City 0 Millwall 1

AMONG the vitriol and downright nonsense that inevitably flowed from social media in the Wembley aftermath, one message hit the nail on the head.

It simply read: "Better to lose like Bradford than win like Millwall." A sadly appropriate sentiment and one that cut through all the bluster. Nobody wins quite as gracelessly.

Those who crossed the line and invaded the pitch were the overwhelming evidence of that, especially those who sought to rub it in the faces of the beaten Bantams.

If it wasn't for goalkeeping coach Steve Banks, Stuart McCall might have been facing a rap today for responding to the taunting in his face with a swift right-hander.

Timothee Dieng, Billy Clarke and Rory McArdle were all targeted by the gloating Millwall mob, many armed with a mobile phone desperate to capture any hint of City reaction.

McCall had seen something similar last year between Hibernian and Rangers at the Scottish Cup final but remains mystified at the misguided logic behind their actions.

"Just enjoy promotion with your own players," he said. "Why do you have to come over to us?

"We are feeling bad enough as it is, trying to clap our fans who had been outstanding. Why do it?

"They are coming up and celebrating in our face. If Banksy hadn't come over, I could easily have been embroiled in throwing a couple of punches.

"People coming up to you and gesturing, trying to take pictures of you to take the mick, trying to shake your hand and pulling away. It is nonsense."

The absence of an effective stewarding barrier to block the perpetrators from getting to the City players made a joke of the pre-match assurances that security had been beefed up following trouble in Millwall's previous Wembley visit 12 months earlier.

Some things sadly never change – unlike the difference between the City of then and now.

As the realisation slowly seeps in over how close they came to regaining a place in the Championship, there is still cause for considerable pride.

From the owners, manager, players and supporters, there should be a feeling of a job well done over the season – even if it couldn't quite deliver the perfect ending.

There have been so many good things about the last nine months that must not be forgotten in the agony and post-Wembley recriminations.

The supporters who followed City south certainly knew it. They might have been 4,000 fewer in number than their Millwall counterparts but they were more than equal in volume. It was a backing that deserved better than the cruel outcome.

Every fan knew how special the moment would be to celebrate, with McCall finally bringing glory as a manager to his club. That was snatched away by wily old fox Steve Morison as the division's deadliest front two did what they do best.

For 85 minutes, City had kept Morison and Lee Gregory under lock and key with little hint of adding to their 36-goal tally for the campaign.

McCall opted to play with three centre halves, as he had done during the league meeting at Valley Parade, to provide extra protection and prevent any defender being exposed.

Morison likes to target his perceived weak link in the backline and zoomed in on Nathaniel Knight-Percival, who stood toe-to-toe with him for all but one split second.

Then he was fatally caught on his heels ball-watching to allow the striker a chance to stab home with an outstretched right foot. One opportunity, one goal – and all the good work had come to nothing.

It did highlight the season-long shortfall that ultimately saw City miss out – the failure to convert enough of their own possession into a goal.

Once again, City enjoyed the lion's share of the ball against the Lions. But 61 per cent, according to the post-match stats, failed to deliver one knock-out blow.

That is the story of the campaign for a team who simply didn't score enough from having so much attacking threat.

The best chance fell to Billy Clarke from a peach of a pass by Mark Marshall. Sliding the ball through two defenders, Clarke then ran on a yard clear of the flailing Shaun Hutchinson.

It was on his weaker right foot but the chipped shot carried sufficient venom – only to be met by a strong hand from the grounded Jordan Archer to turn the ball the wrong side of the post.

It was a superb save from the Millwall keeper to deny City a lead their first-half performance had warranted.

As McCall had wanted, his team looked to exploit Wembley's wide open spaces at every opportunity, with James Meredith and Tony McMahon on wing-back duties to use every inch.

But Millwall were prepared to concede ground out wide and squeeze the room down the middle. Charlie Wyke, as a consequence, had little chance to breathe against Hutchinson and Byron Webster.

Millwall's obvious threat came from set-pieces but seven corners in each half failed to rattle Colin Doyle.

While the heart rates on the monitors provided to a couple of fans from both sides continued to shoot up and down on the Wembley scoreboard, City's backline dealt with the regular crosses with minimum anxiety.

Josh Cullen, clearly appearing in his final game in claret and amber, was bossing things in front of them. How his ability to dictate play will be missed.

But the tide began to turn after the break. Millwall upped their intensity, Neil Harris pushing his wingers further forward and demanding more bite in the challenges. City's tempo dropped in comparison and they lost a bit of steam.

Even then there were chances, with a couple of juicy headers missed by Rory McArdle – usually the Wembley talisman in front of goal.

Gregory set up Jed Wallace but he rolled a cross-shot past the post. It was the closest Millwall had managed up to that point.

Then Marshall, another who could well be on his way, ran the ball into Shaun Williams halfway inside the Millwall half.

The Lions countered quickly as City were caught out. Gregory surged then fed the overlapping Williams before meeting his cross with a deft flick.

Morison had anticipated it to get a half-yard away from Knight-Percival's grip – the freeze frame showed the referee's assistant got it right not to flag offside – and he applied the convincing finish.

The shameful escapades after the whistle applied salt to the raw wound. But at least there was dignity even in defeat. Some would do well to learn lessons from that.

Attendance: 53,320