Defences could emerge on top in Sunday's League One play-off clash at Bradford.
For most teams, the away leg of a play-off semi-final is a game to be approached with freedom, attempting to prey on any nerves in the home camp. For Millwall, this is about nothing else other than taking ‘a result’ back to the New Den. Their time isn’t now, it’s next week. A draw will do, even a narrow defeat they can work with. The objective is simply to stay in the game.
The advantage of playing the decisive leg on a Friday night in their Bermondsey backyard is a significant one, especially when you compare it directly with a Sunday lunchtime kick-off here. The players are talking about going to Valley Parade trying to win, but such lip service should fool nobody. If you offered the Lions a goalless draw now, they’d snatch your hand off.
And it just so happens that 0-0 is the most likely scoreline. No team in League One finished the season with a lower total goals expectancy than Bradford, while only Burton finished between them and Millwall. Based on shot data going back to Christmas, with no adjustments made for the conditions or time of year, my total expected goals figure for a match between these two is 1.73.
By standard conversion, that means a 19 per cent chance of this game failing to produce a goal for either side, which works out at a shade over 4/1, so don’t baulk at the 13/2 ‘no goalscorer’ price available with Bet365 and William Hill. Get involved. It might look short, but it’s not.
It only adds weight to the case that these two teams delivered only one goal in their two league meetings. A goalless draw at the New Den back in November was followed by a 1-0 defeat for the Lions at the end of March. The two games combined produced a total of just eight shots on target, roughly one every 23 minutes.
Even though Millwall were stung by a Steve Davies header on 79 minutes in that last meeting, there was little regret from Neil Harris afterwards about the game plan, just a moan about a momentary lapse in concentration. So Harris is unlikely to diverge from those risk-averse tactics, he’ll be too mindful of the fact that Bradford are chasing an eighth consecutive home win.
Besides, the task this time around will be made easier by the injury concerns that negate the Bantams attacking threat. Last time, they started with Billy Clarke and Jamie Proctor up front before Phil Parkinson made a double substitution, introducing James Hanson and Davies just three minutes before the fresh combination conjured up that winner.
This time, Clarke has a fractured cheekbone and Hanson is nursing a calf injury, so options might be limited later in the game if the Lions get to grips with the starting partnership. At the opposite end, seven clean sheets in the last nine outings - or six in the last seven at home - offer sufficient evidence that, defensively, Bradford couldn’t be in better shape.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system