An unbelievable second-half collapse from Millwall has seen the Lions miss out on the Championship play-offs, with Sunderland's 3-0 win at Preston North End ensuring them a shot of Premier League football after an extraordinary final day of the second-tier season.
Gary Rowett's side led Blackburn Rovers 3-1 at The Den but somehow conspired to lose 4-3, a result which allowed the Black Cats to overtake them and earn themselves the final play-off spot. They will be joined in the final-four shoot-out by Coventry City, whose 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough booked them a pair of play-off semi-final clashes with Michael Carrick's men as the Championship's regular campaign ended with high drama.
Coventry and Millwall headed into Monday afternoon with their destiny in their own hands, but while Mark Robins’ men did what they needed to do, Millwall will be left to rue their mistakes as they let a 3-1 lead go to spark scenes of jubilation for Sunderland at Deepdale.
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Millwall got off to the perfect start when Duncan Watmore fired in a wonderful strike to ease the nerves around the Den, and the home side thought they had doubled their lead when Tom Bradshaw tapped in after Zian Flemming’s free-kick cannoned off the post, but the forward was flagged offside.
It was a huge sigh of relief for Rovers, who were counting on a multitude of unlikely results to extend their own season, but as the game started to settl, Blackburn saw more of the ball and out of nowhere they conjured up an equaliser. Young Adam Wharton curled a beautiful effort into the bottom corner.
With West Bromwich Albion leading Swansea City through Okay Yokuslu, the Baggies moved up into sixth thanks to Wharton’s goal on goals scored. But then Luke Cundle equalised for Swansea, moving Millwall back up to sixth.
A sensational comeback from Blackburn Rovers and Millwall hearts are broken!
Up at the Riverside Stadium, Coventry knew that they just needed a point against Middlesbrough to secure their play-off place and they took the lead through midfield star Gustavo Hamer. Cameron Archer equalised just before the break to give the Sky Blues some nerves heading into the interval.
Back in the capital, Blackburn gifted Millwall a second goal. Oliver Burke sent a long ball, hoping to find Watmore and there was a lack of communication between Aynsley Pears and Harry Pickering which allowed Watmore to collect the ball and fire home. Burke fired home a third moments later, and all appeared to be lost for Sunderland with Millwall all-but assured of play-off football. Blackburn halved the deficit as Joe Rankin-Costello was alert to smash home following a Ben Brereton Diaz free-kick, but still they trailed 3-2.
In South Wales, Semi Ajayi restored West Brom’s lead and the Baggies were looking to Rovers to do them a favour at the Den. Over in Lancashire, Amad Diallo found the breakthrough for Sunderland and they were then relying on a Boro goal against Coventry to take them into the play-off on goals scored or for Rovers to equalise against Millwall.
Brereton Diaz was there to answer Sunderland’s prayers and level things at the Den, lifting the Black Cats above Millwall on goal difference. Tony Mowbray’s men quickly extended their lead to three with Alex Pritchard and Jack Clarke getting on the scoresheet, while Swansea equalised against West Brom for a second time thanks to Olivier Ntcham.
Millwall were left stunned, their comfortable position evaporating before their eyes, and the Lions threw everything forward in a bid to restore their lead as a goal was all they needed to get them over the line.
Gary Rowett threw on forwards Mason Bennett and Andreas Voglsammer but, as is the way in football, by throwing bodies forward Millwall left themselves exposed at the back. After nearly scoring themselves, the Lions were picked off on the counter-attack as Brereton Diaz netted his second of the game to silence the home crowd.
Millwall’s hearts were broken again and another year goes by where they have bitterly missed out on the play-offs, while Sunderland now stand a chance of back-to-back play-off successes following a fantastic return to the second tier.
Middlesbrough 1-1 Coventry City
Millwall 3-4 Blackburn Rovers
Preston North End 0-3 Sunderland
Swansea City 3-2 West Bromwich Albion
Play-off semi-final ties:
Luton Town v Sunderland
Middlesbrough v Coventry City