May 2016: MILLWALL 1 (Gregory 44) CITY 1 (Proctor 44)

THIS week marked seven years since Phil Parkinson lifted the League Two play-off trophy with City at Wembley.

It is also four years yesterday that he took charge for the final game of his five-year reign.

“I can’t fault the lads’ efforts over the season,” he said in the aftermath of City’s semi-final exit against Millwall. “They gave me everything.

“Now we have to look to bridge the gap between the play-offs and the top two.”

But he would never get the chance. That was Parkinson’s own decision.

Two days after the Den draw which saw the Bantams beaten 4-2 on aggregate, the much-anticipated news broke publicly that the club had new owners.

Two days on and Parkinson sat down with Edin Rahic for the first time – and was uncomfortable with what he heard. The rest, as they say, is history.

Parkinson, the fifth longest-serving manager at the time, had signed a three-year deal the previous September. Julian Rhodes had hoped he would stay on for 10.

But that Friday night at City’s play-off nemesis would prove his swansong.

For a boss who never shirked a challenge, it was a tough backdrop to finish.

His side had it all to do after losing 3-1 in the first leg at Valley Parade.

A blistering run of seven straight home wins spectacularly unravelled when it mattered most as Tony McMahon’s early penalty was overhauled by three Millwall goals before half-time.

There were shades of Burton from 2013. But the odds of City repeating that away triumph in the return game were stacked even higher against them.

With their promotion hopes on the line, Parkinson’s resources were depleted.

James Hanson and Reece Burke were injured and Filipe Morais, who had missed a big chance in the opening clash, pulled out after the final training session when his wife went into labour.

Billy Clarke was rushed back into frontline duty in a protective mask after fracturing his cheekbone in the final league game against Chesterfield.

Millwall, roared on by a predictably frenzied crowd, made the early running. Two penalty shouts – chiefly from the fans – were waved away before Joe Cullen tracked Ben Thompson into the box to crucially deflect the midfielder’s shot wide.

Millwall had kept seven clean sheets in eight at home but City threatened to ruffle their composure as Nathan Clarke, preferred to Burke at centre half, flicked across goal from Tony McMahon’s corner.

But just as the Bantams were coming more into the contest, Millwall’s deadly duo of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory broke the deadlock.

Home skipper Morrison did the leg work before setting up former Halifax hitman Gregory to beat Ben Williams from 15 yards.

The Den exploded in noise as City’s task grew even larger and Joe Martin, who scored a superb strike at Valley Parade, chased another with a 25-yard free-kick that Williams tipped over the bar.

Yet just when it seemed the play-off dream had disappeared, Parkinson’s men found a lifeline in the closing minutes of the half.

Kyel Reid drove into the box and pulled back a cross for Proctor. Jordan Archer blocked his shot but the striker side-footed the rebound into the roof of the net.

It should have got even better as Millwall suddenly appeared a bit nonplussed. Billy Clarke spun to play in Proctor again and he looked poised for a quick-fire second.

But Mark Beevers stopped him pulling the trigger and Carlos Edwards beat Reid to Proctor’s square pass along the six-yard box as the goal beckoned invitingly. It was a huge opportunity gone begging.

City’s injury woes struck again as Cullen limped off at the break and Millwall gradually regained their composure after that wobble.

Byron Webster went close to heading a second but City’s threat had subsided. The nearest they came was when sub Tom Thorpe was tumbled over by Beevers but ref Tim Robinson rejected screams for a penalty.

The closing minutes were marred by a succession of Millwall fans running onto the pitch and one fool waving a St George’s Flag even kicked the ball while in play.

It was an unsavoury sign of things to come 12 months later at Wembley. But it would be Stuart McCall, not Parkinson, in the dug-out then.

MILLWALL: Archer, Martin, Beevers, Webster (Craig 89), Abdou, Edwards, Taylor, Thompson, Ferguson, Gregory (S Williams 89), Morison.

CITY: B Williams, Darby, McArdle, N Clarke (Davies 74), Meredith, McMahon (Anderson 67), Evans, Cullen (Thorpe 46), Reid, B Clarke, Proctor.