It’s a weekend of finals and the action continues on Sunday as Millwall and Barnsley clash at Wembley for the League One play off final. The prize of course is Championship football and it would be a quick return to England’s second tier for both clubs.
Millwall were relegated just last year, but despite being one of the favourites to win the division they could only finish 4th, some four points off the automatic promotion places. Barnsley have spent two seasons in League One after relegation in 2014, and having been bottom of the table in December a promotion charge looked highly unlikely. However a brilliant run during the second half of the season, much of it under caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom, saw them sneak into 6th place on goal difference, while they also picked up the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy by beating Oxford in the final at Wembley in April.
That experience will surely stand them in good stead on their return to the national stadium on Sunday, but this is a one-off game where anything can happen over the ninety minutes. The Tykes have been listed by the layers as slight favourites to achieve promotion, but there is precious little to choose between the two teams and Millwall are the value call in a two-horse race.
Across the play offs in all of the English divisions the team that has won the first leg has fared very well. Barnsley beat Wallsall 3-0 in the first game of their semi final with a devastating ten minute spell before and after half-time where they hit all three goals. They followed up in the second leg with a 3-1 win to make the aggregate score a resounding 6-1 as they booked their place at Wembley. Wallsall had been unfortunate to miss out on automatic promotion in the regular season as they were pipped to the post by Burton Albion, so the result was a highly impressive one.
Millwall also produced an excellent first leg performance despite falling a goal behind at away at Bradford. They hit back to win 3-1 and bring a commanding lead back to the Den. Lee Gregory’s goal gave them the lead at home, and although Bradford hit back to equalize they were unable to build on that and the aggregate score of 4-2 saw Millwall comfortably through to the final.
Millwall Set For a Quick Return
In terms of the direct head to head results in this season’s League One, Barnsley have the upper hand having won 2-1 at home and 3-2 away, but it could be a case of third time unlucky after Sunday’s final. Both games were tight encounters with Barnsley grabbing a second half winner in the home game, and an injury-time winner in the away game.
The Tykes are rated a best price of +170 to win over 90 minutes, while the Lions are the slight outsider at a best price of +190 . In a two-horse race like this it often pays to side with the underdog at a better price, and Millwall to qualify/lift the trophy at +100 with SkyBet and Bet365 is the recommendation.
Millwall boss Neil Harris said after the semi final win that Barnsley will be tough opponents, but he’ll be perfectly happy with the form of his own team, who have won 7 of their last ten matches and only tasted defeat four times in the league in 2016. Barnsley are in equally good form having won six of their last ten, suffering defeat just three times in 2016.
Essentially there is almost nothing to choose between the two sides and it will all come down to who performs best on the day. With that being the case, backing Millwall to gain promotion by whatever means at even odds is the sensible value call. The bet allows for the possibility of extra-time and penalties, and this game has the feel of a match that could go all the way.
Millwall to Lift the Trophy
Sunday 29th May, 15:00 GMT