that could have inflamed an atmosphere that was already extremely tense. He said: "The atmosphere is quite hostile in a play-off, people get exuberant. The authorities handled it well, and players too, they're all OK."

Grayson may have felt the situation required good humour but the Metropolitan Police, who arrested one of the pitch invaders, saw it differently. They deployed 400 officers in anticipation of trouble between the rival fans, where no love is lost. Leeds United brought 991 supporters, who were quarantined in the upper section behind one goal, with no Millwall fans allowed below them. This is common practice at the New Den.

The final whistle saw more home supporters run on to the pitch, in a more good-natured fashion, although they were prevented from getting near the visiting fans by mounted police. It was a further reminder that no one was taking any risks.

Jackett's plan was probably to introduce Harris, the club's leading scorer of all time, at some point in the second half, but his energy and nous were required much earlier because of an injury to Jason Price. A hamstring injury forced Price off after only 16 minutes and he will miss the second leg on Thursday at Elland Road.

The goal that has given Millwall a chance of making the play-off final on 24 May – and a visit to Wembley, denied them in 2004 when the FA Cup final was played in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium – was down initially to Gary Alexander's endeavour. After 71 minutes he crossed from the right wing. Richard Naylor, the Leeds captain, fluffed his attempt at a headed clearance and Harris pounced.

Jackett said: "It was a goalscorer's goal, he was one against one with the defender and kept it low. Maybe it was written he should score. And it was a good clean sheet, too."

Zak Whitbread, once a Liverpool reserve, was key to that, keeping Jermaine Beckford quiet. The scorer of 34 goals this season, League One's player of the year had a couple of shots but he did not trouble David Forde.

Grayson promised a different atmosphere, with 37,000 fans at Elland Road. He needs a different result, too, if Leeds are to reach the final instead of Millwall.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments