MILLWALL 3 WALSALL 1
Summer breeze. Makes me feel fine. Blowing through the jasmine of my mind. Yes there was a summery, relaxed and almost mid table end of season vibe about today’s 3-1 win over Walsall. Hang on though, aren’t we third in the table trying to chase down the Posh’s five point lead? It doesn’t do to moan on the back of a much needed win, but ask it quietly - where was the hunger? Where was the beef?
Millwall’s line up today;
GK Forde - 6
DL Frampton - 6
DC Craig -6
DC Whitbread -6
DR Dunne – 6.5
ML Martin [Abdou 81] 6.5
MC Laird -7
MC Bolder -7
MR Grabban – 6.5
SC Alexander – 7.5
SC Price - 7
Subs – Abdou n/a
A quiet start in the sun bathed Den this afternoon. No real incidents of note until a 13th minute, when a Walsall error almost put Price through on goal. Then a minute later on 14, a central Marc Laird pass to the same player allowed a shot which was well saved by the Saddlers’ goalkeeper.
The first goal of the match came in the 16th minute. A corner cross allowing Price to stab home a Zak Whitbread header from close range for 1-0. Cue the ‘best team in London’ refrain over the tannoy, which - in the light of the easy-going proceedings up until then - sounded like a touch of the old trade descriptions to me.
Anyway who’s complaining I thought. Just as the visitors pulled themselves back into the relaxed proceedings with a goal that has to go down against the Lions defence. The industrious *9 firing in a free shot from a poorly defended right side free kick for 1-1. Me, I decided. I was complaining. Complaining at the sloppy defending when we are third in the fucking table, going for automatic promotion out of this fucking division and so avoiding the chance of a play off / riot situation that might prove the fucking death of us. Me, I was fucking well fucking complaining. Me. Me. Me.
Ahem. Sorry about that. Where was I? Ah yes. Millwall then went from relaxed blunderers, to fraught nervous breakdown cases as they pressed to get back in front. A Gary Alexander header over on 37 being the only clear chance they worked as the heavy legs of summer started to come back though.
On 41 the *9 turned well and shot over the Millwall crossbar from outside the penalty area. Then two minutes later on 43 the *19 shot wide of the right post as the bright sun seemed to mock the stormy faces around me.
As if in answer to a collective Bermondsey prayer, the Lions moved a goal back in front on 44 with a Grabban break forward – a Marc Laird shot – well saved by the keeper – the rebound slammed into the net though by the sniffing Alexander for 2-1 and cue eruptions of relief around the stadium. Not least on the pitch, as the expected half time boos and Jackett hairdryer treatment, now turned to applause.
The half closed with a Lewis Grabban run down the centre and a wasteful shot over the bar on 45+1.
The second period began in the same end-of-season-mid-table-respectability style of the first. Only a (near) error by Forde on 51 giving a chance of an open goal to Walsall. It all ended happily though, despite the casual stance of the home side. A minute later the visitors again went close with a baulked shot from the *19.
Thankfully for the nerves of this writer at least, the Lions scored the decisive goal on 53. A right sided corner allowing the ball to fall to the feet of Gary Alexander in the melee – no mistake being made from close for 3-1 and time to shut up shop. Ha! Us shut up shop? Not on your Nellie mate.
Walsall hadn’t read the script and started to push forward in an effort to claw their way back into a match that they could feel was still salvageable. The *19 glancing a header wide from a right sided corner on 55.
Two minutes later on 57, Lewis Grabban delayed a his shot too long inside the area, then a minute later on 58 a David Martin break forward was well cleared by the visiting defence, the same player going close (ish) on 62 when his shot was blocked.
In the 64th minute a Jason Price header back across goal was cleared and the home side as at last started to look like a third spot side playing relaxed football with a purpose. The game then suffered a blow in terms of it as a spectacle with the severe injury to the Walsall *20. Almost ten minutes passed as medics worked to move him off the pitch with what looked like a neck injury – it was hard to tell from my vantage point though. The player left the pitch to applause from all sides.
At the restart, the game clock now showed 77 minutes had gone - as had all momentum from the match. Only an 85th minute shot cum cross from Alexander – palmed away by the Walsall keeper – and an 88th minute penalty shout as Grabban went sprawling inside the penalty area being worth a mention.
The final incident in the game occurred on 90+5 when Abdou released Grabban on the left side of the Saddlers’ box, only for him to see his shot saved.
Three points and a job done is probably the best way to view today’s result. The relaxed and casual play by Millwall at points in the game IS worrying. But with the play-offs now looking increasingly likely, maybe it’s time to start to gird our collective loins for those struggles rather than chase the shadow of Peterborough. Who cares? Today it was just nice to leave the ground on the winning side of the scoreline - rather than with the raging hump because we lost like patsies.
Man of the match for me today was Gary Alexander who gave a trademark performance of work, effort and reward. Mentions in despatches too for Marc Laird and Adam Bolder – both of whom looked solid in midfield I felt. Sunny days are meant for games like this…
The Archbishop +