Millwall 2-1 Bristol City ~ Match Musings

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So, with the Christmas shenanigans and New Year’s Eve jollifications out of the way, it was left to the lovely Lions to kick off 2013 at home to lowly Bristol City.

Now to me, and admittedly I am a lost cause, but the first game of the New year sets me up nicely for the second half of the football season and it signals an end to the holiday period and a last chance to succour the remnants of my leisure time before dreaded work rears its ugly head again.

Not so, it seems to some of our fickle fans though as a paltry attendance of just under 10,000 which included about 400 from the west country, saw fit (or were in a fit state) to come to the Den and see if we can get the new off to a winning way.

Now I like to be disparaging about Bristol City and to see them languishing at the foot of the table is a joy to behold and there ridiculous fans who still are eschewing the 20th century, never mind the 21st, are in a perpetual time warp of chewing pieces of straw while pontificating about the pleasures of supping drinks made by fermented apples, you are put in mind of those two Ronnie’s characters so loved back in the eighties.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4iPNyd7p68).

These people are the proverbial country bumpkins, they gawp at tall buildings, demand to know where the horses are that are pulling the coaches they arrive in and raise furtive eyebrows at the mention of marriageable cousins. If left to their own devices they would have anything by the Wurzels as a Christmas Number 1 every year and combine harvesters would be the main form of transport.

They still burn women in Bristol for making a cup of tea from tea bags.

But we digress…

Mr Jackett had a small conundrum to deal with in team selection as players were not available for one reason or another so the starting line-up was as follows: Forde in goal, Smith A, Shittu, Beevers and Lowry at the back, Henry, Abdou, Trotter and Feeney in midfield with Henderson and N’Guessan up front.

So with the sparsely populated stands of the Den doing their best to create an atmosphere, referee East got the game going and we were quick off the blocks. A nice slick move down the left wing saw the ball fired over to Henderson whose hunched header went just the wrong side of the post.

City got the message quickly and parked the proverbial bus almost immediately as we pushed into their half almost at will. Henry and then Feeney both tested impressive ‘keeper Heaton and he again showed a bit of class making a very good save from a Trotter shot.

The traffic was all going one way only and the only thing missing was a goal to seal our dominance. N’Guessan was having a decent run out and seemed to be revelling in his role as Henderson’s partner and when the latter slipped the ball through the Bristol rear-guard, N’Guessan was a willing runner and he outpaced their back line with ease and fired a low shot past Heaton and into the net. 1-0! It was thoroughly deserved and the hope was now to increase the score line along with the numerous chances we were creating.

But it just didn’t happen.

We never looked likely to concede at the back but despite some industrious work by Abdou in the midfield and much scampering up and down the channels, we failed to build on our slender lead.
We had a huge shout for a penalty late on in the half when Beevers was virtually shackled by Fontaine as he rose to meet a henry corner and I reckon if he hadn’t made contact with the ball then referee East may have had a closer look at it. As it was, Beever’s header missed the target.

Just before the half ended City made two substitutions which seemed a bit weird but I’m guessing the manager was letting his team know he was far from happy with the battering they were getting, but, the half-finished soon after and we left the field with just the one goal lead in place.

The second period saw City find a new lease of life and as we dawdled and fuddled about and looked a bit lethargic at times. City seemed to have a renewed vigour and it was time for Forde to show what he could do, first saving low down from a stinging effort from Danns that he parried away for a corner and moments later pulled off another decent stop, this time from a shot by Baldock.

Nervous glances were beginning to be exchanged by the Den faithful as we watched the match slowly slip out of our grasp and when City’s Adomah lifted a simple pass over our centre backs we watched in abject misery as Stead latched on to it and smacked it into the net past the static Forde for 1-1.

If we needed a kick up the pants then this was a timely boot indeed. We shook off the shock of conceding the goal and finally started to get our game back on track. Heaton soon became the busier of the two keepers again and he saved well from a Smith longish range shot and then did likewise from Trotter.

At last the crowd picked up as well and the players responded to the atmosphere and we finally looked like a team again rather than the bedraggled eleven who started the half so poorly.

With fifteen minutes remaining we won a free kick out on the right hand side of their half and the subsequent free kick from Henry was floated over to the far post where a cluster of players all vied for the header. Trotter won it and his looping header went back across the face of the goal and Adam Smith was suddenly there racing in and he struck an unstoppable shot that ballooned the back of the net. 2-1! The relief was palpable and it soon became apparent that Mr Jackett was as relived as the rest of us as he substituted Henderson for jack Smith in a clear indication that it was time to shut up shop.

Not perhaps, what we wanted but in reality, keeping the lead rather than adding to it was high on the manager’s agenda so we stifled the game for the last ten minutes or so but there was still time for another fantastic save from the visitors ‘keeper who acrobatically saved a Trotter volley that looked in all the way from when it left the midfielder’s boot.

Batt replaced N’Guessan who received some well-earned applause from the Den aficionados and he had time to cause his usual madcap mayhem but all to no avail.

Obviously we had to endure five minutes of time added on and we ran the clock down as best we could in that madly frustrating way of trying to hold the ball in the corner and we nearly came unstuck in the final seconds of the game when Adomah hit a shot that spilled out of Forde’s hands and he had to leap on to the loose ball just before Baldock got to it.

And that was that. Three points safely in the bag, time to move on and see what delights the transfer window brings us throughout January. A respite from league action this Saturday though as FA Cup football returns to the Den as we take on P.N.E in the third round of the greatest cup competition in the world. Wembley is waiting for us…one way or another!

"Off with his head!" - (King Richard III, Act III, Scene IV).
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    Thanks ... That's the game I saw... Forde static so true