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30 April 2017

Bristol Rovers 3-4 Millwall FC

Attendance: 11,750 (1,281 away)

Goals from Jermaine Easter, Chris Lines and a superb free-kick from Billy Bodin weren't enough for Rovers, as a late header from Shaun Hutchinson secured a dramatic victory for Millwall in the final fixture of the 2016/17 campaign. 

Heading into the final day fixture, Manager Darrell Clarke opted to make three changes to the side that were defeated last weekend against Peterborough. Lee Brown, Daniel Leadbitter and Jake Clarke-Salter all returned to the Rovers' defence, with Ryan Sweeney, Robert Harris and James Clarke the trio that missed out. 

The visitors started the game with a high intensity and were rewarded with a goal just five minutes into the contest when a cross from the left caused a scramble inside the box that Lee Gregory was able to take full advantage of to power home from close-range to put Millwall ahead.

Millwall continued to press high and created further early chances, as Lee Gregory created space for himself on the edge of the Rovers area and blasted a right-footed effort narrowly off-target.

Rovers' first opportunity of the game was started by Jermaine Easter, as the striker picked up a loose ball in front of the Millwall defence and waited patiently before picking out Ellis Harrison, who could have returned the pass back to Easter but instead opted to shoot and his effort was charged down by the Millwall defence. 

The game progressed at the high level of intensity, with Millwall creating the better of the chances. Billy Bodin had a free-kick for Rovers from a wide position, but the winger could only direct his effort straight into the hands of Jordan Archer. At the other end, a cross from goalscorer Gregory found Jimmy Abdou free inside the area, but the striker could only divert his close-range header over the crossbar.

Millwall's advantage was doubled in the 26th minute, as an inswinging corner caused the Rovers' defence problems that allowed Tony Craig to bundle the ball over the line at the far post, with suspicions of offside from the Rovers back-four.

Just five minutes later Rovers created a way back into the game when a shot from Billy Bodin lobbed Millwall 'keeper Jordan Archer, but bounced back off the crossbar, with Jermaine Easter on hand to fire home the rebound to reduce the deficit to just one goal. 

Millwall were back on the scoresheet just three minutes after Easter's goal, as Steve Morrison produced a cross from the right that bounced across the face of goal and towards Lee Gregory at the far post, with the striker sliding the ball into the net for his second goal of the afternoon. 

The entertainment didn't hold-up as the half-time break approached, as Billy Bodin was given room to cut inside from the right, skipping past numerous challenges before leaving the ball for Chris Lines, as the midfielder produced a precise side-footed finish that nestled into the top corner from just outside the Millwall area to score the third goal inside a twelve minute period of the first-half. 

Rovers began the final forty-five minutes brightly with Lee Brown directing an inviting cross to the far-post that has Ellis Harrison poised ready to tap home, but the ball was deflected away from the striker by the outstretched leg of Millwall captain Tony Craig.

The home side enjoyed the majority of possession, but Millwall's defence proved difficult to break down. Jermaine Easter forged a good chance for Rovers, with the striker taking the ball wide before delivering a ball into the area that narrowly missed the advancing Ellis Harrison at the far-post. Bodin again created a chance for himself out of nothing, using his trickery to make space for himself to shoot from outside the area, but the winger's effort was blocked on its way to goal. 

The chances kept coming for Rovers, as a corner from Chris Lines found Ellis Harrison, but under pressure from a number of defenders, the striker could only direct his header past the post. 

Eventually, the goal came for Rovers with just fifteen minutes left in the game. The move was started by Byron Moore, who won his side a free-kick in a central position, just twenty-five yards out from goal. Lee Brown, Chris Lines and Billy Bodin all stood over the set-piece, but it was Bodin who delivered a sweetly struck left-footed free-kick that curled into the top corner, with Jordan Archer unable to prevent Bodin's set-piece from levelling the scores.

Millwall knew that they needed a win to ensure that they finished inside the top six and they got the goal they needed in the 84th minute, as Shaun Hutchinson headed home from a corner to put the visitors ahead late on in the contest. 

Rovers weren't able to forge any opportunities for a late equaliser, with long-range efforts from Chris Lines and Stuart Sinclair both being charged down, as Millwall held on to inflict a first home defeat for Rovers since November.

Bristol Rovers: Joe Lumley (G), Lee Brown, Tom Lockyer (C), Jake Clarke-Salter, Daniel Leadbitter, Byron Moore, Billy Bodin, Stuart Sinclair, Chris Lines, Jermaine Easter (78' Luke James), Ellis Harrison (84' Ryan Broom).

Substitutes: Steve Mildenhall (G), Lee Mansell, James Clarke, Ryan Broom, Luke James, Joe Partington, Jonny Burn.

Millwall F.C: Jordan Archer (G), Shaun Cummings, Shaun Hutchinson, Tony Craig, Shaun Williams, David Worrall (62' Fred Onyedinma), Lee Gregory (67' Aiden O'Brien), Byron Webster, Shane Ferguson (86' Jake Cooper), Steve Morrison, Jimmy Abdou.

Substitutes: Tom King (G), Joe Martin, Ben Thompson, Mahlon Romeo,  Jake Cooper.

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