Millwall 0-0 Palace ~ Match Musings

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And on it goes, the spectre of relegation still haunting us like a bad smell, we had to put up with the visit of the stripey Nigel’s from up the road with their inane choirboy antics, like renegades from sister act, they pride themselves on grouping together in sensible order and requesting a police escort where ‘ere they go, they can be quite insufferable at the best of time, never mind when they are heading for the play offs and we are heading into possible oblivion.

Not a huge turnout for this last home game of the season, barely scraping 12,000 inside the ground (2,000 odd from Palace), clearly the all ticket nonsense and probably the ambivalence of a lot of our fans put paid to any thoughts of a sell-out but the old bill were there in numbers so yet again they managed to completely miss read the occasion.

I think it was more a feeling of mild trepidation than actual stone cold fear that was hanging over the Den as the player of the season awards were being dished out, it was all a bit rushed, almost like an embarrassment, but it was well received by the fans who cheered Danny Shittu’s crowning as our seasons favourite, the big man as gracious as ever, a candid smile dancing about his lips as he waved his trophy aloft, he is a proper Millwall character now and the fans have clearly taken him to their hearts.

So it was doubly good to have him back in the team for this game and he took his place alongside Beevers with Dunne and Lowry on the flanks. Forde in goal, naturally and the midfield was a straight four with Henry and Feeney on the wings with St Ledger and Wright filling in the middle which gave us two up front and that was Batt and Keogh’s domain.

So, Mr Jackett had plumped for a 4-4-2 formation and with the early evening sunshine still washing over us we waited with baited breath for Mr Salisbury to blow his whistle and see what fate had in store for us.

We started off brightly actually and it was good to see Feeney having a go down the wing and it didn’t take long for us to get an effort in on goal, St Ledger firing low and wide after good work from Feeney and again it was Feeney setting up Keogh who miss timed his shot when really he should have done better. Shaun Batt was proving a bit of a handful as well and Gabbidon did well to block a shot from the gangly forward.

The effort and endeavour was all there and you have to wonder why it has taken us to get in such a precarious position before this sort of urgency becomes the norm. It was a full on blood and guts display and it was good to see Alan Dunne stepping up to the plate and giving show pony Zaha a lesson in Championship defending. Robust and vigorous it was what we expected and it was what we got from our long serving full back.

Wright was unlucky with a little curler of a shot that went just too high after he was set up neatly by Keogh but straight after this little passage of play we lost Henry to an injury and Mr Jackett was forced into an early substitution, bringing on Woolford in his place.

The Zaha/Dunne show was gathering pace as the Man United bound prima donna clearly felt that Dunney should stand back and admire the tricks and flicks but it all got a bit fractious when Zaha simply could not get the better of the stalwart defender and was forced into taking a swipe at Dunne off the ball. Now normally this would surely have been a red card offence but referee Salisbury seemed keen to let things go and offered a severe finger wagging instead of any real retribution. Dunne had made his point though and Zaha never really had a chance to shine after this.

If Zaha was neutered, Murray was still on the prowl and he had a couple of efforts on goal, the first of these missing the target by some distance and then Forde thwarting the prolific striker as he was put through on goal.

We kept our shape through this little spell of palace pressure and the defence stood firm, some excellent defending from all four who worked as a unit throughout. The half time whistle sounded and the mood of the fans was one of appreciation for some decent hard work and we never really looked in any danger of conceding but inversely, we never really looked like scoring either.

The second half saw no real change and we kept on giving it a go, Palace adopting the Forest tactic of trying to hit us on the break but they were far less capable than Forest and as he game wore on the crowd stared really finding their voices and at times it was a very decent atmospherte and the players responded to this but we just couldn't get a sniff at goal.

Feeney again tormenting their full back and sending over an excellent ball which was met by Batt’s head but the ball fell to Keogh who just couldn’t get it under any real control and the chance evaporated.

Forde pulled off an absolute world class save when Bolasie, who looked far more capable than Zaha, fired in an exocet of a shot that looked in all the way until the Irish International did the business, parrying the ball away for a corner.

With about twenty minutes left Mr Jackett made a substitution; it was interesting to say the least. Batt had clearly run out of steam but had put in a really decent shift in and was warmly applauded off but when N’Guessan came on in his place, we were soon wondering what the fuck was going on.

N’Guessan adopted the demeanour of someone who didn’t give a flying fig about what we were trying to achieve and just seemed to amble around looking about as interested as a dog would be with a metal bone. His whole body language smacked of apathy and indifference.

The crowd reacted almost immediately, and N’Guessan found out pretty quickly that if you don’t pull your weight then you will get found out sharpish and Mr Jackett must have wondered what on earth he had done. Even a puffed out Batt had more gumption than N’Guessan and after just under fifteen minutes he swapped the surly striker for Trotter and we watched as the failed front man sauntered off without a care in the world, disappearing straight down the tunnel, with the sound of about 10,000 pissed off Millwall fans ringing in his earholes.

The rest of the team, were polar opposites of N’Guessan, I am happy to say and they carried on the fight to the bitter end and as the clock ticked down it was apparent that we just didn’t have enough up front to get that vital goal that would see us safe from the drop.

At the final whistle, despite the ludicrous spectacle of old bill coming in and marching around the pitch side to stop a suspected mass invasion that was never going to happen, the crowd applauded a valiant effort and a point gained is the way we have to look at this result.

It all now goes to the last game of the season, now who would have thought it would come to this? We have had a strange season all in all and there may well still be a sting in the tail waiting for us on Saturday.

There are a few different permutations available to see us safe but the easiest way is for us to win and win well but I am betting it won’t pan out quite like that for us. The Gods of football are notorious for their bloody mindedness and lack of understanding but we have got a fighting chance to sort our season out because the bastards do like to play games but usually they faff about getting all the right pieces together and then they can’t find the fucking dice so while they sort themselves out we can crack on and get our business done and dusted.


"This is the short and the long of it". - (The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II, Scene II).
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