The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINAL - By Jack Miller

TO DE­SCRIBE this goal­less draw as dour would be one of the big­ger un­der­state­ments of the sea­son, but that’s per­fectly fine by Scun­thorpe boss Graham Alexan­der, who claims his game plan worked to per­fec­tion.

The Iron sti­fled Mill­wall in a clash that never looked like get­ting out of first gear and put them­selves in the box seat ahead of to­day’s sec­ond leg at Glan­ford Park.

The only clear open­ing came on 26 min­utes, but Lee Gre­gory’s shot was blocked by the legs of Scun­thorpe stop­per Joe Anyon.

It was just a fifth goal­less draw in 64 games at the Iron’s helm for Alexan­der, and it could hardly have been sweeter.

“We had to be de­fen­sively strong as we played here re­cently and had a poor re­sult,” said Alexan­der, whose side lost 3-1 at The Den at the start of April. “This was a mas­sive im­prove­ment on that.

“We had to stay fo­cused and dis­ci­plined, and to a man they did that. I had an open mind as I knew the game would be played over two legs, but this is a pos­i­tive re­sult.

“We’re happy with the type of per­for­mance we had to put in and how we car­ried that through.

“We were dis­ap­pointed to con­cede the op­por­tu­nity to Lee Gre­gory, but for­tu­nately it was a great save from Joe.”

De­spite the rap­tur­ous noise at The Den, this was a nig­gly tie and chances were few and far be­tween.

Two su­perb clear­ances by Mur­ray Wal­lace from Tony Craig and Shane Fer­gu­son de­liv­er­ies kept the Lions at bay, while Gre­gory spurned the one gilt-edged chance as he latched on to a pin­point Jed Wal­lace ball, but saw his tame ef­fort re­pelled by Anyon.

Af­ter the break, Mill­wall looked to turn the screw, with Wal­lace fir­ing count­less balls into the box, and skip­per Craig lashed a vol­ley well over.

Scun­thorpe’s only at­tempt on tar­get came in the 80th minute when Josh Mor­ris’s free-kick was eas­ily saved by Jor­dan Archer. Lions boss Neil Har­ris was left to rue a missed op­por­tu­nity to gain con­trol of the tie. “I thought we were re­ally good in the first half,” said Har­ris. “For 15 or 20 min­utes, it was a bit ping-pong, with the ball in the air quite a lot and a lot of feisty chal­lenges.

“We got a foothold in the game, but there wasn’t much qual­ity from ei­ther side. The mo­ments of qual­ity came our way, and the clear-cut chance for Lee Gre­gory was the ma­jor one.

“I’m cer­tainly pleased not to con­cede a goal though. There are four quar­ters of foot­ball for me over the two ties and it was im­por­tant not to get beaten in the first two.”


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