Burnley 2-2 Millwall ~ Match Musings

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When you follow Millwall up and down the country as some of you know only too well, you develop a kind of in built need to bypass your common sense and almost trick your brain into an almost catatonic stupor to convince yourself that this time it might be different from the last.

It tends to work most times but this time I freely admit it was torturous argument with my common sense to allow me and MrsB to fire up the Bonemobile and set forth to what we laughingly call a proper away game.

Proper, in the sense that it is way up north in the land of the Jeremy Kyle green roomers, the place where the art of banjo playing is seen a status symbol and marrying your cousin is frowned on if you over look your sister.

Turf Moor, a hotchpotch of a ground with two sides premier league standard and two more akin to league 1 standard, is always an easy place to get to and to park but there were not many Millwall fans in attendance for this one, probably about 150 odd and all with the same air of apprehension about them as we waited to see the team sheet.

Jackett, some may say, is now on borrowed time and he is being scrupulously dissected with every decision he makes in regards to tactics and team formation. This time he went for a more reliable 4-4-2 with Forde retaining his place in goal, Dunne, Robbo, Shittu and Lowry in defence, Henry, Trotter, Abdou and Malone in midfield leaving Keogh and Wood as the front two.

Resplendent in the now familiar orange strip we seemed almost disappointed to have to swap ends to start the game which meant the lads were kicking towards the cavernous and nigh on empty away section to begin with.

But it didn’t seem to faze them to start with as we watched incredulously as after 2 and half minutes of backward and forward football we broke through the middle with Trotter picking out Keogh on the right of the Burnley area and as he moved elegantly into the box he squared the ball across the edge of the box to Trotter who had continued his run and the big midfielder picked his spot perfectly for the opening goal. 0-1! And what little support we had went mental, the home crowd staring with mouths agape, their teeth like gravestones in a cave as Trotter danced a merry jig in front of us.

Burnley quickly upped the tempo to try and get back into the game as soon as possible and it soon became a bit of a rearguard action. Our hearts were in our mouths when a seemingly harmless through ball suddenly saw a Forde doing his usual rush goalie move only yet again he failed to get to the ball first and as Paterson pushed the ball passed him we witness man mountain Danny Shittu gallop to the rescue with a marvellous last minute tackle to save Forde’s blushes.

Forde redeemed his with a fabulous save from a powerful shot from Burnley’s McCann as Burnley started to turn the screw a bit and we began to fear the worse.

Our fears we soon met as we succumbed to a really soft equaliser. A straightforward corner saw Forde rooted to the spot as the ball was swept right into the six yard box. Mee was able to stand still and just head the ball past the almost waxwork figure of Forde who immediately started bellowing at Abdou who was nearest to him but from the replay’s I suspect Forde knew it was down to him and not Abdou.

We then had to endure more Burnley pressure and the home crowd were screaming for a penalty when Shittu blocked a hopeful shot with his arm but referee Pawson waved play on much to our relief but to the abject horror of the Burnley players. It would have been a bit harsh to give it as there was no intent and the ball hit his hanging arm so the ref got it spot on...

He made a cock up with the next one though and to opus favour as well. This time it did look like a clear penalty as Dunne raised his arm to block the ball but again referee Pawson was having none of it and this sent the home crowd into histrionics of biblical proportions.

We were still defending for all we worth though and when former West Ham reject Stanislas stepped up to take a free kick we winced as the ball flew just over the bar with Forde looking beaten.

But it wasn’t all Burnley as we twice tested the home ‘keeper, the first was a fantastic volley from Malone who got it spot on perfect but Grant managed to touch the ball onto the bar and it was scrambled away to safety. Then James Henry created some space for himself in a central position but his clever shot was saved by a full length diving save from the impressive Grant.

It was getting close to half time now and going in at 1-1 would definitely have been seen as a decent half for the Lions but as the clock ticked down we were undone by a bit of a majestic finish from Austin who delivered a pin point header from about 16 yards out as he met a long diagonal ball that caught us out. 2-1 and a bitter pill to swallow as the half time whistle blew.

The second half saw Jackett make a change, whether it was enforced or not is hard to say but Robbo didn’t appear for the second forty five, so Smith came on at left back and Lowry moved into the central role alongside Shittu who was actually having a very good game indeed.

The lads were clearly not going to sit back in this game and we went on the offensive from the re start. The tippy tappy football many have been decrying of late had vanished and a more dynamic approach was adopted. It was old fashioned blood and guts football and Burnley didn’t like it one bit. They were not coping at all with the up tempo approach and we were making all the running.

Burnley were putting in a really committed defensive performance as we started to run them ragged and a goal line clearance from a Malone free kicked buoyed our spirits but against the run of play a near disaster happened.

It all happened around the hour mark and I must admit I have never witnessed what happened next at a Millwall game ever (or at least I don’t think I have). Paterson was clearly in an off side position but was coming back towards play. He received a pass whilst still in an offside position but when he got the ball he was now back on side. He squared the ball to Stanislas who breezed through and slotted the ball past the stricken Forde. 3-1...or was it? The Burnley crowd were celebrating, the players were celebrating the PA announcer had Tom Hark blaring out but the Millwall players were resolutely crowding the lino demanding to know why he hadn’t raised his flag for the obvious offside decision. Referee Pawson ambled over to see what the fuss was about, the lino told him and Pawson told the lino to put his fucking flag up (or words to that effect) and low and behold it was disallowed and we got the free kick.

You know what, this sort of thing can transform a game or even a season and it clearly had a detrimental effect on the home side who were furious beyond belief but we got the right decision and they can moan all they like, it was offside and at a time when the media and football itself are demanding that referee’s step up to the mark and admit when they get things wrong it was refreshing to see Mr Pawson do the right thing.

Burnley then resorted to blatant cheating, trying to influence the ref and his assistances at every opportunity and howling like petulant brats when decision weren’t given. Lowry gave away a foul and their player tried to aim a kick at him but Lowry caught his foot and probably threatened to rip it off so cue half the Burnley team rushing over to get involved but despite all the handbags, all Lowry got was a yellow card for his sins against humanity (or so the Burnley faithful would have you believe)

Keogh was replaced by Henderson with about 15 minutes to go and the big striker clearly was out to prove a point and he put in a stupendous effort for the short time he was on the pitch. Batt also came on just after Hendo, replacing Malone which had a few shaking heads in the away end but nevertheless, he was a fresh pair of legs and the tide was very much turning in our favour.

It did get a bit fractious at times but we clearly looked the better team as the clock ticked down and when Jack Smith popped up with an oh so close effort that was cleared off the line we sort of thought we had done our best but failed at the final hurdle.

The ninety minutes were now up and the board came up indicating 5 minutes and I know we all say that this doesn’t matter as we tend not to make any use of this extra period of play but by Christ and all that is holy it changed up at Turf Moor. We watched in open mouth disbelief as Henderson controlled a ball clipped over the top of their defence and calmly stroked it into the net for 2-2. We went absolutely fucking mental, the Burnley fans sat there in abject misery as they watched us celebrating the big man’s goal. I guess you had to be there but it was such a fantastic feeling, it is hard to explain.

And then, almost the icing on the cake as Henderson again battled his way through and his deflected shot beat Grant but hit the underside of the bar, bounced down (some say over the line, but we will never know for sure) and was cleared by a relieved Burnley defender.

The final whistle went and the players got a rousing reception from us as they left the field. We needed a result like this, it is and was a confidence booster and I know some will say we are just papering over the cracks and all that but we can only play one game at a time and this particular game was a vast improvement on what we have been watching of late.

We had the local BBC radio on in the car as we left Burnley and the number of callers from the game moaning about the ref was a joy to listen to. Not one of these norvern monkies disagreed that the offside goal was indeed offside but the basis of the argument was that the ref should not have changed the decision. They refused to listen to any reasonable argument that in fact the ref hadn’t given the goal but the fucking PA announcer had was neither here nor there. It was hilarious to hear these proper oop north, you can’t get owt fer nowt brigade, bemoaning the fact that ‘Millwall are the biggest cheaters ever’ and ‘the referee wanted Millwall to win’ etc etc as they were crying into their pints of bitters.

Well, we can’t dwell too much on this game as we have a tricky game at Bristol City on Tuesday night to contend with and I won’t be going as I am working nights at the moment so I can’t go, but kudos to those that do, and hopefully we can grab another valuable away point and start to get our season off the ground.

"The miserable have no other medicine but only hope". - (Measure for Measure Act III, Scene I).
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