Millwall 2-2 Watford ~ Match Musings

Rate this Entry
What can you do with Millwall? You prepare yourself for the pits of hellish befuddlement that is known as relegation, you get your mind set on accepting the inexorable embarrassment of facing the drop as your family and friends and work colleagues offer condolences or contemptuous mocking as your beloved team slip quietly under the heady waters of division 1 obscurity.

And then the Lions win two away games on the spin and suddenly the world seems a better place, the sun starts to shine, you get a spring in your step and all is right in the world once again. Well, alright, not exactly this but you know what I mean, like Michael Corleone in Godfather III, “just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in,,,”

And back in we are, no doubt about it, the goal difference still looks a bit of a bastard but the points gap is closing fast on a few teams above us and from a place where all hope was lost we now have a bit more than a straw to clutch at.

Mr Holloway at last seems to have a reasonably settled side, the only change to the starting eleven was an enforced on with Williams replacing Upson who had picked up a knock in the Wigan game so the line-up was as follows: Forde in goal, Edwards, Dunne, Beevers and Malone as the back four, Woolford, Bailey, Williams, Martin and Garvan across the middle with the lanky Maierhofer leading the line at the front.

Nearly ten and half thousand at the Den for this one but a dismal offering of away support from Watford, it is probably a bit of a round trip from Udinese to South London so not really too surprising…

The game was marked, as were all games today by a minutes silence and a late kick off at 15.07 to show a mark of respect to the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough in that fateful FA Cup semi-final on 15/4/89. You will all have your own personal feelings about this as I have mine but one thing is surely common and that is no one deserved to get killed going to watch a football match and yes there have been other instances but there is little point in decrying the scousers grief as it is not done to cause belief that there sadness is any worse than anyone else’s, it is just a sadness and that is all it ever can be.

You could hear a pin drop during the silence…

The game got going soon after and we started well enough, a positive run forward from Williams to make a pass to Edwards and the right back almost replicated his Wigan achievement with a rasping 20 yarder that just sailed over the bar with barely a minute on the clock.

We looked assured and in control with Bailey pulling strings in the middle and Watford soon realised they had a game on their hands. It was pretty much end to end stuff, McGugan looking dangerous for the visitors with a crisp shot that went wide and then Williams getting his head to a decent cross but missed the target and then Angella fluffed a gilt edge chance for the visitors, headed wide from an almost perfect position, much to our relief.

We slowly but surely stared to dominate the game but although we were moving in the right direction the final ball was again lacking. Maierhofer seemingly a beacon to aim for but he doesn’t possess the attributes required to hold the ball and bring others in, his remit seems to be just to get a part of his body to contact the ball and hope it finds its way to a blue shirt.

After around 20 minutes disaster struck big time. A defensive lapse saw us backing off a half-hearted forage by Watford but when the ball fell kindly for McGugan he drilled a low ball past the despairing dive of Forde and the ball nestled into the back of our net.0-1. Bollocks.

All the good work undone yet again. It looked like we might capitulate after this set back as Watford sensed we might crumble and with a couple of successive chances that they had, it seemed they might not be too far off the mark with their assumptions.

But we are a more solid unit these days and we do not bend in the wind like a row of daffodils anymore. We have a bit of a backbone now and a siege mentality that is standing us in good stead.

We forced Watford back on the defensive, Almunia in the Watford goal had to be at his best to keep out a stinging drive from Malone and then moments later pulling off another fine stop to deny an effort from Garvan.

Garvan was then guilty of an atrocious miss. Some very good build up play involving Martin and Woolford saw the latter deliver a inch perfect ball to the unmarked Garvan who managed to hit the ball straight at Almunia with the goal at his mercy.

That was about the last bit of action from an entertaining first half but the feeling of despondency was not far from the periphery of our thoughts as the half came to a close.

Mr Holloway sought a change for the second forty five, taking off Garvan and sending on Morison and this rallied the crowd who were sporadic in their support at times but this change seemed to galvanise the home support into creating a bit more of an atmosphere.

And he was soon in the thick of it, nodding a longish throw from Edwards’s goal-wards but it was a comfortable stop for Almunia who was becoming the more over worked keeper.

Maierhofer had a glorious chance to drag us level soon after when he rose majestically to get his head to Martin’s free kick he showed all the heading ability of a threepenny bit as he sent the ball way over the bar. He may have the stature of the Grossglockner but he also has the same movement, unfortunately…

We did not give up the fight though and getting plugging away at the Watford rear-guard and we finally got our just rewards with about 25 minutes to play.

Martin clipped over a corner that was not dealt with cleanly by a flustered Watford defence and the ball fell invitingly for Morison who steadied himself and then thumped the ball into the back of the net. 1-1! Marvellous stuff and well deserved it was too.

We sensed we could get the better of this Watford Italian combo and went looking for the winner but nearly fell afoul of some quick counter attacking as against the run of play they managed to break out of defence but Forde did extremely well blocking the first effort and then the follow up.

After this minor scare the tempo was upped by the Lions as the home crowd really started to get their lung work going, the noise was reverberating around the ground as we pushed hard for the winning goal and it was only the brilliance of Watford’s ‘keeper, credit where it is due, that kept the score level.

Mr Holloway made his changes; Jackson replaced Martin and soon after the rather ineffective Maierhofer made way for Easter.

But with three recognised strikers on show in was Dunne who came close next when he hit a stonker of a shot that speared its way towards the goal but Almunia managed to get his hands to it and steer it away to safety as the clocked ticked over into the final five minutes.

It seemed a draw was going to be the end result which wasn’t really a disaster but it would be deemed two points dropped considering how much we had dominated the game but just when your minds make these tiny leaps of faith the bastard Gods of football switch on their hearing aids and decree to deliver you a swift one into your clunkers for having the audacity to second guess their shenanigans.

And so it was, this time. With time running out Watford again managed to form a break away and this time our luck ran out as an Abdi shot took a deflection and went past the stunned Forde and into the net. 1-2. Oh for fuck’s sake… Not after all the hard work, the hope, the aspiration…it was as if our souls had been ripped out, squeezed dry and slapped on the counter for good measure.

We had been here before this season, the distraught feelings of utter desolation, the unbridled misery of another home defeat; it does not get any easier to take on board no matter how many times it happens.

The mocking jeers of the away fans were ringing in the ears of the Lions fans who could not take any more and left the stadium, it was abject misery personified.

Thank God the players don’t have that same defeatist attitude anymore though. They rallied to the cause and pushed hard for the equaliser and bang on the 90 minute mark I thought we had done it. Woolford got his shot away cleanly but again the Watford ‘keeper showed his class with a superb save low down to his left, pushing the ball away for yet another corner.

That appeared to be that, we had the vain hope of five minutes of stoppage time but it all seemed a bit of a forlorn hope but as I say, the players have developed a never say die attitude under Mr Holloway and they kept on with the pressure.

It was almost all over when we won yet another corner and as desperate times call for desperate measures we went all in as Forde raced up the pitch to get involved. To our (and his, probably) dismay, as he got near their box we decided to take a short corner… The ball went to Edwards as the groans from the crowd could be heard but this move seemed to confuse Watford as much as it did us and as the ball found its way to Woolford he got enough on it to bamboozle the Watford ‘keeper and miraculously, the ball was scooped into the back of the net by the flailing arm of Almunia to make it 2-2.

It was astonishing to witness and quite unexpected. It actually felt like we had got the winner rather than the equaliser. The game ended soon after and even bye fer now Les got carried away with the euphoria as he blasted out rockin’ all over the world, much to lour amusement.

The players looked pleased, the crowd looked pleased, it wasn’t the result we wanted but it was the result we thought had slipped from our grasp. The other teams around us were proving that they were and are more than capable of dropping into the relegation zone and now the points are all to play for as we near the end of this tough old season.

I was in the camp of “fuck it, we are doomed” just three games ago. Now I am back in the fold, as the Monkees would say, I ‘m a believer and with Middlesboro away coming up, why do I suddenly think that\t this is a winnable game?

We are almost but not quite, back with fate in our own hands and despite all the previous phoney “must win” games, I feel the visit of Doncaster will become the crunch game for us in our relegation battle. And if we manage at least a point at the Riverside then the bank holiday fixture might see us rise above and out of the dreaded drop zone, hopefully for good.

“You know how to pray, don’t you? Just put your hands together and hope.”
Terry Pratchett,
Tags: None Add / Edit Tags