Millwall 1-0 Portsmouth ~ Match Report

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With Christmas shenanigan’s at their end it was good to brush off the Turkey and eggnog sandwiches and the mince pie salads with a trip to the Den on Boxing day to see the Lions try and get some points on the board to bring a little bit more Christmas cheer into our festive season.

We got lumbered with a 1.00pm kick off which, to be honest, fitted in fine with me and Mrs B’s plans but it must’ve been a pain in the fanackapans for many others as all the tubes were on strike but a reasonably healthy 11,000 odd managed to get to the ground in good time to see us take on Portsmouth.

Portsmouth. The eternal fall of the football league they have been forced in recent times to reword the famous ‘chimes’ song as it is now “pay up Pompey, Pompey, pay up” as the debt ridden club try their damndest to keep the once proud club out of the clutches of the receivers and almost certain doom.

Their once proud and slightly rambunctious fans are a sad, pale imitation these days, opting to dress up in Father Christmas outfits and deriding opposition fans lack of prowess in singing witty ditties.

How far they have fallen….so sad…so sad…but somehow, quite funny.

The premier league has a lot to answer for yet again, ripping the heart out of a club and then kicking them into touch and leaving them to rot and wither away, left to their own devices to try and climb back into the not so promised land of huge payments and even huger wage packages that make no sense whatsoever.

Still, it gives us a chuckle at their idiocy.

Someone else who borders on idiocy is our dear old “bye fer now” Les, prattling on over the PA system at any given time with rambling anecdotes that go nowhere like Abe Simpson. As we entered the ground he was banging on about Boxing day games of yesteryear where you would bring a hip flask of Brandy, a few choice cigars and have a rant at the ref and then quickly reminded everyone that all three would get you arrested these days…many a true word spoken in jest, it just shows how far we have sunk into the abyss of taking it up the pooper.

Still on the subject of Rambling Les, he then announced that Mark Wright was in the stadium. Now this was bordering on the obscure to say the least. Why anyone would be interested in a bald (erstwhile ginger) former Liverpool and England centre half coming to a Millwall game is anybody’s guess but dear old Les thought it was best to reiterate this information in full pantomime voice.

Maybe his connection with Southampton was meant to be a dig at the Pompey fans but they seemed oblivious to it and that was that. Very weird, even for Uncle Les…

But I digress…

Mr Jackett is having a bit of a rough ride lately and even in his programme notes you can feel the almost palpable straw clutching as we were advised by him that at this time last year we only had 6 more points than we currently have. I realise that this was meant as a bit of a positive spin as in “only 6 points” and we did push on for a play off place from that total but just as a year on year example I am afraid all it does is show we are 6 points worse off therefore we have gone backwards. If we take this edict as a pointer then next season we will be 6 points worse off than we are now and that would mean disaster in anybodies figurations.

But if we know anything about our manager then we should know he is a tryer and once again he was in a positive mood before kick off, banishing Jay Simpson as superfluous to our requirements with only today’s game and the upcoming Palace game left of his loan period.

In his place as Henderson’s foil he opted for Dany N’Guessan and the team lined up as follows:

Mildenhall in goal, Baker, Lowry, Robbo and Smith at the back, Feeney, Trotter, Abdou and Howard in midfield with, as already sated, N’Guessan and Henderson as the two front men.

Pompey set their stall out as soon as referee Miller’s whistle blew, effectively putting a cordon of players across the midfield and may as well have erected a banner saying “let’s see what you can do”.

Well, what we did do was dominate possession but we seemed to be able to do everything right until the final third where we just lost our way.

Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it. It was like having a drive in Mrs B’s Fiat 500 with its stop/start technology. Having a clown of a ref didn’t help matters but he was at least consistent with his decisions, favouring neither our forwards, midfield or fuckin’ defence, the useless no good…whoa there..let’s not fall into blame the ref mode…but he was poor, let’s leave it at that.

We created few real efforts but Baker made a fine tackle and put Henderson into space who then fed the ball to N’Guessan but the striker put his shot just wide of the post and I am sorry to say that that was all Baker really contributed as he pulled up soon after, clearly in some trouble and Mr Jackett was forced to take him off and bring on Alan Dunne which meant Smith had to go to left back as the pack shuffled.
We were clearly running the game but we were bereft of ideas that was emphasised by a long-range effort from Howard that pretty well summed up our endeavours.

We, of course, had our usual scare when Portsmouth finally made an effort to attack but when the ball was crossed to the unmarked Lawrence it was surely harder to miss than to score but he managed to guide his free header well wide of Mildenhall’s goal.

As the half was drawing to close we finally broke the shackles off and split their defence wide open when Feeney was put through and as he sprinted towards goal we were surely going to go in one goal to the good but yet again we were foiled as the goal bound shot was saved by Pompey ‘keeper Henderson and N’Guessan’s attempted follow up was cleared by Pearce in the Portsmouth defence.

So no goals at half time and a very frustrated team and a very irritated set of supporters.

The second half saw an immediate change as Henderson was replaced by Marquis, (clearly the ‘twitter gate’ rumours still need to be confirmed), and it didn’t quite make the difference we were hoping for as Portsmouth caught us napping and it was only the precision back tracking tackle from Jimmy Abdou that averted the danger as we were exposed by a swift break away by the visitors.

We won a free kick just outside their area and a stinger of a shot from Howard was parried by the startled ‘keeper but we didn’y capitalise on the loose ball.

Shortly after this Howard was replaced with Bouazza as Mr Jackett rolled the dice for the last time and this change sort of upped the tempo of our game and little more urgency was applied.

The fans sensed it as well as the players as the atmosphere finally took of and Marquis should have opened the scoring as the ever-impressive Feeney put him in but his shot went achingly shy of the far post.

Portsmouth were now defending for all they were worth and it was relentless from the Lions as the first half faded into a distant memory as the Millwall side to a man battled on for the three points on offer.

With barely ten minutes left to play our Christmas wishes were finally answered as we watched Feeney again put over a decisive ball that found Trotter who knocked it down into the waiting path of Dany N’Guessan and the striker, seemingly out of favour for so long, capped his first start in some fifteen games by lashing the ball into the net from close range. 1-0! Ding dong merrily on high, pipes of peace and all that good stuff!

Normal service had at last been resumed at the Den and from this point on there was only going to be one outcome.

We had them on the ropes throughout to be honest and the one goal was always going to be enough. We saw the game out comfortably, totally in control and you could see the confidence ebbing back into the Lions.

At the final whistle the general feeling was mild euphoria and with the strains of Status Quo ringing back out again the faithful following left for home with spirits renewed and looking forward to the visit of the Croydon Clerics on the last day of 2011.

I will see a lot of you there, I hope?

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