Millwall 1-0 Watford ~ Match Musings

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So the semi final was lost and once again Millwall manage to do what no other football club has ever managed to do for an FA Cup semi final game and that is to make people remember it. The old football adage goes something like “no one ever remembers the semi finals” well, I bet a lot of fucking people will remember this one...but I digress, as many of you may know I tend not to do any match musings for FA Cup games and I am not going to break tradition now so lets get onto the Watford game, enough has been written already about the Wigan match.

So, what do know of Watford then apart from Elton John’s wig is in residence there and Kenny Jackett once played for them? Well, let me tell you a bit more, they are a small football club from the North East of Italy in the Udine area but play their football by proxy in the championship. They are managed by Gianfranco Zola, naturally, and are followed by a flamboyant bunch of fans who are either totally unaware of their ludicrous demeanour or are simply comfortable as renegades from a where’s Wally book.

But to be fair to them they did, at last, travel en masse for a change as over a thousand of them turned up to boost our meagre attendance to just over nine thousand.

The fallout from Saturday’s cup defeat saw Mr Jackett make some changes and the team lined up as follows: Forde in goal, Smith A, Beevers, Shittu and Lowry in defence, Henry, Abdou, Smith J, Keogh and Taylor C in midfield leaving Easter as the lone striker.

Not very adventurous, you may think, but I suspect the game plan was not to lose and the Lord knows we have been doing too much of that at home this year, so erring on the side of caution is not to be sniffed at, in this case.

Referee Linnington got the game going and straight away our resolve was being tested as Watford’s continental approach looked likely to cause us a few problems and this indeed was the case as they waltzed through our midfield like a Balliamo dance troupe and when Deeni found space his classy turn wasn’t matched by his shot that just went over the bar and shortly after he had another good effort that was saved well by the busy Forde.

Shittu marshalled his troops after this and we tightened things up and the game became a bit like attackers v defenders at times with the eye-ties probing and pushing but unable to breach a now very resolute looking Lions defensive unit. Pretty, it was not.

We had to wait a good twenty minutes or so to get slightly animated as Lowry did some sterling work down the flank but his cross was met with a damp squib of a header by Keogh that plopped into the grateful arms of Almunia in the Watford goal.

We lost Taylor C with about ten minutes of the half remaining, the injury prone winger hobbling off to be replaced by Woolford but it had no effect on the relentless attack minded Watford.

It was a real backs to wall Millwall performance at times as Watford lined up and wasted a fair few chances. Vydra should have done better with a clear shot at Forde’s goal but to our relief he fired miles over the bar but our contemptuous jeers were nearly pushed back down our throats as moments later as not one but two very decent long range efforts went very close indeed.

We were under the proverbial cosh, no question and it is fair to say we rode our luck at times and it was a muted crowd that mumbled and grumbled as the half time whistle blew.

The second half saw no real respite from the Watford onslaught and when Smith A and Forde got themselves in a muddle it looked certain that faux serie A wannabes would finally unlock our defence but thankfully Deeni managed to miss an open goal.

We were struggling but at 0-0 the hope is always there or there abouts but we were failing to create anything of note and Forde was doing some sterling stuff in keeping the scores even. He saved again from another Deeni effort just on the hour mark and thankfully Shittu was on hand to block the rebound effort with Forde stranded and it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors finally breached our defensive wall .

This was enough for Mr Jackett and he made a change. On came Batt for the ineffective Easter and the gangly striker was soon making a nuisance of himself and at last giving Watford something to worry about.

We looked more mobile up front now and when Henry put in a cross to Woolford he really should have found the net but his header went the wrong side of the post, but it was a good omen. The sparsely populated stands suddenly came to life as the Lions suddenly saw a chink in the Watford armour.

With six minutes remaining James Henry made a rampaging run into the box and fired a powerful shot at goal. Almunia did well enough to actually parry it but the ball fell straight to Woolford who should have headed the ball into the net but his header went back across the face of the goal where batt was waiting to stab home the ball. 1-0! The place erupted in pure delight and, dare I say it, shock that after the beating we had been taking.

We closed the game out after this and at the final whistle the relief was quit palpable around the place, fans were checking on Google for the latest weather reports to see if hell had frozen over because we had won a home game at long last…

The silly grins on our faces as Status Quo finally got an airing was obviously lost on the visiting fans who just stared agog as we shuffled around doing dad dances while we rocked all over the world.

So, a valuable three points in the race against relegation and with Huddersfield on the horizon we could get the chance to seal our survival on Saturday.

"As good luck would have it". - (The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III, Scene V).
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