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Millwall 1-1 Norwich

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Another game, another enforced gamble for Mr Jackett as Ipswich Town’s seven fingered cousins rolled into town, yes Norwich, or Narich as they preferred to be called were back at the Den to take on a Lions side depleted in the striker department by injuries and suspensions.

Me and MrsB were running a little bit late but still found plenty of room for parking and no queue in the Millwall cafe either. Hmmm, low crowd alert for this one but it was boosted by the Norfolk family.

Another strange lot, aren’t they? Where else can you have a county law that states when a couple get divorced they are still legally brother and sister?

I used to work with a bloke who hailed from Norwich. He worried me greatly. He once told me he felt the mountain men in the film ‘deliverance’ were just misunderstood...

Mr Jackett had no time to discuss the failings of the visitors fan base; he had enough to worry about with team selections. No Morison, No Lisbie, No Robinson T, No Harris, it was pretty desperate stuff. Louie Grabban was recalled from loan duties and he led the line partnered by up and coming home grown talent, John Marquis. The team was as follows:

Forde, Dunne, Shittu, Robbo, Barron, Henry, Trotter, Mkandawire, Schofield, Grabban & Marquis.

It was bitterly cold as the two teams came out, Uncle Les in the warmth of his little PA box must’ve been dozing as he missed his cue with the ‘let ‘em come’ signature tune, not a good omen at all.

The three officials looked ludicrous as they lined up in the centre circle for the obligatory photographs. The reminded me of that old sketch from donkey’s years ago which some of you older readers may remember where John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett were in a line which poked fun at class distinction in relation to size. Well it was funny back then, anyway...

So with the pre match kerfuffle over and with brass monkies out searching for lost articles, referee Haywood got us underway.

It was all eyes on our own prodigal son Louie Grabban to start with, was his head in the right place for his re emergence, and was the chip on each shoulder now counter balanced?

In my opinion, the boy did good. He was chasing lost causes, challenging for possession and playing in Marquis where possible, the two of them combining well enough to silence the most vociferous of critics.

We had a bit of a scare early on when Forde had to save well low down from a hit and hope effort by Martin but it was all mainly Millwall pressing their authority onto the game all over the park but in particular down the left hand side where Barron and Schofield were mixing up the play very nicely indeed.

We were getting balls into the box but the final touch was eluding us but the endeavour was much admired by the sparsely populated home sections of the ground.

On around the twenty minute mark big Danny Shittu showed he had bit more in his locker than just winning headers and distributing passes from the back when he found himself just outside the visitor’s box and his turn and shot had Norwich ‘keeper Ruddy diving at full stretch to make an outstanding save.

We kept the pressure on them and although our two (let’s be honest) makeshift striking partners were a touch naive you could not fault their commitment to the cause.

Marquis was on the receiving end of a fine cross from Grabban after he had linked up superbly with Alan Dunne but the young striker’s header was dealt with by their over worked ‘keeper.

One pain in arse though was Grant Holt. The generously proportioned Norwich striker was, in the vernacular, putting it about. His constant fouling off the ball and nonstop whinging was soon picked up by the home fans and he was taunted at every opportunity.

He was very lucky to get away with a deliberate elbow on Shittu. He did not even get a yellow card for something which warranted a red and his smug, self satisfied look was quite sickening to see.

Henry tried his luck from distance after we were awarded a free kick some 30 yards out from their goal and he struck well enough but the ball deflected and unfortunately for us it deflected past the post for a corner with Ruddy beaten all hands down.

Henry was then guilty of missing a certain goal. More good work down the left from Barron and Schofield saw the ball sent low across their six yard line with Henry rushing into position he really just needed to prod it home but he somehow construed to put the ball over the bar.
There was still time for Marquis to get another header on target but again he was thwarted by the in-form Ruddy.

The half ended with the Lions still in the ascendency and the only thing missing was a goal to cap a first half of total domination.

The second half saw no changes to the Lions line up, clearly Mr Jackett was pleased with the way things were going. The Midfield quartet were all pulling their weight and the back four had dealt with what little they had put their way. The front two were growing in stature and it was good to see the home fans warming to both Louie and young Marquis.

Ruddy was soon back in action making saves from first Henry and then Marquis but both efforts were reasonably comfortable for the exasperated ‘keeper.

We kept plugging away and Norwich defended for all they were worth but when Grabban put yet another ball into the danger zone the clear hand ball could have been spotted by blind Willie McTell and the shout from around nine thousand home fans came up in unison but referee Haywood just turned away and waved play on.

What else could we expect?

I tell you what most if not all of us didn’t expect next. Mr Jackett made a tactical substitution. Now historically we know that Mr Jackett gets it just about right with his subs, not always, granted, but mostly his judgement is sound, so there were a few raised eyebrows when on the hour mark he took of Grabban and brought on Ward. It was clearly known by the team because Shittu immediately trotted straight up field as a replacement for Grabban.

It frightened the fucking bejabers out of us but it had double the effect on the canary’s rear guard but their manager saw a glint of hope by making a quick double substitution to beef up his strike force with Shittu now no longer commanding the back line.

If disaster was going to strike you just knew it would happen after this tactical switch and happen it did.

We failed to deal with an innocuous throw in and the ball fell kindly to Fox who struck an unstoppable shot that rifled into the back of our net before Forde had even seen it. 0-1. How the fuck did that happen?

If this had been a boxing match it would have been stopped ages ago, such was our complete dominance and the mood of the home crowd quickly changed with the Grabban substitution the brunt of the accusations at Mr Jackett.

I admit I feared the worse. Sometimes games like these write their own scripts and I could sense we were going to enter panic mode very quickly indeed.

But, my senses were way off beam and the lads rolled their collective sleeves up and got stuck into the task in hand.

We kept the pressure on and Shittu was causing pandemonium in their defence but the breakthrough just would not materialise. Dunne hit a rasping drive that was blocked en route to the top corner as the clocked crept too quickly towards the ninety minute mark.

The fourth official came out with his electronic number cruncher which showed 4 minutes were still available for us to grab something back from a game we should have had home and hosed.

The crowd was dwindling away rapidly from the home sections as the fourteen fingered fuckwits in the away stand were going through the repertoire of standard football chants.

The Lions pressed forward and won a corner out on the right. Henry placed the ball as we waited in anticipation. He stepped back and clipped the ball straight to their first defender who hoofed it out for a throw in near the half way line. The groan from the Lions fans still in the ground was a palpable indication to fans already outside that their decision to leave was the correct one.

When the subsequent throw in by Henry went straight to a Norwich player I believe even more left the ground.

More fool them...

We got the ball back and won another corner as the fourth minute approached, this time on the left side. Henry again came across to take it and I think even the most optimistic of us didn’t really believe we could get anything from it.

We were wrong...

The ball was clipped in perfectly this time and with Ruddy flapping the ball was edged on to Marquis from Dunne and the youngster stabbed home his first senior goal and our well deserved equaliser.1-1!

The celebration was mental and it really did feel like we had actually won the game.

There was, of course, still time for Norwich to win the almost obligatory corner to jangle our nerve endings but it was comfortably dealt with and the final whistle rang out.

The lads were applauded off by the never say die fans who stayed to the bitter end and as I said, it really did feel like a win. The Norwich fans were stunned, finally, into silence and I guess to them it felt like a defeat.

We played really well overall and even with the outlandish Grabban substitution we always deserved something out of this encounter.

It was a real boost for the players and if they carry this onto the game against Sheffield United on Saturday then this tired old hack will back them to win comfortably!

See you all there!
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