Millwall 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday ~ Match Musings

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This is going to be short and sweet. You don’t really want to read this and I don’t really want to write it but just for posterity I suppose I better tap out a few lines of discomfort even if it does feel like opening up a recently healed wound.

I guess the massed ranks of Millwall fans heading towards Wembley this week end knew more than I did by giving this game a swerve. A really measly, paltry attendance of just 9,084 turned up (with a healthy 1,028 down from Sheffield, thank fuck for small mercies) to see if the Lions could double their home wins for 2013 in the league.

Spoiler alert: They did not…

They did try quite hard though. In fact when Mr Jackett’s team was announced there was much chin stroking and sagely nods going round that you would actually think that we were looking at an innovative scheme being tried out before the big day out on Saturday.

Wholesale changes to the side that drew at Birmingham so we had Forde in goal, Lowry, Shittu, Beevers and Dunne at the back as per normal but in midfield we had Taylor C, Abdou, St Ledger and Saville with Easter and Hulse up front.

Now, when referee Gibbs got the game going the 8,000 or so Millwall fans in the ground witnessed something that no other Millwall fan has ever seen because with barely 2 minutes on the clock we saw Taylor jink down the right and hit a low ball across the face of the goal and who popped up on the end of it, none other than Jimmi Abdou who tapped the ball home for his first ever goal at the Den. 1-0 and it looked like we were in for a treat.

Soon after Kirkland was again in action as we pressed forward, threatening to wash over the visitors like a marauding band of pirates, but Kirkland looked up for the task and he smothered the loose ball as Hulse looked set to strike and even when Lowry had a game effort beating the Wednesday ‘keeper, the aim was not true enough and the ball flashed past the post.

It was very encouraging stuff though and we also managed to get a now trade mark Lowry free kick into the mix but this one went harmlessly into the grateful arms of the now over worked Kirkland.

We were clearly the better side and Wednesday were not really offering anything in the way of ambition but the longer the half went on the more frustrating it became because the early promise soon petered out into a more laboured approach. Why Taylor swapped wings with Saville is anybody’s guess but that particular ruse fooled no one and they soon swapped back, Easter and Hulse just did not seem comfortable in each other’s company but the back four looked solid enough.

Of course, we should know by now what to expect when playing at home and with the match entering into the last few minutes of the first half disaster struck. Saville had possession of the ball inside our half but tried to run the ball across the pitch. He was harried and jostled and looked like he was fouled but as he went to ground he clattered into the Wednesday player who was battling him for possession and when the ref blew for a foul I must admit I thought at first it was in our favour. But no, the free kick went to them and when Llela clipped a harmless looking shot over the wall it seemed like all Forde had to do was aka routine save but he kind of misjudged the bounce of the ball and we watched in horror as the ball went past him and into the back of the net for 1-1.

It was against the run of play and we didn’t deserve this set back but this is just about how our home form runs these days, but we still had time to make Kirkland earn his keep when Lowry thumped a hopeful ball across the face of their goal and when Taylor got a touch to it it looked promising but again the Wednesday ‘keeper managed to grab the ball.

We then had the worst decision of the half by referee and linesman combined when Easter was chasing the ball and was homing in on goal but he was wrestled to the ground by Wednesday’s Gardner, so we were expecting a free kick and at least a yellow if not red card, but the two officials did nothing and play just carried on with Easter left sprawled on the turf.

The half ended in almost silent mode as we watched the lads trudge off.

The second half saw no immediate changes to the lions line up and we certainly came out fighting with Wednesday again having to adopt a bit of a rear-guard action as we went looking for a second goal. Easter was guilty of missing a decent chance and with barely ten minutes played Mr Jackett decided to make a double substitution. He forgave Easter and took off Hulse who, by anyone’s standards, had a bit of a stinker, and brought on Batt and at the same time took off Saville and brought on fit again James Henry.

It was Batt who made the first impression, racing along the right wing and firing a decent ball right across the face of the goal but no one got on the end of it.

Henry wasn’t far behind Batt in making an impact, he danced his way into some space and fed a lovely ball through for Easter to chase and Easter outpaced his marker and went one on one with Kirkland but again the ‘keeper was up to the task and the chance had gone begging again.

Frustrating, exasperating even infuriating, it seemed we just could not find a way past the former England stopper. Hmmm, England keeper…1 cap, a second half appearance against Greece all made more intriguing by his old man’s bet at 100-1 that his boy would one day be capped for England…lucky bastard indeed, but on this showing, the big man looked pretty useful, I must say.

He made another save from a Taylor curler and then got his angles right when St Ledger attempted a decent overhead shot, there was no way through.

Even Shittu got in on the attacking front, finding his way into their box he made the by line and his cross, from inside the box, was clearly blocked by an extended arm from a desperate defender but referee Gibbs and his not so trusty linesman both inexplicably missed it.

Another huge shout for a penalty came soon after when Taylor went down in the box but again the ref was about as impressed as Shania Twain was with Brad Pitt.

As the game drifted into the final ten minutes or so Wednesday suddenly developed a new lease of life and we drifted into panic mode. That is the only thing I can think of as to why we went from comfortably running the game to acting like a load of convent girls being chased by a naughty schoolboy with a condom dangling from a lolly stick; pandemonium and anxiety all round.

With four minutes of stoppage time to play we went into complete meltdown. Wednesday forced a succession of corners and we failed to deal with any of them properly and as if we didn’t know it was coming, the last of them was clipped in and Maguire had no trouble finding the net as we just gaped in abject and total misery. 1-2 and game over.

It was soul destroying, heart achingly torturous stuff. This run of poor home form seems endless and I am beginning to believe that the player’s just hate rockin’ all over the world being played over the PA system…

So we have the pleasant distraction of the FA Cup semi final now on Saturday and who knows what to expect. We have strikers who can’t strike, defenders who lose confidence in an instant and midfielders who blow hot and cold.

We are going to win, aren’t we…

If I can give the team any advice to take it is from one of my favourite authors and it goes something like this “If you trust in yourself . . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.” T Pratchett

Ah well, at least we aren’t in relegation mode yet.

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff". - (Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II).
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