Millwall 2-1 Derby County ~ Match Musings

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They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

When Laurence Binyon wrote his poem “for the fallen” back in 1914 at the beginning of the Great War he would probably have been totally unaware of the impact this work would have in years to come. The seven stanza poem is in the main forgotten but the third and fourth stanza’s (though these days mainly the fourth), have developed into a separate piece simply called “Ode of remembrance”.

As at club, Millwall are usually vilified and hated by all and sundry and if I am perfectly honest, sometimes it has been justified but at the game against Derby when Owen Beament read the fourth stanza out before the kick off the respectful silence was not only observed for the minute between Referee Drysdale’s whistle but for a good couple of minutes before hand as the solemn notion of what it all meant struck home.

Lance Corporal Alfie Bain and Corporal Michael Harrison from the Royal Corp of Signals conveyed the simplest of duties with such conviction that the spontaneous applause that greeted them as the marched round to lay a wreath behind the goal of the CBL must surely stay with them for a long time. The poignant sight of one man moving forward to shake their hands from the Lower South stand was such a defining moment that I will, I am sure, also remember for a long a time. It wasn’t a flamboyant gesture, it was self-effacing and apt and whoever that chap was should know that his handshakes were backed by another 10,000 from around the ground.

Please forgive my indulgence and now onto the football.

We came into this match with our unbeaten run still intact after the 0-0 draw at Watford in mid week and on the back of that we had to deal with injuries to Henderson and Henry and the fact that Mr Jackett was laid up in bed with man flu so Joe Gallen stepped into the breach, surely under orders from Mr Jackett, and the team line up was as follows: Forde in goal, Smith A, Shittu, Beevers and Lowry across the back, Feeney, Trotter, Abdou, Taylor in the middle of the park leaving Wood up front with Keogh.

Actually not too shabby, have we at last got a bit of back up in reserve now…?

The Derby fans congregated in the North stand were sparsely spread out, as is the norm these days and had displayed a large flag that took up more space than they did. They are a strange club, they get good home attendances, have a decent stadium but never really push the boat out in terms of achievement. They are a poor man’s Nottingham Forest, which in itself is enough for minimum self-flagellation so I suppose we should show some sympathy towards these unfortunate creatures.

When Referee Drysdale’s whistle got the game started I couldn’t help but feel a sense of composure around the place, gone is the foreboding fears of dodgy home form, the 8 game unbeaten run clearly pouring confidence into fans and players alike and from the off we had no reason to think otherwise. It was a confident start with two quick chances falling in the few minutes.

Trotter tested ‘keeper Legzdins who could hold the rasping shot and soon after Wood just failed to get on the end of a Keogh low cross with the goal yawning wide in front of him.

Shittu and Beevers are now forming a solid rear guard (will Robinson get his place back?) and they were dealing with anything derby had to offer. Add this to Abdou finally getting back to his best form and Trotter now doing the tracking back as well and the spine of the team looked very self-assured.

Taylor and Feeney were working the wings well and the front two looked like they had been playing as a pair all season. The game was moving along nicely but Derby were nothing if not resilient and there stoic defending was beginning to stifle our attack but after half an hour of keeping our noises to the grindstone we got the deserved breakthrough although it was touch and go for a few minutes.

The tippy football we all rounded on during the early part of the season finally paid some dividends. Some superb one touch passing and movement saw Keogh find Wood who in turn found Lowry on the left flank and the speed of the move had derby all over the place.

Lowry looked up and fired a low ball across the six yard area and Feeney rushed forward on the far side to slam the ball into the back of the net.1-0!...or was it…

Cheers turned quickly to groans as the lino had his flag up. The Millwall players were quick to rush over to the lino but we feared the worst as the ref made his way over gesticulating in an exaggerated manner for all players to kindly fuck off while he converses with his assistant.

GOAL! The decision was rescinded, the linesman got it wrong and the goal was good. Double celebrations ensued as the Derby players tried to convince the ref to have a change of heart but no chance. It was a good goal. Keogh probably had moved in to a forward position but he wasn’t interfering with the play at that stage and Feeney was clearly onside.

Derby rallied slightly after this but were limited to a long range effort from their Keogh but it didn’t trouble Forde, it flew just over the bar and out for a goal kick.

The half soon raced by after this with Millwall back in dominant fashion and derby doing their best to keep us ay bay but the biggest disappoint came with a few minutes left as the usually effervescent Taylor suddenly pulled up and sat down calling on the physio. Never a good sign when this sort of thing happens and although he responded to a bit of treatment and tried to run it off, Joe Gallen had no choice but to replace him with Malone just before the half ended.

The lads left the field as the half time whistle blew with rapturous applause ringing in their ears. It was a good half of football and something to build on for the second forty five.

The second shift was a very entertaining affair, with both teams going at it for the next goal and it was the Lions who nearly got it as Keogh found room within a couple of minutes of the kick off but as he prepared himself for his shot he was cleanly tackled by Brayford who had to time it just right and unfortunately for us, he did.

But, it is with heavy heart I have to report that the next goal came from the visitors. If we have one continual failing this season it is a lack of concentration at the most awkward moments and this was a case of the central midfield and defence doing their “after you Claude, no, after you” routine and we watched in abject misery as Five bells look alike Hughes (sorry, couldn’t resist this. If you know Five bells you know I am right) collected the ball just inside our half and danced his way forward with no one closing him down and he fired a left shot high into the top corner with Forde well beaten. 1-1.

This setback was hard to take considering how we had been playing but this goal gave Derby a bit more confidence and we had a bit of a torrid ten minutes or so as they tried to build on their fortuitous equaliser but we are much more resilient now than we were at the start of the season and with Shittu leading like a true captain he steadied the ship and got us back on an even keel, ably assisted by all and sundry and we were soon back in the driving seat.

Malone was relishing his chance to shine as the replacement for Taylor and he was causing their right side a few headaches, Feeney, clearly not in the same mould as Henry, was doing his best to ensure that their left side was also kept busy and with Keogh and Wood hustling and bustling at the front we looked the more likely to strike the next blow.

We had the ball in the net from a corner but the ref had already blown for an infringement but when Wood chased down a ball and just dragged it back from the stranded Legzdins his placed effort was cleared off the line by Richard Keogh and then soon after the impressive Adam Smith went on a dribbling run that culminated in a fierce shot that fizzed just over the bar.

Keogh was up next and again as he was in a great position the ball was nicked off his foot as he was about to pull the trigger, this time from O’Connor who had to be just as astute with his tackle as Brayford had been earlier.

With fifteen minutes left we finally got the breakthrough our persistence deserved and it was persistence from Malone that brought the reward. He refused to let a through ball be shepherded out for a goal kick and managed to wrestle the ball back from the defender and the bye line and fed it to Keogh who delivered a perfect curling effort past the despairing dive of Legzdins. 2-1!! Get in you lovely Lions

I would like to say that we romped home from this point in but give derby their due they threw everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at us after this but our defending was simply too good for them and with the industrious Abdou chasing anything that moved they never really got too close although Forde gave us a few scares with some erratic saves that put us in a spot of unnecessary bother (Fans closer to the away will probably testify that from one spillage Shittu actually took out their man for a blatant penalty, but I claim a Wenger on this one, I did not see it)…

Even with three additional minutes (probably due to the time Danny Shittu spent tying up his boot laces, what the fuck was going on there?) we never looked like relinquishing our lead and as the final whistle blew and the opening bars of Status Quo began pumping out of the PA speakers, all was right in the world again.
A good win against a form team, unbeaten in nine games and the visit of dirty Leeds coming up next Sunday, we are sitting pretty in 10th place of the Championship and looking like a pretty decent side.

No chants of “one Joe Gallen” but he did well in Mr Jackett’s absence and all we can do is thank him for holding the reigns and wish Kenny Jackett a speedy recovery, the win must surely help this along.

"Men of few words are the best men" . - (King Henry V Act III, Scene II).
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