Brighton 1-1 Millwall ~ Match Musings

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So, winless and dumped out of the league cup, we gird our loins and set our caps straight to go off on the road again to see if we could improve our current predicament and furnish some sort of result out of a tricky looking away game at Brighton.

Me and MrsB set off early and collected one of our numerous grandchildren, Jack, and joined the crawl on the M25 to get to the M23 and make the short trip down to the south coast. We stopped off en route to visit my dear old mum, 90 years young and living in Henfield before heading off and joining up with Del & Lin and then, finally, making our way to the ground.

We invariably use the park & ride scheme and although it serves a purpose I could not imagine having to do this for every home game, it is a right pain in the arse, to be honest, not going to but coming from after the game. It is badly organised with nowhere near enough buses running and the local lemmings seemingly have no qualms about it at all.

But I digress…

There are more important things to worry me at the moment and one of the biggest is worrying if we are anywhere near getting some sort of semblance of a starting eleven that we will see as our best.

It is still bothering me that Lomas does not seem to know who his best starting line-up is and he still seems to be experimenting but all the while he is doing this we are languishing in the relegation zone of the table.

For this game we saw more changes but one of them was most welcome as the sight of David Forde being back in the starting line-up brought a huge cheer from the travelling support which must have felt like an ice cold dagger through the heart of the hapless Bywater.

So, the team lined up as follows; Forde in goal, Dunne, Shittu, Beevers and Lowry at the back, Henry, Bailey, Chaplow, Derry and Woolford in a five man midfield with McDonald playing as the lone striker.

A healthy crowd of nearly 27,000 basking in the sunshine settled down as the game started and it took a while for the game to get going, both teams seemed keen on playing the ball around but it was like watching a chess match between two draughts players at times.

One thing that I did note was when Brighton managed to get a cross into our box and the 1300 odd fans in the away section fell deathly silent as the ball looped into the danger zone but the ridiculous cheer that went up when Forde plucked the ball from the air like a plum off a tree was really a testament to our recent experiences with the aforementioned Bywater who has the vampiric notion that crosses can be harmful.

The prodding and probing of both teams really kept both ‘keepers redundant for long periods but the football we were trying to play was not too shabby. One player though stuck out like a blind cobbler’s thumb and for all the wrong reasons. James Henry. He looks a shadow of the player we know he can be but his inability to take a full back on, his woeful distribution of the ball, and his whole physical demeanour smacks of disinterestedness. Feeney, for all his faults, would at least run the channels and worry the fucking life out of the left back even if his end product might not always be the right one.

At times we looked quite composed and purposeful and then we looked shambolic and confused but in truth we were no worse than our opponents who were also, at times, very poor.

There was no rhythm to the game, it wasn’t even ebbing and flowing, it was just stagnating and I am struggling to recall any decent attempts at either goal and I am pretty sure the ‘keepers never made one save of note.

At the half time whistle the consensus was that we were holding our own and didn’t appear to be in any real danger of conceding.

Indulge me during the half time break. Do you wash/bath/shower in the morning, dry yourself off and apply liberal amounts of deodorant? You do? Of course you do, you are quite normal but there are some of you who are currently scrabbling for your dictionary to look the word “deodorant” up…

One of you, maybe, possibly, who has no concept of this washing malarkey, was sitting next to us at Brighton. You stank to high heaven. Now in polite society it is awkward to tell someone that their body odour is offensive and in Millwall’s rank and file it is positively asking for a Wembley tear up type situation if you tell a complete stranger that they have the bouquet of rotting skunk and yes, we could have moved seats to get clear of the funk that was emanating from your body, but we had a great view of the game so we didn’t. We stayed and put up with stench so yes, it was partly our own fault to do this. But… if it was you or you know who it might be (he did have a mate with him, a rather large fellow, probably morbidly obese but easy on the olfactory perception) then can you point to personal hygiene department of your local supermarket and set him on his way?

No changes for the second half but Lomas must have made some decent points because the team started on a different level. McDonald, who I am glad to say was working tirelessly up front, slotted a ball through to Henry, who really should have scored or at least make the ‘keeper do some work, but managed to hit the ball over the bar and this was about 30 seconds into the half.

Next up we had McDonald working himself into a good position but his effort was blocked by at least two Brighton defenders who both lunged in from different sides.

The home side looked shaken and nervous and rightly so because on around the fiftieth minute we watched as McDonald got the ball to Chaplow on the edge of their box and he slid the ball to Woolford on his left and the wingers low drive across ‘keeper Kuszczak and into the back of the Albion goal.

0-1! And the tumultuous roar that emanated from the away section was born out of relief more than anything else. The celebration was as wild as I can remember for some considerable time as it was in reality, our first bona fide goal from open play this season.

As expected, Brighton made changes and stepped up the pace by bringing on Lua Lua, who has history with us and not in a good sense and although we rode our luck at times we looked more than capable in defence to keep him and them at bay. They had a huge shout for a penalty that was waved away by the referee and then Lua Lua had a couple of wayward strikes at goal that bothered no one.

Lowry made a brilliant block from Orlandi’s shot that looked goal bound and again it was Lowry who intervened at just the right time to deny another Brighton attempt.

McDonald had their defence in panic stations when he dribbled and weaved his way through but his well struck shot was dealt with by their ‘keeper.

Then Woolford almost replicated his goal but this time his shot was saved. We were holding our own now and we looked more resilient in this game than at any other time under Lomas. Henry was finally substituted for Abdou in a clear indication that we looked like going all out to protect the slender lead.

Brighton thought they had got an equaliser after a floated in free kick was headed in by Ulloa but the ref was already blowing for a clear push and the free kick was duly awarded, much to relief of the travelling crowd.

But soon after, we had the smiles wiped from our faces as Alan Dunne made an innocuous tackle just to the right of our area which was clearly a foul but the ref whipped out a yellow card which meant a red one followed because Dunne had got a yellow on 55 minutes for “taking too long to throw the ball back into play”.

So, down to ten men and Lomas made a change immediately, bringing on Trotter for Chaplow and putting Abdou at the back to cover for Dunney.
The pressure was now on and with twenty minutes or so still to play we had to hope that the ten men could hold out. The game developed quickly into a manic series of defensive actions for the lions and we rode our luck on a few occasions as they were pretty much camped in our half.

Forde was earning his keep, diving at the feet to thwart a Brighton attack and then getting a standing ovation for a brilliant save from a powerful drive, tipping over the bar as an equaliser seemed certain.

With five minutes left Lomas made a strange tactical decision when he used up his last substitution and the player coming off was McDonald (huge applause and his own song chanted by the fans) which made perfect sense but instead of the extra defender we all expected to come on, he sent on Easter, another striker. The game was clearly calling for a defender to ensure we held out for the three points but hey ho, what the fuck do we all know…

Of course, the equalising goal was sadly inexorable. With barely a couple of minutes remaining Lua Lua moved swiftly down the left flank and fired over a cross to the unmarked Ulloa who rifled home from close range. 1-1.

The problem now was that there were five whole minutes of added time still to play and the home side were sniffing for a winner. It got a bit hairy at times, Lowry clearing off the line probably the most hand over the eyes moment, but the Lions held firm and at the final whistle, the draw didn’t seem such a bad outcome.

The team had performed well enough, the best I’ve seen them under Lomas, and if Dunne had not seen red I firmly believe I would be sitting here crowing about our first win of the season.

The players were warmly applauded but the nervous looks on some of their faces told its own story as they tentatively sauntered over to accept the applause, clearly feeling it was some sort of macabre plot by the baying hounds of hell that we must look like to them, to get them close so we could tear their hearts out for not getting the three points.

I hope our notoriously fickle fans can see some glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel after this game but of course it can all just as easily unfold if the next game at home to Derby fails to bring forth the win we so desperately crave at the moment.

No doubt, it has been a tough start to this season but the team are beginning to show signs that are capable, the only real issue is the time scale we are in. Have we still got enough time to get ourselves up the table and away from the dread spectre of relegation? I believe so, I am hopeful that over the next five games we will see the climb commence and then maybe we can cut the players some slack and let them get on with doing the business for us.

It is a pity that the international break has come now as the team need to be out there playing but I suppose it is also a time for the injuries to heal and let us at least get all of our players ready for the fight ahead.

“Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show.”
Terry Pratchett
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    Excellent as usual FWF