Millwall 1-0 Bournemouth ~ Final Musing of the Season

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Well, well, well, here we are, end of the season and the trap door has still not sprung down and blocked our journey into the quagmire that is division three football. It has been a tough old season, we have stuttered and stalled, suddenly kicked on a bit only to stutter and stall again.

The Lomas legacy has been a constant thorn in our side, the appointment of Holloway came like a breath of fresh air but even his enthusiasm and know how has taken its time to wash away the morass that the ginger one had created.

It has been a tough campaign. Torturous at times, like watching a loved one from a distance in a failed relationship that they believe is back on track but everyone else can see problems. Ian Holloway came in and has done a decent job in getting things back on track. He has an inner belief that he can control things, a bit like a nurse in the A & E dept. of Lewisham hospital on a Saturday night, confronted by a drugged up machete welding bloke who is bleeding from a wound, he has to (and he does) make that metaphorical bloke believe that he is the one in charge and not the one being compromised by the situation.

It has not been plain sailing, that’s for sure. We have had some dire stuff served up, even with Mr Holloway steering the rudder but like any building project, it takes time. There are no quick fixes that can transform an old dilapidated building into a glistening structure, you have to demolish the old before the new foundations can be put in place and that is what I hope and believe Mr Holloway is doing.

And so we enter the last game of the season, Bournemouth at home, a win means no other result would matter and in front of a buoyant if somewhat skittish home crowd that had caused the ‘sold out’ signs to go up despite a plethora of empty seats on show, it all came down to this one game.

Clearly, the problem was that we had not won a home game since mid-January, Mr Holloway’s first home game in charge against Ipswich Town. Fortress den has become something of a misnomer. In fact, has it ever really been a fortress? Who knows, who cares, all it needed to be was a fortress today against a Bournemouth side who should be packing for their holidays with nothing to play for except personal pride (and that can be a bugger at times).

The pre match handing out of trophies was met with edgy applause from the home fans, the game was the only thing on everyone’s minds now and all the peripheral stuff was not really a welcome addition to proceedings but hey ho this is what is expected, come what may, so once this ritual was performed and put to bed the real stuff was about to commence.

Mr Holloway, looking like Dapper Dan in his waistcoat/trousers combo, a walking C & A advert, if you like, strode purposefully into the dugout, his team selected and on the pitch ready for his most important game in his Millwall life.

The eleven he put his trust in were as follows: Forde in goal, Edwards, Beevers, Dunne and Malone at the back, Williams, Bailey, Garvan, and Woolford in the middle with Morison and Maierhofer up front.

The crowd were doing their best to generate some noise but it seemed slightly refrained as the sheer weight of expectations was beginning to filter through. It was shit or bust time.

The ref got the game going and we were soon under no illusions that the Cherries had come to play a game of football. We were on the back foot from the off and had to absorb an inordinate amount of pressure from a team with supposedly nothing to play for. But we held firm at the back, a few robust tackles and we were soon settling down to sort things out.
Our first real chance had the crowd roaring as a bit of a scramble in their goalmouth saw the ball saved by ‘keeper Camp from Woolford fail to fall kindly enough as Maierhofer first and then Garvan second both failed to slot the ball home and finally Morison sort of hooked the ball over the bar from an awkward angle.

It was Morison again who was unlucky as his next chance saw his shot come back off the bar but Maierhofer was there to slot home the loose ball but the big Austrian fluffed his lines badly and it was only the lino’s flag calling the big man offside that spared his blushes and by blushes I mean dog’s abuse from the frantic home crowd.

Bournemouth were still not lying down and rolling over and it took a great save from Forde to keep the score at 0-0. Kermogant hit a free kick that looked like it was in all the way but Fordie flung himself at it and pushed the ball away for a corner.

Just on the half hour mark my head exploded. Malone pushed forward, lost the ball but Garvan interceded and took it on and sent over a cross that Woolford rose majestically to meet and his header was inch perfect, beating the ‘keeper and hitting the back of the net. 1-0!!! Ye Gods you would have thought Bermondsey had erupted by the noise inside the Den. It was stupendous, the releasing of thousands of pent up emotions all in one go, it was fantastic. All we had to do now was not concede a goal.

Soon after Beevers got replaced by Robinson maybe because he had been booked and it was getting a bit “kicky” at times out there but Robbo came in and did a sterling job considering he has been side lined for so long.

Forde made another good save, emphasising his POTY award was no fluke as the Cherries did their utmost to spoil our party but we held firm and saw the half out with no real dramas.

The second half saw no further changes to the line-up as we went about the final forty five minutes of our tempestuous season with a firmness of conviction that belied how tenuous our hold on the game really was. One slip up, one mistake and we would be in the mad house again.

Obviously by now mobile phones were out and results were being checked and with news coming through that Birmingham and Doncaster were both struggling, the pressure was being slowly relieved but the lads out on the pitch did not seem to be distracted as they carried on purposefully to see out the game.

Jackson came on for Maierhofer jus on the hour mark and the diminutive striker had and wasted two glorious chances to put the game to bed.

He fashioned a one on one with Camp in the Cherries goal but managed to miss the target by some distance as the crowd roared him on and then as if to prove a point he done virtually the same thing moments later, this time the ball went agonisingly past the upright as the groans from the home fans sounded like a death knell for the striker.

Scott Malone hit a spectacular volley as he caught the ball just outside the box but Camp pulled off a world class save to deny Malone a glorious moment.

Forde made another brilliant save at the other end as we watched on helpless from the stands, it was nerve wracking stuff at times.

As the clock was ticking away we kept on with the pressure and when we won a free kick just outside the box we watched in disbelief as Garvan’s effort went past everyone but bounced up of the post and was cleared for another Millwall corner.

The final minutes are now a blur as the news filtered through that Doncaster had lost and Birmingham were drawing but all we cared about was we were winning and despite bye fer now Les calling for no pitch invasion the inexorable wave of excited kids and blokes old enough to know better swarmed on as the whistle blew.

It was emotionally draining, the deed was done, the dragon had been bled and the treasure of the Championship had been secured.

The grins on the faces of the fans told its own story, we knew we had pulled off an amazing turn around but I am guessing anyone outside of our little world would not have any clue to what we have been going through.

The pitch was soon cleared and the players came out and strolled around waving to the fans as we showed our appreciation for not fucking things up. Status Quo, finally getting a PRS cheque added to the finality of the season end as we rocked all over the world. It was a fitting end for the beleaguered Millwall fans. We can put up with a lot of disappointment, fuck knows we have to be able to deal with disappointment by default being Millwall fans but as we have said before, we will support any player who pulls on a Millwall shirt and gives it his best shot and with Mr Holloway now in charge I think and hope that his squad of players have finally got the message.

And that message is this:

Millwall fans are not like the usual easily pleased happy clappy shirt wearing breed of football fan. We are more likely to raise an eye brow and fix a jaundiced eye on what is going on and then empty both barrels of vitriolic abuse on anything remotely like 96% effort.

So what now? We can relax, watch the World Cup, wait for the fixtures to come out and wait to see what a full season under Mr Holloway can bring.

I can’t wait…

Grinning like a necrophiliac in a morgue.”
Terry Pratchett,
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    Great post, looking forward to next season!