Barnsley 1-0 Millwall ~ Match Musings

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So off up to Barnsley with MrsB and grandson Jack on board for what looked like a 28 pointer or some such figure as we looked to get one over on the northern section of the current triumvirate of relegation candidates.

The journey was quite reasonable; the weather was looking in sparkling form, no rain clouds on the horizon or anywhere else for that matter as we tootled along the A1M route to the land of the ee ba gum brigade.

I always have this image of Barnsley as a place where last of the summer wine should be set, the people however always put me in mind of an episode from the Goodies where they were all practising the ancient art of ecky thump.

They are a humble race of people in this part of Yorkshire and in truth they have plenty to be humble about but they are not particularly unfriendly and it made a nice change to actually stroll up to the turnstiles without hoards of wannabe gestapo stewards rifling through your pockets for illegal weapons of mass destruction and checking your tickets to see if you have a forgery of some description on your person.

The young girls serving behind the counter were reasonably efficient, giggling coquettishly at our cockney accents, they were eager to serve and understood English money, which was a bonus being so far north, you understand?

The 500 odd Millwall fans began doing their level best to fill out a stand that could probably hold about another 2000 and were making enough noise to encourage the thought that there might well have been that very amount tucked away somewhere.

The team that Mr Holloway had put out had a familiar look about it, Forde in goal, a back four comprising of Fredericks, Shittu, Lowry and Malone a midfield core of Upson and Williams with Woolford to the left and Morison to the right and McDonald just behind lone striker Campbell.

Now I don’t have any particular axe to grind with this selection, far from it, but some sections of the crowd near us were not, shall we say, too impressed. The main critism, if you can call it that was that we are playing strikers as midfielders and they don’t seem to have the same work ethic as a natural midfielder. I don’t know if that is right or wrong but I can sort of understand the sentiment.

It is just semantics, I guess. Footballers can adapt to a certain degree given time but time is something we haven’t really got now. We need to be firing on all cylinders now and until the end of the season as we are in a pretty precarious position as I am sure you don’t need me to tell you.

The game kicked off in bright sunshine and we settled quickly and for four glorious minutes we looked totally at ease and in control and then disaster struck.

A hopeful diagonal ball saw Malone all over the place with his positioning and we watched in open mouthed horror as O’ Brien easily controlled the ball on the wrong side (as far as we were concerned) of our wayward left back and then took it across the face of the goal and past the despairing lunge of Forde and then slammed it into the net past the now desperate Malone who had run to line in the vain hope of saving his arse. 1-0, balls, balls bigger balls and bollocks.

Ye Gods, what the fuck was going on…

We looked shell shocked and nearly went two down soon after as Barnsley sensed we were there for the taking. They managed to breach our defence with consummate ease and lucky for us that Jennings had no real composure as he fired the ball into the grateful arms of Forde.

Although we feared the worse the Lions finally managed to control their nerves and settled down to play some football. It was clear that Barnsley were a very limited side and with Williams and Upson getting the upper hand in midfield it was surely only a matter of time before we got back in the game.

We had a half chance to equalise as we moved the ball through the midfield but with ball ping ponging all around the danger zone we had no one who could get the decisive touch and the chance soon evaporated.

Woolford went on a mazy run that bamboozled the Tykes defence and when he slipped the ball through to Campbell we were all up on our feet in anticipation but the pass was too hard and the ball went out before Campbell even got a sniff of it.

Campbell got his chance though soon after but failed to connect cleanly with the goal at his mercy and it was doubly frustrating as Upson shanked the ball over the bar from distance with the goal wide open.

We were on top, no question now but our strikers are not striking and as the half wore on Barnsley started to get back into it. It took a Lowry clearance off the line to prevent a header from a corner from making it 2-0.

It was getting very frustrating to watch. The half ended with a few disgruntled cat calls from the travelling contingent but at 1-0 and the whole of the second half to come, despair was not in full swing…yet.

We started the second half with no changes but it didn’t take Mr Holloway long to shake things up a bit. No dramatic triple subs though this time, a straight forward trade taking off Upson and sending on Feeney but for some reason it seemed to have given Barnsley more impetuous than us as they started to boss the game.

Two quick chances in succession saw shots from outside the box cause a minor ruffle for Forde and then when we finally got a chance in we watched the hapless McDonald fire well wide from a decent position with the goal gaping in front of him.

We were not alone in our wayward finishing as Barnsley proved just as inept at hitting the target as they missed another golden chance to go two up.

Time was running away now and we upped the tempo somewhat, Campbell had a half chance as did Williams but that’s all they really were. Mr Holloway threw his dice again and took off McDonald and sent on Jackson but he failed to make any impact at all.

Williams came closest to equalising with a decent free kick that just curled the wrong side of the post with Barnsley ‘keeper Steele scrambling across his goal.

We were huffing and puffing now and it looked like a forlorn hope as we failed to breach the Barnsley defence in any real capacity. Malone was marauding up the left line like a demented banshee at times, his crosses were at best hopeful and he spent too long up field leaving his position exposed.

Morison was ambling about like the surly bastard we came to despise, Campbell went on the missing list and Jackson made absolutely no impact at all.

Mr Holloway’s last act of encouragement was to replace Malone with the new signing Bessone but with barely five minutes left to play all the new man managed to do was gain a yellow card for a crude foul.

This was a game we could ill afford to lose but lose it we did, the final whistle brought forth a torrent of abuse from a small section of the Lions fans aimed mainly at Morison and Malone, the pair of them not doing their selves too many favours by responding in kind but that is all part and parcel of life with the Lions. I know Mr Holloway has stated on numerous occasions now that he will take all the blame (and subsequent abuse) and he does not want his players getting any stick as it is too negative but sometimes the red mists descend for some of our lot and this was a case in point.

To compound the defeat we then hear that both Charlton and Yeovil had won so if our position was precarious before this game then it is positively catastrophic now. We are not masters of our own fate now (were we ever?) and although it can be said that the games in hand that our rivals have over us have still to be won, it does seem that the Gods of football are once again playing fuck abouts with us and the pain and humiliation of descending into the nether regions of league 1 football is now a stark reality.

Brighton at home next, oh fucking wonderful, that’s just what we need…

Mr Holloway has got his work cut out, I fear…

“I know about people who talk about suffering for the common good. It's never bloody them! When you hear a man shouting "Forward, brave comrades!" you'll see he's the one behind the bloody big rock and the wearing the only really arrow-proof helmet!”
Terry Pratchett
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