Fulham 0-1 Millwall ~ Pitchside Ponderings

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Fulham away by boat you say? Aye aye captain sign me up for that! Greenwich Pier to Putney bridge for twenty quid? You’d be a fool not to want to give it a go and so it came to pass that me and MrsB with our son Nick and his son Jack made our away across South London to add another mode of transport to getting us to a Millwall game.

We got there around 9.00am and there were already a load of Millwall there waiting but they were not all on our boat, there was a small armada making its way down the dirty old river and it was pretty much a party atmosphere all round.

I am not sure why Fulham away would generate this much interest, I guess there is a feel good factor reverberating around at the moment, Mr Holloway has got a team together that looks capable and the unbeaten run has emphasised just how much we have improved but even so, Fulham away? It shouldn’t generate this much excitement but who am I to blow against the wind, the masses decide what’s what and if the best part of 6,000 Millwall fans want to go to watch the lions play Fulham then so be it.

Just to clarify, they didn’t all go by boat.

But the boat we were on was a jolly affair, plenty of booze flowing, good company, why it was a mini MISA reunion on our table, the 3 hour odd journey, meandering along at a leisurely pace went quite quickly, a bit chilly at times but all in all a very agreeable way to travel through our magnificent capital city.

We arrived at Putney to be welcomed by the customary plethora of cozzers waiting but to fair this lot seemed quite amiable and actually very civil. Helpfully reminding everyone that drinking alcohol in the street was perfectly acceptable on the south side but if we wandered over the bridge the booze would be confiscated as it was frowned upon greatly by gentry on the north side.

We drifted around the high street and made our way to the Coat & badge, it was a veritable who’s who of old faces there, it was just like old times again, the sun was now shining, the beer garden was full to bursting with Millwall and the general mood was relaxed and quite comfortable.

It was soon time to leave and the not too unpleasant walk across the bridge and through the park was made more surreal by a Korean couple having their wedding photo’s taken as our lot walked by and naturally some of our more, shall we say, touchy feely fans felt the need to get in on the photo’s really making the happy couples day I am sure and then as we got out the park near the ground we saw a bloke who was trying to flog “match day scarfs” which were half Fulham and half Millwall…really? He would have had more luck selling bacon sandwiches to the local mosque.

The home fans are about as far removed from us as you care to imagine. Polar opposites don’t even come close. The fact that geographically we are all from the same city is a testament to how diverse London can be. They are more like rugby fans than football fans; they show about as much passion for their team as a slug would if were offered a bath full of salt. They are not so much peculiar they are just ambivalent towards supporting their team. You can imagine they would lose their temper with one of their players and call him a “useless see you next Tuesday” and draw gasps from all those nearby.

We went in the ground and again was pleasantly surprised at how affable the stewards were, a quick pat down instead of a full body search, no checking and double checking tickets, just a smile and a wave and in we went. The ground is nothing spectacular, but the kiosks seemed well managed and service was quick enough, the seating was neither comfortable or uncomfortable but who sits down anyway, the away end was packed and ready for the off.

Mr Holloway had reverted back to the same eleven that started against Leeds so that meant Forde in goal, Malone, Dunne, Beevers and Edwards as the back four, Woolford, Abdou, Martin, McDonald and Williams as a five man midfield leaving Fuller as the front man.

The raucous noise from the away end greeted the refs whistle as the game got under way and we started brightly enough but it was Fulham who had the first real chance, Forde pushing away a crisp effort from Eifield and then watched the loose ball get blasted miles wide by an over eager Rodallega.

We soon picked up the pace though and had the home side on the back foot soon after. Joronen in the Fulham goal did well to prevent an o.g. as the Lions pressure forced their defence into a bit of a panic.

The tempo was high as the Lions looked to capitalise on their dominance and just around the ten minute mark all the hard work paid off. Fuller collected a diagonal ball out on the left wing and he got it under control and slipped it along towards the by line and then sent over a lovely cross that found Woolford unmarked at the far post and he fired home from close range for 0-1. The away end erupted in a cacophony of noise and celebration, the noise was deafening, the celebration immense.

We looked assured and in command and Fulham were at a loss at how to play against us. We were well drilled and working as team, they seemed intent on giving the ball to Parker and relying on him finding a pass.

Alan Dunne was in imperious form at the back really revelling in his new role as captain he marshalled the back four and thwarted any possible threat that they might raise. The midfield were working tirelessly and although Fuller had made the goal he was perhaps the only one not getting quite into the swing of it.

Malone hit a dipping volley that had Joronen back peddling to tip the ball over for a corner and soon after some fine pass and moving saw Edwards set up Woolford who struck a low shot that again brought out the best from Joronen.

Fulham finished the half with a couple of long range efforts, the worst from Parker who blazed well over when he had more time to show a bit more composure from someone with his pedigree.

The half time whistle came soon after and the lads trotted off to some rapturous applause and cheers and even Mr Holloway acknowledged the crowds support as he was cheered off behind the team.

No changes for the start of the second period for us but clearly the Fulham side had been giving a bit of advice from the coaching staff and they upped their game a bit with Christenson being replaced with 11 million quid’s worth of McCormack who entered the fray and suddenly we didn’t have it all our own way.

Almost immediately from the kick off the home side nearly drew level. A smart save from Forde saw Rodallega’s driving shot turn round for a corner but the ensuing ball in was easily dealt with by our resolute defence.

We rode our luck at times but our unwavering and determined back four looked composed and calm and never in any real trouble. Mr Holloway let things ride until about the hour mark and then made a change. Bailey came on for Woolford but it was Fuller who looked more in need of a rest, he was puffing a bit and didn’t seem able to keep up the pace required for a lone front man. Martin was doubling up and really putting in a shift, McDonald also was running his socks off and Williams was doing a decent job tidying things up but as the game wore on the pressure was building steadily for Fulham.

The right leg of Joronen prevented Malone from making it 2-0 on 56 minutes. The left-back was played in behind the static Fulham defence but Joronen narrowed the angle and turned the shot around the post.

Their young lad Roberts looked a real live wire and he was causing us a few problems. We had a huge sigh of relief when he set up Rodallega whose shot beat Forde but didn’t beat Dunne who cleared off the line.

Fuller was replaced by Easter who added a bit of a spark up front for us but our chances were few and far in between. Our last substitution was made when Abdou was swapped for Gueye with about 10 minutes left.

Forde was the more busy of the two keepers now and he made some fine saves from McCormack first, then Rodallega soon after and we were really digging in our heels now as the home side pushed hard for the equaliser.

We should have wrapped the game up with one minute left of normal time. Gueye had a glorious chance to double the lead as he broke through the Fulham defence but with just the ‘keeper to beat he fluffed his chance as Joronen saved with an outstretched boot.

But the wasted chance didn’t put us off our stride, we are a resilient bunch now and as much as they could throw at us, we more than matched them and even with four minutes of stoppage time to negotiate, we held our nerve and stood firm.

At the final whistle the away section went mental, naturally and the players were so obviously on the same wavelength as was our enthusiastic manager. It was a great result that the lads worked so hard for and it was no more than they deserved.

What a fabulous start to the season, we are still unbeaten and sitting second in the table and oh what a difference a season makes. Sheff Wed away next on Tuesday night, sadly beyond me that one, but then two very winnable home games coming up, the Holloway factor is beginning to kick in…

Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.
Oscar Wilde
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    Thanks for that. Good read as always. Cheers
    Good one FF and thanks