FairweatherFan

Millwall 2-0 Derby~Match report

Rating: 3 votes, 4.33 average.
After the crushing disappointment of the Portsmouth game (yes, even a 0-1 reversal can be a crushing disappointment) it was full steam ahead with the visit of Derby County.

Derby seem to be intrinsically linked to my Millwall life, the first game I ever saw was a Millwall V Derby longer ago than I care to remember and I am sure most of you all remember that the first home game in the top flight was against the Rams (who can forget the rubber key fob we all got that faded within a week to a blank white lump of synthetic uselessness) and the play-off game with the ersatz pitch invasion plus numerous other encounters that were a bit more prosaic like the cup game last time we played them.

So what do we glean from all of the above? Well for a start, their fans have raised the bar on living in the past. Barely a thousand of them made the trip and vast swathes of empty seats in the away end really bore testament to their apathy so why they thought they could achieve some sort of aloofness by declaring our ground was too big for us really made little or no sense at all.

They have this delusional mentality that makes them firmly believe that because players that won them things decades ago somehow have an influence over the current crop of crap they have playing for them. They have fallen into the same fundamental trap that many before them have fallen into whereby they cannot comprehend that it is only the name of the club that remains constant and anything else is purely historical...or hysterical depending on your perspective.

So back to the game in question and what was Mr Jackett going to do to appease the vast ranks of terrace football managers who decried his tactical nous for the aforementioned Pompey game?

Wholesale changes was the answer and fair play to gaffer who is clearly no shrinking violet when it comes to decision making and he set about his task with style and tenacity.

The biggest surprise was the signing and immediate inclusion to the starting line up of Danny Shittu, not just headline writer’s dream but a solid looking experienced player who is with us for a three month tenure that may be extended to the rest of the season.

Ward was dropped to the bench to make way for the big man along with Hackett, Abdou and Craig with Carter nowhere to be seen.

The starting eleven was as follows, Forde in goal, Barron, Robbo, Shittu and Dunne across the back, Henry, Trotter, Mkandawire and Schofield as a sort of diamond shaped midfield leaving Morison and Robinson T up front.

Referee Salisbury got us underway and we looked pretty sharp from the off. Slick passing, neat interplay and plenty of movement had the visitors on the back foot straight away and within minutes we had carved out a fine chance when Schofield and Barron working in tandem to put Robinson T through. Henry was screaming for a pass but the striker stuck with his striker’s instincts and went for goal but Fielding, the Rams ‘keeper, made a decent save from the effort.

We were displaying a real sense of purpose and it was a joy to watch the Lions stringing passes together instead of the recent long ball stuff we somehow have drifted towards and debutant Shittu was already ingratiating himself into the home fans reckoning with a solid performance. Strong in the air, good distribution and a rock solid demeanour are all superb attributes to have in a half back and Shittu was ticking all the above boxes.

Just on the ten minute mark, after total domination, Trotter collected the ball in midfield, just inside their half, and skilfully turned his marker to create a bit of space and then fed the ball into Morison’s path who then hit a spectacular looping shot from all of 30 yards that beat Fielding all ends up and hit the back of the net. 1-0! What a fantastic start! The 11,000 odd home fans erupted into an explosion of noise, mainly from the sublime strike but also partly, I figure, from the existential belief that we were on the upturn.

Our tails were up from this point on and Derby hadn’t anything in their locker to worry us. A jaded Robbie Savage was only half hearted booed whenever he went near the ball but it was clear that the former hate figure was now just a figure of fun and posed no threat whatsoever.

We were in total command, Trotter in particular, was bossing the midfield, ably assisted by Mkandawire with Schofield and Henry sharing their delight in having so much freedom to express their footballing skills, and it was a real pleasure to watch.

Alan Dunne had a shot go wide, Henry had a header just miss and Robinson T was desperately unlucky on at least two occasions as the Lions stepped up the pressure.

It was really all one way traffic and the only real surprise was that we hadn’t increased the score line. Trotter just failed to connect cleanly with a shot and Robinson yet again, had an effort blocked as we finished the half off in style.

The applause from a genuinely impressed set of home fans must’ve been music to Mr Jackett’s ears as his team went off with a new sense of self belief.

The second half was more of the same we had witnessed during the first forty five with the Lions running roughshod over their hapless visitors and within five minutes of the restart we had sealed a certain victory.

Morison was sent galloping down the right wing from a Henry pass and he made mincemeat of his marker as he made a bee line for the touchline. He then sent a delicious ball across the box where Robinson T crashed in a bullet header that Fielding had no chance with. 2-0! Game over, play the Quo now and send the sad norverners home!

We nearly got a quick third moments later when Schofield and Barron again showed a real understanding with some tidy football and set up a real chance for the latter whose shot was cleared off the line by the over worked Derby defence.

With twenty minutes to go Mr Jackett took off Shittu, who received a generous amount of applause from the delighted home fans, and brought on Ward as well as taking off Robinson T, replacing him with Abdou.

This meant that we went to a 4-5-1 which in the first instance seemed a bit strange but it showed again the lugubrious thought process that Mr Jackett has to go through to ensure we deliver the right result.

Yes it wasn’t what we expected but, do you know what. I did get it. We do need to learn how to close out games and sometimes it is not just about playing an all out gung ho type of game even against clearly lesser opponents but unless you are disciplined enough to carry it out when it doesn’t matter, it must stand you in good stead when it does matter.

The final whistle was finally blown after an obscure five minutes of injury time which we can only assume came from some empirical notion on the referee’s part but I must add that this particular referee was a definite notch above the usual Pratt’s that we get lumbered with, so I will cut him some slack for the injury time nonsense.

Still, it was all smiles around the Den as the whistle did finally go and it wasn’t just a victory it was cathartic experience for us all as we once again restored our belief in our beloved team.

It was a fine performance and one which we needed to reassure ourselves that we can perform in this league without feeling out of our depth.

So next up we head out to banjoville and the six fingered experience that is Ipswich town.

See you all there!
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