Millwall 0-2 Burnley ~ Match Musings

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As I am scribbling these notes down I am also gazing out of my living room window as I watch the snow gently falling from a grey blanket of sky and I am drawn unerringly to those opening lines of that famous Christina Rossetti poem set to music by Gustav Holst and later by Blake as I reflect on Millwall’s game against Burnley. For those of you not familiar with this carol, it is called “in the bleak mid-winter” and I think that it sums up where we are at this particular juncture in our season.

To say we underperformed is akin to saying Adolf Hitler was slightly intolerant of the Jewish faith, we just looked second best all day long. Burnley’s manager, Sean Dyche, seems to have got us sussed out and it certainly showed.

The snowy weather certainly put paid to the unenthusiastic supporter and a paltry home gate of just over 9,000 braved the cold and after the final whistle not one man amongst them all had any thoughts other than “why do we bother?”

This was the epitome of a bad day at the office cliché, we were out run, out fought, out thought, out played and any other fucking ‘out’ you care to mention. There were even the odd one or two “Jackett out” shouts as we watched the pitiful display offered up to us.

The team sheet indicated our lack of resource, even with two new faces in the squad, we still looked like a make shift sort of set up. With Lowry suspended we had Jack Smith at left back. Not his fault, not at all, but again we see a predominantly right footed player playing as a left back. N’Guessan as the main striker with Keogh as his partner? Or is it the other way round? New loan signing Nathan Tyson was deemed not worthy of going straight into the first eleven so he started the game on the bench.

The starting line-up then, was as follows: Forde in goal, Smith A as right back, Shittu and Beevers in the middle and Jack Smith as left back, in midfield we had Woolford making his home debut as our left winger, Trotter and Abdou in the middle of midfield leaving Henry on the right flank. N’Guessan and Keogh formed the strike partnership.

I think the subs bench told the real story here, joining Tyson were Racon, Wright, Osborne, Dunne and Marquis.

When referee Atwell got the game started it was soon apparent that Burnley are a well drilled side and their work rate looked streets ahead of ours. We were struggling all over the pitch and the frustration was soon seeping across the home sections like a fried egg on a breakfast plate and the vocal disaffection was contagious.

It culminated with a passage of play saw Forde dwell on a back pass and did his usual ‘I’ll just take the ball to one side’ move but found himself bouncing off Burnley’s Vokes like a school child off an over enthusiastic PE teacher but luckily for us Vokes took the ball wider than he needed and his cross to Wallace was met with a duff effort that our red faced custodian gratefully gathered.

But it was short lived relief. Moments later, a wayward pass from Henry saw Stanislas jink his way into our box and although his low cross was in the danger zone the touch on the ball from Vokes was piss poor and as Forde went to gather the trickling ball it somehow spun past him and into the net. 0-1. Bollocks.

In retrospect, it was not really against the run of play. As usual, our or should I say, my, blinkered view at the time was that it was a lucky goal and we can bounce back from this set back. We did not. We struggled, we chased shadows and we generally had the look of a side with no real game plan or the wherewithal to even carry out a game plan.

I don’t think Grant in the Burnley goal had anything to bother him for the entire first half. I recall a Trotter (or was it Abdou?!) shot that he dealt with comfortably and Henry had a go with a shot that just didn’t dip enough and from my jaded memory banks, that was about it.

Trotter and Abdou were virtually non-existent in midfield, Henry was blowing hot and cold on the right and Woolford was not really improving matters on the left, The centre backs were coping, Smith A was doing alright and Smith J kept forgetting he was playing at left back. At one point Woolford collected the ball on the left wing and clearly didn’t fancy his chances of taking on the man in front of him so he turned and looked to play a simple ball to our left back who was, unfortunately, nowhere to be seen (unless you looked towards the centre midfield position.

Keogh and N’Guessan looked about as compatible as kippers and custard, it was not going well.

Boos rang out at half time as the bitter cold set in good and proper and the forlorn look of the players as they slumped off told its own story.

Well, the second half saw Mr Jackett make the invariable change that the woeful first half fully endorsed but taking off Woolford and replacing him with Tyson (or Dyson as bye fer now called him) seemed rather strange as the left wing really wasn’t where the problem was. I for one didn’t even register Tyson’s involvement for at least twenty minutes, his impact not really what was expected but the questionable positioning was the real issue. Is he a striker or a left midfielder or a utility player? Did our scouting team see Tyson as a striker but the manager felt the need to try him on the left wing in the very position he brought in Woolford to play? I couldn’t figure that one out…

Henry bucked up a bit though and finally started giving their left back a bit of stick, he got a decent ball in to Keogh who struck it well enough but missed the target and Henry repeated the same move soon after but this time the ball flashed right across the six yard box and first N’Guessan missed it followed closely by Tyson.

Burnley just carried on regardless though, high work rate, chasing the ball, winning the headers, getting the second ball, all the basic stuff, all boxes ticked and we charged around like demented children and on the hour mark we were two down as a simple Burnley move down the right saw the ball chipped into the box where Ings was waiting unmarked to nod the ball past Forde. 0-2 and even the most discerning Millwall fan knew there was no real way back from this.

N’Guessan was replaced soon after by Marquis who actually came on and had a bit of a go but his limitations are well documented and although you couldn’t question his commitment I am afraid his lack of ability is still quite apparent.

It could’ve got worse when again our defence got caught napping on the job like a china man in a Mel Brooks cowboy caper and as Treacey burst through with just Forde to beat I am happy to report that our ‘keeper was up to the task and saved smartly to prevent the third goal going in.

Trotter had a shot that got past Grant but Burnley defender Trippier got his head in the way and the ball went out for a corner which, as we all know by now, means fuck all for us as we are about the worst team in the whole football league for not benefitting from a corner assisted goal.

Adam Smith had his tumbling act on full show as he catapulted into the east lower (and it must’ve hurt!) but he dusted himself down and got on with it unlike some of the Burnley players who had going down in agony off to a fine art. There really was no need for them to carry out this play acting though as they were clearly better than us on the day in the footballing stakes.

Tyson had a chance to show what he was capable of as a loose ball fell kindly for him but his attempt at a stonking volley ended up as a skewed shot that went hopelessly wide and someone behind me was heard to quip “that just about sums up our whole performance”. Not wrong…not wrong at all.

I also had a wry smile on my face when a young lad yelled out “we are supposed to be Lions, not pussies”. I am not sure he really understood the connotations of that rather succinct comment, but he hit the nail right on the head!

The final whistle brought forth a cacophony of cat calls from the last remaining bastion of the frozen few that bothered to endure the five minutes of injury time and the players slunk off knowing that they had not only failed to deliver the required performance but worse than that, failed to deliver the required commitment, which for your average Millwall fan is the main criteria required.

So, if I may take you back to the start of this rather depressing missive, it is not only frosty winds making moan in this bleak mid-winter…about 8,500 Millwall fans were and still are, making bigger moans about this game…mind you, It’s a fucking crappy carol anyway….

Bring on an FA Cup diversion I hear you cry so let us forget this diabolical match and concentrate on the visit of Aston Villa to the Den for Friday night football and the fourth round of the Cup.

"The miserable have no other medicine but only hope". - (Measure for Measure Act III, Scene I)
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    Spot on I wasn't dreaming or was it a nightmare
    Yep.Spot on.Great report.