Millwall 0-1 Burnley ~ Match Report

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So, here we are then, finding ourselves in a bit of a quandary, struggling to find any kind of form and sitting (un) prettily in the bowls of the Championship with a slight hill to climb before it turns into a mountain

My dear old dad, my the Gods of football look kindly after his soul, was a life long lions fan and he instilled with me two pieces of invaluable pearls of wisdom that still stand me good to this day: Number 1, never play leap frog with Unicorns and 2, expect to be disappointed at infrequent times following the mighty Lions.

We are currently in the midst of one of these infrequent times and some of our younger fans are getting a bit of a taste of what us older, more weathered fans, have already got past experience of.

At times like these we can only do what most football fans do and try to appease the bastard gods of football by carrying out familiar rituals that we believe will stand us in good stead.

So, it was a shit, shower and shampoo (in that order, trust me, it does no good mixing that one up) get dressed and heading for Arments for a double double, get down the Den, buy a copy of NOLU, get in your seat and wait for the team sheet to be announced and raise one eye brow in true Roger Moore style at the latest change(s) and put your faith into the lap of the Gods.

Obviously there should be copious amounts of alcohol in the mix somewhere but I am an enforced abstainer so that particular ritual is not for me although I fully expect those that do would sink some on my behalf, as those Gods are more fickle than a Millwall fan.

The ominous signs were there from the start as me and MrsB set off after said ablutions and found Arments closed for their autumn break. The Gods, it would appear, are in a somewhat jocular mood today then…

Not so jocular was Mr Jackett who clearly has a few issues to sort out and this time went for a very weird looking 4-1-1-3-1 formation which lined up with Forde in goal, the back four was Mkandawire, Ward, Robinson and Barron, then we had Howard as the one, then Trotter as the next in line with Simpson and Feeney forming a pair behind the lone figure of N’Guessen up front.

It was like a corridor formation with no width at all.

When Referee Hooper got us under way in what was to become the hottest October day in England since records have been kept, the ball was punted into our area by Burnley and was immediately returned with bells on from Forde who launched an enormous boot up field over the centre circle packed with Millwall’s corridor formation and into their box where the ambitious N’Guessen made a robust challenge against the visitor’s ‘keeper who was bloodied in the challenge but still managed to fist the ball away from the marauding front man, but as the Millwall midfield stayed back to watch, the ball fell safely for the Burnley defence to clear.

This really set the tone for the first half as we seemed as bereft of attacking ideas as I have ever seen from a Millwall side. It was more perspired than inspired as we huffed and puffed against a Burnley side that looked like a team incapable of doing anything.

The strange formation was obviously not doing us any favours and the frustration was quickly creeping into the 10,000 or so fans inside the Den.

Burnley picked up on this and started to make a little bit of progress with their attacking play but they didn’t appear to offer any real threat…and then disaster struck.

A corner kick. The most basic of set pieces that occur on a regular basis in a football match. One that defences and attacks practice week in and week out in training. Or do they?

I have no coaching qualifications but I do have a degree of common sense and over the years there is no better tactic, in my mind, than putting a defender on each post to narrow the goal for the opposition when defending a corner.

Apparently this is not the case at Millwall. I don’t know why and perhaps Mr Jackett can let us know at the next fans forum but to ram home the point I am trying to make, they sent the ball over to Rodriguez as all our defence went with the decoy runner and he hit a slow motion shot along the floor to the post where we had no one and despite a despairing dive by Forde, the ball trickled into the net. 0-1.

The mood of the home fans went from bad to worse after this and no one could understand why we persevered so long with the ludicrous tactics but we changed nothing after the goal and we limped towards half time like a rudderless ship.

The second half saw Mr Jackett spot what we all spotted from about the third minute of play and took off Simpson, brought on Marquis and thankfully went back to basics with a sturdy looking 4-4-2.
It made all the difference. We finally looked like a side that knew what it was doing and we went at them with much more direction with Henry and Feeney back on their familiar flanks and happy to start taking on full backs.

We created a lovely move with a defence splitting ball that ended with Marquis slamming home the ball but as is the case these days the lino flagged late for what at first seemed a wrongly given off side call but it could have been for a push by Trotter but I guess we will never really know.

Marquis was making a hell of a difference and he was causing them to have panic attacks every time he was involved. It was really all one-way traffic and against a team that had failed to keep a clean sheet in about 24 matches the bookies must have had us odds on to score an equaliser.

Howard hit a well placed free kick that was well saved by Burnley’s ‘keeper and then he pulled off a world class save to deny Feeney’s volley that looked in all the way once it left his boot.

It was getting very frustrating for the Lions fans as we were subjected to an increasingly poor performance by the bloody referee who started well enough but lost his way in the heat of the afternoon.

Marquis burst through the Burnley rearguard and as he swept past their last man he was clean through but was unceremoniously bundles over. PENALTY!!!!

No. A booking for simulation for Marquis. A ridiculous decision that even had the Burnley players laughing like a pack of hyenas.

It got worse though. Moment s later Marquis again collected the ball, centre of goal, well inside their area and he had his legs simply taken away from him. He collapsed onto the floor and the referee just stared into the distance and waved play on. Now even the most arbitrary of fans would note two things here.: a) foul therefore a penalty. b) Player simulating a foul therefore yellow card (in this case a second so it would be a red).

In any other universe of football, that would be the ref’s options. How this clown decided it was just play on is anybodies guess.

Loyal readers of my scribblings will hopefully note that I am always loathe to put any blame on our results through poor refereeing decisions as it always reads like a lame set of excuses and I will not condescend my beliefs for this fucking idiot of an official but by Christ I am coming close.

Bouazza came on for Henry with about twenty minutes to play and he looked lively enough, sending a fizzing shot just over the bar and later we held our heads in our hands as Johnny Marquis had a header scrambled off the line and it really was a stout and resolute defence that Burnley had built to prevent us from over running them.

We had the now standard time wasting tactics from the visitors which although infuriating is to be expected and even the pathetic scenario of a Burnley player intimating he was too afraid to take a throw in through fear of an empty plastic bottle that was by his feet and as the time ticked rapidly away it was with abject despair that the final whistle went and we had suffered not just another defeat but another game without a goal at the Den.

We are not a bad side. Let me repeat this, we are NOT a bad side. We need a little bit of luck and few more rub of the greens and we will be moving upwards. The obvious factor though, which in undeniably true is that we lack a goal scorer. Mr Jackett has gone on record to say so and even the most indiscernible of fans would be hard pressed not to agree.

The lads trudged off deflated and defeated and although there wasn’t too many boos aimed at the team there was a lot of venom aimed at referee Hooper.

So what next? Mr Jackett has a fortnight, due to international football, to see how many of the squad can be fit for squad inclusion as well as seeing if he might be able to add some outside help in the striker situation.

Just a trip up to second placed Middlesbrough to worry about then…

See you all there?
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