Millwall 0-0 Derby ~ Match Report

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Cup exploits are looking vey useful for the Lions at the moment with the defeat of the Saints in their own back yard giving us a lucrative home tie against Bolton in the next round, but all eyes are still fixed firmly on the league and our dubious position at the wrong end of the table.

We had Derby County to contend with so all thoughts of cup games were well and truly on the back burner but there was always an inkling of maybe the cup result was a turning point at long last in a season that has never taken off for us at all.

The cold weather had taken its toll on a few games but the Den is made of sterner stuff than other, less robust South London venues so MrsB and me wrapped up warm and headed down to see if the Jackett revival was truly under way.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of the game, lets have a brief look at Derby County and in particular their peculiar fans.

The first thing you are drawn to is their seemingly perverse notion that a big flag can compensate for lack of support. Now the flag in question was hug, no question about that, but it covered almost as many seats as the actual fans that were sat in the North stand. Apparently, I am reliably informed, that the flag had to have its own fire safety certificate to allow it to be draped across one complete section of seating. It took the two blokes about 45 minutes to unfurl it and tie it down and you have to wonder at the mentality of these dolts for bothering to make the effort.

Derby does it, is a slogan that is used in Derby to make a presumption that they are a cutting edge, forward thinking, innovative set of people but all I can say is if Derby does it then they bloody well better clear the mess up afterwards.

Derby, is a corruption of a Danish word “Deor” meaning Deer settlement apparently, but I think it is more a lack of understanding by the good folk of Derby who are just plain thick and can’t understand simple spelling. I worked with a bloke once who hailed from derby and he insisted that the term ‘all roads lead to Rome’ was lifted from ‘all roads lead to Derby’. He was quite upset when I explained to him that all roads lead AWAY from Derby and anyone going towards the dreadful place were going the wrong way.

So with big flag in place and small section of away fan seated comfortably we looked to ‘bye fer now’ Les to give us the team that Mr Jackett had plumped for. But before we got to that, poor old Les was again stupefied by his lack of knowledge and insistence on reading out what is put in front of him. I know he is an easy target but I can’t help myself. He was trying to explain to a near empty stadium that there is an extra train being laid on for Millwall fans on this coming Tuesday direct to London Bridge from Falmer station. But he insisted the station was called Flamer on more than one occasion. It’s only a minor thing, I know, but couldn’t someone up there with him have told him?

But, onto team selections and Mr Jackett did not do the stick to a winning side formula that everyone thinks is sacrosanct (but not me) and this is how they lined up in a 4-3-3 formation: Forde in goal, Dunne, Robbo, Lowry and Barron and the back with Wright, Trotter and Mason as a three man midfield with Henry, Kane and Henderson as the front three.

Referee Langford got us going and we were pretty quick off the mark as we tore into the visitors with some slick passing and movement that had them back tracking immediately.

But for all our possession and attacking we still lacked that vital bit of final penetration that has been the underlying factor for most of our season. And almost true to script we nearly came unstuck as Derby capitalised on a simple mistake in midfield by Wright which saw the Rams quickly break into our area and although Ball managed to somehow get past Forde he managed to put his effort right across the face of our goal instead of into it.

This gave the visitors a fresh impetus and they had an even easier chance to open the scoring soon after this fortuitous effort when a harmless looking shot saw Forde parry the ball straight to the feet of Bryson who then managed to miss the target by some considerable distance, much to the delight and relief to the 10,000 Millwall fans scattered around the stadium.

We went off the boil after this and the game descending into a bit of a kicking contest with yellow cards being flourished all over the place and we failed to register a single shot on target for the rest of the first half. It should be noted that Derby had even less efforts than us...

We had loads of the ball, Wright in particular, controlling a lot of the midfield possession and he was very adept at picking out his team mates with aplomb, Trotter seemed more confident with Wright at his side as well and Mason was showing signs of settling in nicely. The back four did what they had to do when required, which wasn’t too often (Robbo made a great tackle to avert a dangerous situation unfolding) and the three up front couldn’t really sort out who was supposed to be doing what.

The first half came to an end with no real dramas at all and as the players trotted off heads were nodding in the crowd at a reasonably decent first half of football.

Mr Jackett mixed it up for the second 45 as he took of Kane, brought on Feeney and went for a sort of 4-4-1-1 shape and it sort of work for a bit. We had a glorious chance to open them up when a flowing move stared with Henry who squared a perfect ball for Barron who pushed on and delivered a telling ball into the box. Henderson was first to react but his guided effort was stopped by Derby ‘keeper Fielding and we watched as Trotter’s follow up drifted agonisingly wide of the goal for a goal kick.

Despite the formation looking promising Mr Jackett soon changed it for a strangely defensive 4-5-1, bringing off Henry and sending on Keogh to play wide of centre in the midfield. This happened straight after Feeney had set up Henry for a chance that drifted just wide of the goal

We plugged away at a resolute Derby defence that had now set up shop for a draw (or maybe a possible winner on the counter attack) and we laboured hard to try and break them down but it just wasn’t happening.

Trotter headed over from a decent corner (something as rare as rocking horse shit for us, it has to said) and when Barron clipped in a lovely free kick and Keogh flicked it on we all thought Henderson was there to head it home but again we held out heads in frustration as the ball missed the target from the big man’s head.

The strangest of substitutions came next when the efficient Wright was taken off and replaced with Smith. Either Wright was shagged out or he had a knock, as he was the last man you’d have expected to be subbed.

We then adopted a 4-4-2 stance with Keogh joining Henderson up front but it was never really going to bother the Derby defence who had it sewn up. Even when Dunne found Feeney in space and his inch perfect cross found the head of Keogh, it was already written in the stars that the ball would not hit the back of the net.

The game sort of petered out after that and although some fans thought it was a dour game, I actually enjoyed it as we looked like a football team again and we had a purpose in our play that on another day might well have reaped a more deserving reward than a 0-0 draw.

There is still a lot of work to be done and a lot more twists and turns before this season is over and as long as we keep on playing in this sort of fashion I am sure we will be safe from the drop. Too many fans are still expecting too much from us at the moment and they need a dose of reality before they decide that all is lost.

We have a tough tie at Brighton in midweek and it is a new stadium to visit, a sell out away section and a chance for the lads to lift the spirit of fans and try to grab a result. It can be done!

See you all there!

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