Millwall and Blackpool played out a well contested 2-2 draw on the final day of the Championship season as both sides stretched their unbeaten league run to seven games.
Blackpool arrived at The Den safe in the knowledge that their play-off place was secured following last week’s 4-0 drubbing of Burnley. Millwall on the other hand, had guaranteed their Championship status for another season after five consecutive victories. With the play-offs in mind, the visitors made four changes which saw veteran striker Kevin Phillips start. The Lions remained unchanged as they hoped to sign out on a high.
The home side dominated proceedings early on and had a number of opportunities to take the lead. Harry Kane saw his curling strike parried by Matt Gilks as the young striker on-loan from Tottenham looked to end his loan spell with a goal. James Henry was denied twice by Gilks as Millwall looked to make their dominance count.
They did just that on 12 minutes, as Henry’s exceptional lofted pass was controlled by Andy Keogh. The Irishman advanced one-on-one with the keeper and he made no mistake, coolly slotting the ball home for his 10th goal of the season since joining the club in January.
Paul Robinson almost doubled the lead shortly after. Henry was the architect again from the corner, and Robinson connected with a downward header only to see it roll along the top of the crossbar.
Millwall allowed the visitors back into the game and had to weather some pressure, but failed to do so. Stephen Crainey’s free-kick was met by the head of Ian Evatt, he outmuscled Tony Craig in the process and guided the ball into the far corner past Maik Taylor, levelling the score on 27 minutes.
Thomas Ince’s delivery from a free-kick failed to meet an orange shirt but almost crept in at the far post, and shortly after that Millwall almost gifted Blackpool a second. Kevin Phillips latched onto a sloppy backpass from Shane Lowry and squared it to Ince in front of the gaping goal, but Jimmy Abdou’s fine interception cleared the danger and showed why he was crowned Millwall’s player of the season.
Some lacklustre defending from the home side allowed Nouha Dicko to work an opening but fortunately his wayward effort caused Taylor no problems in the Millwall goal. In what was an end-to-end game, both sides would’ve felt they’d done enough to go in at half-time a goal to the good. Instead, the sides went in at half-time level but you knew more goals would follow in the second half.
Shortly after the restart, Liam Trotter played his way through the Blackpool defence but curled his shot over Gilks’ crossbar. Keogh worked an opening with some clever skill on the edge of the area, but the ball got caught under his feet and his weak effort was no problem for Blackpool.
It was the away side who took the lead courtesy of Dicko on 71 minutes, as he shrugged off the challenge of the Millwall defender to slide in Crainey’s delivery.
Millwall introduced Shaun Batt with ten minutes to go and he made an immediate impact. He turned Neal Eardley brilliantly and almost worked a chance for himself, but Eardley recovered and cleared the danger. However, late pressure from the Lions paid dividends as the ball fell to Kane just outside the box and he thumped the ball into the bottom corner to level the game once again.
Blackpool had to deal with three successive corners which Millwall failed to capitalise from, as both teams ended their campaigns with a point. It was a fair result, one which both sets of fans will be satisfied with.
Millwall finish the season in 16th place, one point above South London rivals Crystal Palace. As for Blackpool, their season isn’t over yet as a fifth placed finish means they’ll face Birmingham in the play-offs next week.