FairweatherFan

Millwall 2-1 Bolton ~ Match Musings

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And.............relax.......at last a home win for the Lions in what turned out to be a cracking game of football as we finally buried the myth that we couldn’t win at home (alright, smart arse, I know there wasn’t really a myth but at times it felt like it) and win in style as well.

I was in slight trepidation mode with the visit of Bolton, a former premier league outfit with still a look about the premier league in some of their players as the teams were read out and I will admit that in the fore front of my thinking was the fairly recent FA cup defeat that the 0-2 result disguised the fact that we were pretty much outclassed for the whole of that particular game and the score line was very flattering for us.

But if the club itself can be described as ‘former premier’ league then their fans must come under the same category as a third division outfit. Norvern mongs do not travel well at the best of times but this turnout was piss poor in the extreme. Granted, they live in a god forsaken part of the country and the very thought of coming to the bright lights of London must be akin to a bad case of urbanphobia for these poor souls who clearly dread bumping into the fucking bird lady from Mary Poppins for who could possibly afford tuppence for a bag of bread crumbs in this day and age. The oohhing and ahhing and pointing at the sky from the north stand as planes flew over head was slightly disconcerting but these poor wretches soon settled down like inmates from bedlam when the visitors turn up, and were quite well behaved for a backward breed of human being. I don’t recall any of the usual mundane sing songs so prevalent these days from visiting fans, in fact I don’t recall much noise from them at all...(they have, I assume, mastered the art of speech in Bolton?)

But I digress... Mr Jackett is currently back in most people’s good books after two successive away draws so chins were being stroked and eyebrows were dancing the fandango when we heard that he had drafted in a new loan signing to sure up the dilapidated centre back positions with injuries to Robbo and Osborne and Lowry’s suspension all adding to the woes. Mark Beevers from Sheff Wed on “emergency” loan drew the usual comments (who the fuck is he or some pontificating on his pro’s and con’s from the adorable know it all fans) but Mr Jackett was confident enough to throw him straight into the first team so the starting eleven looked like this: Forde in goal, Dunne, Shittu (c), Beevers, Smith at the back, Henry, Abdou, Trotter and Malone in midfield with Henderson and Wood as the striking pair.

The unusually hot October sunshine was beating down on the Den as around 10,000 home fans once again raised their collective expectations as Referee Ward got the game going. Wait, what was this we were witnessing? Up tempo football, no tippy tappy passing about bollocks, it was full on committed stuff and we had the visitors on the back foot from the word go.

Danny Shittu, seemingly revelling in his new role as captain was marshalling the back four well enough to allow the midfield some freedom but it was his prowess up front that nearly paid dividend as we pushed forward in the first five minutes. We had forced a corner and a sweet delivery by the resurgent Henry saw Shittu float into the air (trust me, he fucking floats) and head the ball home only for a foul to be called by incompetent referee Ward who saw an infringement that on closer inspection via TV replays must’ve been committed by the invisible man, so the goal was ruled out, much to the bemusement and relief of the Bolton defence.

Let’s just dwell on referee Ward for a moment. If you read these missives over the many years that I have slaved away doing them then you will be hard pushed to find me having a pop at referees. I might make a few jokey comments, a poorly constructed metaphor or two but in general I tend to shy away from blaming refs for anything that goes on in our games because quite frankly they are an easy target and it seems to me that the lazy punter will default to ref baiting as a reason for a poor result. I feel that in this case though I need to at least make mention of how poor this particular whistle blower was. I have seen better referring in the Sunday league games where some unfortunate dad ends up reffing a game for the under 10’s because no one else will do it. Mr Ward is as close to being a decent ref as Caligula was of being a decent wedding guest. He wasn’t biased; he was just equally abysmal for both us and the visitors and he had no real control of the game at all. I’ll say no more on this dullard of a man and stick to the game as my arthritis is kicking in and my poor abused fingers can only type so much before they give up on me entirely so I don’t think I should waste them on this fool any longer...

Now, let us get onto Henderson, a man who may (or may not) be with us much longer due to unforeseen circumstances but by all that is holy he is giving it all he can at the moment to make sure he is the main man for Mr. Jackett. He was unrelenting against an experienced defence and he was giving Bogdan in the Bolton goal plenty to be worried about but no one saw the opening goal coming from Hendo when he chased down the ball and cut across the front of the area, especially poor Bogdan who was completely wrong footed as the Lions striker struck a low drive that went past a couple of Bolton defenders before slamming into the back of the net. 1-0 and much joy was had all round!

It was no more than the Lions deserved as they had clearly set out to blitz the opposition and the tactic had paid off handsomely. Bolton recuperated their resources and started to look for an equaliser but with Shittu in sparkling form and new boy Beevers looking like he had been playing alongside him all season, there was no way through. Erstwhile Millwall striker Kevin Davies made one attempted challenge on Shittu and was resoundly beaten and he never went near the ball again if Shittu was near it. The same really went for Ngog who was so deep into Shittu’s pocket he must’ve known how much loose change the burly defender had in there.

There were shouts for a Bolton penalty mid way through the half when a tame Davies shot was blocked by Jack Smith but it looked like ball to hand and no intent and thankfully the ref got this one right (although he made up for it later).

It was a very entertaining game of football by now and free flowing stuff was inspiring to watch. Forde was kicking balls up the field at every opportunity, no more of this pass gently to the full back who in turn passes to the centre half who passes it back etc etc. The midfield looked more adept with this tactic and the wingers and the forwards were linking up at every opportunity, all we lacked was the second killer goal.

This nearly came after some lovely link up play between Henry and Henderson which saw the ball played through to the marauding Malone who skipped a couple of tackles and toe poked a shot that in truth looked closer than it really was but still had the appreciative crowd on their feet applauding.

As the half was drawing to a close and it has to be said, totally against the run of play, Bolton managed to create their best chance of the game. A through ball from midfield saw eternal boo boy Chris Eagles race after it and with pressure Dunne still managed to hit a corker of a shot that saw Forde produce a truly stunning save, tipping the ball over the bar at full stretch.

There was still time left for the Lions to come close to getting the second goal but after some more sterling work by Henry on the right his cross was met at the far post by Wood who somehow managed to head the ball the wrong side of the post for a goal kick.

The half was brought to a close and the Lions trotted off with the applause from the home fans ringing in their ears. A very good half indeed.


The second half saw almost a carbon copy of Wood’s effort as again the delightful work on the wing by Henry was finished with another pin point cross that saw Wood get this one on target but a decent save by Bogdan kept the goal tally at just the one.

Minutes later, in fact, only about five minutes into the second half we came a bit of a cropper. An innocuous foul justy outside our box saw Eagles fire a low shot that looked like going straight at the wall but the ‘wall’ managed to jump in unison at the wrong time and the ball flew onwards and straight past the distraught figure of Forde who had been horribly exposed by his jumping wall. 1-1. Bollocks.

We should have been awarded a penalty shortly after this as Trotter was blatantly felled inside their box but referee ward just ignored it and waved play on and to compound this action he promptly awarded Bolton a penalty at the other end as Dunne managed to trip up Eagles in almost the same manner and this time the ref was not going to make the same mistake twice and pointed straight to the spot.

So, on the hour mark, Eagles picked himself up, and placed the ball on the spot and the resounding crescendo of noise from the home fans clearly fazed him as he ran up and booted the ball into the top tier of the North stand, much to the delight of us all.

This miss was like a catalyst for fans and players alike as the crowd took on the responsibility of bolstering the belief that the players could finally break the hoodoo of winning a game at home. It was electrifying stuff to watch as the players plugged into the energy the crowd were supplying, it was finally getting to be like how we want our home games to be.

Henderson was proving to be a real handful up front and his fiercely struck free kick was well saved by the over worked Bogdan and then Malone tried a speculative volley that went wide of the mark and then Mr jackett decided on a change. He took off Wood and sent on Keogh and he also replaced Henry who looked like he was struggling with his ham string, with Chris Taylor.

The changes did nothing to dampen the spirit and the new additions slotted in perfectly well and with constant pressure on them Bolton resorted to crude tackles and reckless challenges. One of these, on Keogh (I Think) was from Eagles, who was being goaded by the crowd at every opportunity and it was disappointing to see the ref only wave a yellow card at him instead of the deserved red his tackle warranted.

Malone was replaced by Batt in the closing stages and the gangly forward soon had the Bolton defence panicking as not only did we not know what he was going to do, they hadn’t a clue and to be honest, I don’t think he did either but he certainly kept their defenders busy for the short time he was on the field.

Beevers nearly capped an impressive debut with a headed goal late on but Bogdan was up to the challenge and as the clock ticked up to the ninety min ute mark we were all getting prepared to accept the score draw on offer but once again Henderson showed what he is capable of and still full of running so late in the game he picked up the ball from Keogh, got it on his favoured left boot and rocketed the ball into the bottom corner past the despairing dive of Bogdan and into the back of the net. 2-1! A 90th minute winner, they don’t come much sweeter than that! The place erupted as the fans went wild and even with a ridiculous 5 minutes of stoppage time, we knew the game was won.

It is a small victory in the grand scheme of things but every points total has to built slowly and steadily and the fact that we have now gone three games undefeated is hopefully a step in the right direction. The dynamic football on offer against Bolton was a welcome relief from the passing ad nauseum game we have witnessed of late and it made for a much more entertaining game for the partisan crowd who clearly had enjoyed the whole thing. The place was buzzing again as the players took the plaudits and as the opening bars of the Quo started ringing out around the old place you felt that suddenly all was right in the world of Millwall.

Great oaks from small acorns and all that good stuff but with the international break now upon us and a visit to our neighbours from Croydon up next (are they the Ned Flanders to our Homer Simpson?) who are riding high in the league, what better place to stake our claim that we are at last on the road to survival in this tough old division?

True is it that we have seen better days". - (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII).
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Comments

    Great post!! Attendance i think was nearer 8k tho and was I the only one who was screaming fnr Hendo to pass to his left right at the end?! Great finish tho!! Miii
    Excellent report on a really enjoyable game. Keep it up!
    A very enjoyable read.