Millwall strike first but Leeds remain upbeat
The build-up to Saturday's League One play-off tie between Millwall and Leeds at the New Den had inevitably surrounded the off-the-field issues - but the headlines that follow will take their lead from what happened on it.
The evergreen Neil Harris scored the only goal as Millwall ended a hoodoo that had seen them go eight play-off games without a victory since their first campaign in 1991.
Harris, who replaced the injured Jason Price after 15 minutes, is the leading scorer in the south London club's history and a legend among its fans. He has battled and beaten testicular cancer and his popularity as a player far transcends the New Den, though it probably isn't too high in one corner of west Yorkshire at the moment.
Unfortunately a small pitch invasion followed his goal. Most of the supporters who made their way onto the pitch were intent on celebrating, carried away on a wave of emotion. Play-offs have that tendency.
Had it ended there we probably would not hear too much more about the matter but one fan did appear to make his way towards Leeds keeper Casper Ankergren. Afterwards the Dane claimed a supporter threw something at him, while the police later confirmed that an arrest had been made on suspicion of assault.
"It's very bad for football and Millwall should be punished," said the Leeds keeper.
Millwall have previous and the focus when they play a high-profile match against Leeds is not all about the football.
There were 400 police on duty and sales of away tickets for both legs had been restricted to 1,000 in an attempt to ensure that the supporters do not become the story.
And the pitch invasion aside, the policing policy did appear to work. I did see plenty of Millwall fans on the charge but they were intent on catching the 11.33 out of London Bridge, while the most dangerous situation I encountered involved a teenage girl almost poking my eye out with a giant flag on an escalator.
The atmosphere was everything you would expect, with Millwall chanting their "No one likes us" anthem only for Leeds to respond with "Marching on together", while grown men postured to each other from the safety of the 100 yards that separated them. But I had been at Preston's match with Sheffield United the night before and the general chanting, passion and pleading among the majority of the fans was similar from one game to the next, the common denominator being the desire to see their team win.
I heard one fan yell "On it from the start Millwall" and his team did not let him down.
Kenny Jackett's side played with a desire and intensity that compensated for the deficiency in pace and skill when contrasted with their opponents. The defence was well marshalled by Zak Whitbread and kept Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio relatively quiet. Jackett, who normally plays with wingers, went with a 4-3-3 formation and the Lions remained true to their attacking resolve despite the loss of the aerial presence of Price to injury after 15 minutes.
In truth it looked for a while as though the match would end goalless (most of the play-off ties so far have been cagey affairs) but Harris eventually found the net and if Millwall have over-achieved in reaching the play-offs then you could see on Saturday the qualities that have ensured they still remain in the hunt for promotion.
Gary Alexander's situation provides a superb case in point. After the game Jackett explained that the striker is 29 now and has plied his trade in the lower divisions for a decade. Quite simply, he is desperate to play in the Championship next season.
But if Jackett was delighted with the clean sheet and the first-leg victory he certainly wasn't getting carried away.
"We will have to play to our maximum to go through in the second leg," said the Lions boss.
And even though Leeds lost their manager Simon Grayson hardly seemed too downcast.
Take, for example, his explanation of the incident that saw Sam Sodje dislocate his shoulder during the game only to immediately pop it back in. Somebody asked whether Sodje had done this before. The Leeds boss quipped that he had probably been watching Lethal Weapon.
Grayson's message to the Leeds supporters was that it was very much "game on" and he seemed pretty relaxed for a manager who had seen his team lose for only the second time in 16 games.
Travelling down to London he told his team to make sure they were still firmly in the tie by the time Thursday's return leg takes place at Elland Road and Grayson quite rightly believes this to be the case.
"There is quite a bit more to come from our team," said the 39-year-old - and it does not take a genius to work out what that bit more is.
Beckford is his most potent goal threat and the striker, who has scored 34 goals this season, showed after just two minutes of the tie what he is all about by nicking a bouncing ball from a Millwall defender before forcing a decent save from David Forde with a crisp strike.
But Beckford had a frustrating afternoon at the New Den. He was a largely peripheral figure who was bereft of service. Only once did he manage to link up with strike partner Becchio to prise open the Millwall defence.
Likewise with Beckford's team-mates, they need to show more of the attacking play that can win them this tie and hand them the opportunity to go one better than last year's play-off final defeat to Doncaster.
But this tie is far from over and if anything the result on Saturday leaves it intriguingly poised.
I just hope that next Friday morning the football is the only subject under discussion.