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Swindon Town fan Nick Judd runs through some of the match-ups likely to decide Saturday's Wembley showpiece
Swindon are yet to beat The Lions this season. A fractious draw at the County Ground saw Jonathan Douglas harshly sent off and Neil Harris and Kevin Amankwaah facing off as things got ‘pwoper nawty’.
Then, in the return fixture, with second spot a possibility on the last day of the season, Milwall overturned an early deficit – thanks to an own goal and penalty conversion – to win 3-2.
I’m expecting another close game. Town boss Danny Wilson says there’s “only a cigarette paper” between the two sides, so who will decide the tie?
Danny Ward v Jack Smith
Nineteen-year-old Ward has been Town’s major attacking threat in recent weeks, a real fans’ favourite with pace to burn and who’s growing in confidence.
With Billy Paynter injured for the play-off semi first leg, the Bolton loanee stepped up his game. A winger for most of the campaign, Ward struck an early volley cutting in from the left to give Town the led at the Den. Against Charlton, he moved to a more central attacking position alongside Austin and his pace caused havoc. In the second leg, he started on the left and moved forward as Town attempted to get back in the game having gone two down, and he poked home the crucial goal.
Expect him to start on the left and give former Town right-back Jack Smith a tough afternoon before moving further forward if things aren’t going to plan. On the other side for Town, Jon-Paul McGovern has contributed the highest number of assists in League One. Town could succeed if they can exploit the flanks.
Jean Francois Lescinel v Steve Morison
Six foot two and a free-scoring blue, I’m expecting Morison to be a major threat for ‘the Wall’. He’s got a goal every two games and scored a cracker in our 3-2 defeat at the Den.
He’s big, combative and the man marking him will need to be at the top of his game to keep him quiet. With skipper Gordon Greer suspended for his triple-jump challenge and subsequent sending off in the semis, ‘Lecs’ will probably be the man to fill his boots. The Haitian has had his ups and downs this season, the latter mainly at left-back, but a central position suits him. He’ll have his hands full this week, though.
Jonathan Douglas/Simon Ferry v Nadjim Abdou/Liam Trotter
Jonathan Douglas is Town’s orchestrator-in-chief. He dictates the ebb and flow, feeding Simon Ferry, who tries to find gaps in the opposing defence. The duo have been immense all season although Ferry – on loan from Celtic – has looked tired in recent weeks.
The two of them face Abdou and Trotter – a formidable pairing in Millwall’s engine room. They snuffed out Huddersfield’s midfield in the semis and will look to do the same at Wembley.
Trotter, on loan from Ipswich, has 11 Championship games under his belt this season and he was part of the Scunthorpe side that beat Millwall in the Play-Off final last season. His experience (despite being only 21) could be key.
Vincent Pericard & Jonathan Obika
Personally, I think this game will go all the way, so if not penalties then extra-time. If so, some fresh legs could be required. Pericard has had his critics since joining Town from Carlisle and he hasn’t reached his best form, but this could be his defining moment.
Town’s assistant boss Peter Shirtliff describes him as “a big-game player” and his cameo role in the semi first leg against Charlton showed glimpses of his robust best. In the other dugout, a player with an exemplary scoring record in League One. Tottenham striker Obika scored six in 13 for Yeovil on loan last season and has two from 12 substitute outings this time.
Danny Wilson & Kenny Jacket
Town fans are expecting Wilson to play it safe. He’s used the same starting XI for most of the run-in and aside from enforced changes, I think he’ll go with the team that has got him this far.
Lucas (if fit); Amankwaah, Cuthbert, Lecs, Sheehan (if fit); McGovern, Douglas, Ferry, Ward; Paynter, Austin.
“The consistency of the line-up has probably got us where we are because we’ve then been consistent in results,” said Wilson on Wednesday. “You don’t want to keep chopping and changing if you can help it. There’s going to be a time when you have to make changes for certain reasons. But the fact that we have had a steady side and a settled side has helped each other.”
Jacket has more options at his disposal and is keeping his cards closer to his chest. "I want everybody fit and available if I can, because that will give me good options both in terms of the starting XI and the squad as a whole because, as a manager, that's what you're always looking for.” He’s also been talking about how his Lions would be underdogs in the Championship if they were to emerge victorious.
Let’s hope he doesn’t get the chance to find out…
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