Middlesbrough 1-2 Millwall ~ Match Musings

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Middlesbrough away; Another long haul to some godforsaken part of our beloved country that no one in their right mind would go anywhere near unless their football team was playing a game there, and even then, loins would need some serious girding and caps would need to be set to a bit more than a rakish angle to induce even the most intrepid fan to make the trip.

But make it we did along with a few hundred other like-minded souls to see if the lively Lions could produce another away display that would have even the most dissident amongst us believing that Elmer Bernstein’s famous film score was the sound track to our season end.

The Riverside stadium is, in fact, a lovely stadium, cast adrift is a soulless location though like a pearl in a pig pen, the past, brief flirtation that Middlesbrough had in the top echelons of our game giving them some forlorn belief that the status bestowed upon them would somehow be eternal.

The pre match entertainment was variable, the kids marching round with flags was jolly enough, the dance troupe was about on a par with the fucking Christmas carol singers we had at the Den once and the tribute to an ex Boro player who had died at a ripe old age was well received by home and away fans alike which was nice to observe.

The sun was shining brightly as the teams strode purposefully onto the pitch and yet again Mr Holloway had the luxury (or nous) to name an unchanged side so we had player of the year Forde in goal, Edwards, Dunne, Beevers and Malone across the back, Woolford, Martin, Garvan, Williams and Bailey in the midfield with Maierhofer as the target man up front.

A half empty stadium greeted the kick off, the shrill shriek from the ref’s whistle echoing around the place like a frightened teenager cast adrift in a mausoleum, followed by the inane boom booming of the sad sack in the home end beating a rhythm like a Viking death drummer as ridiculously large flag was unfurled and waved by a fuckwit of biblical proportions as the sparse home fans tried to muster some sort of atmosphere for their teams support.

I need not tell you that Millwall fans don’t need a drum as the raucous, shall we say, slightly inebriated away following soon had their repertoire going that silenced the abysmal offerings that the boro fans had to offer.

And the team looked quietly composed as they went about their business on the pitch, Bailey seemingly revelling in his role as lynch pin in midfield and it was good to see his Wife and kids in amongst the Millwall fans , well I assume it was his wife and kids, the little ‘uns had Millwall tops on with the number 10 and ‘Daddy’ on their backs!

After about ten minutes of Millwall pressure the home side broke away after Williams dallied on the ball and it took a decent save by Forde to keep the score even, his save knocking the ball onto the post before the danger was cleared.

All our good work was coming along the flanks and in particular from Martin who looked in sparkling form and our first real chance came from one of his corner’s, Dunne getting his head to a deepish ball but failed to hit the target.

We still looked like the better side, the football was all being played by the Lions, Maierhofer was winning everything in the air and the midfield had control of the middle, the defence keeping things tight at the back it was shaping up into a very polished effort.

Maierhofer proved to be adept on the ground as well as in the air as he collected a through ball from Beevers and his resulting cross into the box saw the over worked Boro defence happy to get it out for another corner.

Martin took the corner and again the boro defence didn’t deal with it and the ball found its way back out to the wide man and this time his perfect cross was met with the towering header of Maierhofer but his header crashed into the side netting.

But soon after we got it spot on. Martin again torturing their right back got another perfect ball in and this time Maierhofer met it spot on and the ball flew into the net. 0-1! The away section, it is fair to say, went a bit mental. The Hof, as he affectionately known, made a demented run to the touchline to celebrate with the bench as we E-I-O’d for the first time in what seems like ages proving he could just as mental as we could.

We expected an immediate backlash from the in form home side but it never came. The Lions still had full control and commanded the pitch from the back to the front; it was simply a very professional display.

We looked in total control and the real fact of the matter is that we were. Every time we got the ball we looked capable and the Boro players were all over the place.

We kept them on the back foot and came close to a second goal after good work from Dunne saw his quick thinking pass through to Martin open up the Boro defence and again the nippy winger beat his man and got his cross into the danger zone but this time Woodgate got their first but his attempt to clear was miss hit and the ball really could have gone anywhere and luckily for them the ball shot out for yet another Millwall corner.

The corner came to nothing but the pressure was maintained, Boro seemingly unable to get the ball out of their own half as we piled on the force and on the half hour mark we got our just desserts. Yet again the impressive Martin did sterling work down the flank and again his perfect cross met the unmarked Maierhofer who had no trouble in heading it past the stricken Konstantopoulos for 0-2. I think it is fair to say that the away support was slightly chuffed by this…

We did not sit back either. In fact we had two chances in quick succession to seal the game as Woolford latched on to a through ball from Williams only to have his shot blocked by a last ditch Boro boot and then again it was Woolford who bamboozled the home defence and ultimately bamboozled himself as he sort of fell over his own feet as he went to shoot from about six yards out.

But it was all good stuff and Millwall’s domination was kept right up to the half time whistle. It was probably the best half of football I have seen from the Lions this season.

As expected, the second half saw Middlesboro regroup and come at us looking for a way back into the game, we had a close shave soon after the restart with Ledesma hitting a cross that turned into a shot with Forde back tracking frantically but thankfully the ball dropped onto the roof of the net.

Earlier on in the season, I think it is fair to say, we might well have buckled as a defensive unit but we are now made of sterner stuff and although Boro held the whip hand for the opening of the second period we held firm and looked comfortable defending all they had to throw at us.

We kept it tight and on the hour mark Mr Holloway saw fit to make a change, the obvious choice to go off was Maierhofer who looked pretty much knackered but surprisingly it was Williams who made way for Morison and it was Morison who had our next chance and in all honesty he should really have put the game to bed as he was put clean through by Dunne but historically Morison’s ‘one on ones’ are pretty poor and this was no exception has he fluffed it yet again with a tame effort that went straight into the keepers arms.
Abdou came on for the completed exhausted Maierhofer with about twenty minutes or so remaining and Abdou did what Abdou does best, he made a complete nuisance of himself in midfield and upset what little cadence Boro might have had.

However, it was still a finely tuned game now and it became clear that the next goal would be telling, Woolford was put in by Morison and he hit a very clean shot that Konstantopoulos did magnificently well to save as the clocked ticked down

With ten minutes remaining Boro won a very dubious free kick on the edge of our penalty area. From our end it looked like their man just keeled over with no contact made and the ref was happy enough to let play continue but the linesman some 40 yards away flagged furiously and the ref gave a free kick about two inches outside the box and very central.

I t was no surprise when they scored from this position. 1-2 and very nervy last ten minutes ensued. We were resolute in our defending and despite everything but the kitchen sink chucked at us, we held true and even when late substitute McDonald came on to a chorus of boos from the home side, replacing Garvan with minutes remaining, we had another chance for a third goal. McDonald did well to find some space and his low struck shot had their ‘keeper diving desperately to keep it out only to parry it into the path of Woolford who headed home unchallenged but the joy was short lived as the linesman on the far side raised his flag for a very tight (and subsequently wrong) off side decision.

But no matter; we held firm and at the final whistle the enormity of what we had achieved washed over everyone, players and fans alike. It was a huge result and one that catapulted us to the heady heights of fifth from bottom.

The party like atmosphere was infectious as the feelings of incredulity flowed throughout the away section and the silliest of grins adorned most if not all the fans as they made their way out of the ground.
The sun was still shining and it suddenly felt fucking good to be a Millwall fan again.
Doncaster at home on Easter Monday is the defining game now, it is a glorious chance to take untold pressure off for the remaining two games and all we have to do is win at home.
So, the season now hinges on us keeping our nerve and not relying on other results to go our way.
That is simple enough, isn’t it? In charge of our own destiny at last?
Yes indeed, destiny is in our own more than capable hands now and that is something we didn’t think we get back a few short weeks ago, is it?

“Destiny is important, see, but people go wrong when they think it controls them. It's the other way around.”
Terry Pratchett
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    You should write for national papers, thanks!!
    Absolutely brilliant FF. Cheers mate!
    Great read. Cheers
    Superb-and very well chosen quote at the end!
    Good read Fairweather, thanks mate