POST MATCH RAMBLE: Millwall -v- Wednesday

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Millwall -v- Wednesday

We’ve had some bad times over the years haven’t we?

Since the turn of the century we’ve suffered 3 relegations, nearly gone down to the bottom tier, and we must have been in the top half of the Championship (or equivalent) for a total of about 6 months in the last 15 years. We’ve played some awful football at times, and we’ve even been as low as having to watch Jon Beswetherick play for us.

Mister Happy

Contentment: A difficult feeling for Wednesdayites to master

With that in mind, sitting mid table in the Championship in February should feel like the glory years in comparison.

We haven’t got the largest squad, or playing budget, in the league by a long stretch and despite the shocking state of the Hillsborough pitch we don’t play a bad style. But the terrible home form and the recent poor run have really had an effect on an already naturally pessimistic and generally negative fan base. It doesn’t feel exciting to be a Wednesdayite right now, even the takeover hasn’t ignited a flame in us as, without detailed plans from the new owners (or even a final ratification of the deal), it rather feels like we’re in limbo.

So a trip to a struggling side, while nowhere near the same level of importance of some fixtures in recent seasons, had suddenly become a ‘must win’. Middlesbrough on the horizon meant we were staring down the barrel of a 9 match winless run if we couldn’t take maximum points from the New Den. So when a few of us met in the pub at London Bridge before the game, and someone pointed out that Millwall haven’t won at home since October, we collectively came to the same immediate conclusion – well that’s bound to come to an end tonight then.

We speculated if all football fans are like this? When Fulham fans were stood in the same spot we were last Saturday and heard that news, did they immediately perk up and say “hey guys, we’ve got a chance here then”? Or do they all do that Wednesdayite thing: assume the worst, and then recount all the times we’ve been let down before.

Joe London

Joe London takes charge

After a couple of pre-match warmers we headed over to London Bridge station to get the 4 minute train to South Bermondsey. Last year one of our group, David, was panicking at how late we left it despite me being in perfect control and we arrived at our seats in plenty of time. This time we left a little earlier, as the train was due out at 7.25, still plenty of time to get into the ground. But when we got to the station we all stared up at the board to see what platform we were due to leave from – ours was the only train without a platform next to it.

Never a good sign.

The clock ticked closer to the departure time. And then the board flashed and…our train disappeared! Cue hundreds of confused football fans all wandering around asking police officers and rail staff if they knew what was happening. “It’ll go from platform 6” said one. We trudged over towards platform 6 and checked with another. “It’ll go from platform 5” he said. Right. Well let’s just stand here and be prepared to leg it. A few minutes later a train duly pulled into platform 5, we piled on and it left the station at 7.40. We would miss kick off and David would be ready and waiting with an “I told you so” when I saw him again.

Millwall Away Fans

Wednesday fans: Millwall away? Tuesday Night? Go on then

Luckily at Millwall you are straight off the platform and straight into the away end via a separate tunnel, so we took up our seats a few minutes after kick off. The home ends were sparsely populated, a sign of them giving up hope after this terrible run of results at home I assume. Wednesday fans have had little to cheer at home this season but it could be a hell of a lot worse.

Chris Kirkland

Kirkers: Back in business

We’d seen the team news in the pub so it was not a surprise to see Dielna back in at left back and Kirkland had replaced the suspended Westwood. We had no concerns over the goalkeeper but the defence has looked weak lately and that worried us more.

Gray’s indecision over his first choice left back can’t be helping this, and all the early pressure came from Millwall, and down our left side. Dielna got turned inside out on two separate occasions by Woolford and we were lucky to escape both times, Gary Taylor-Fletcher (who seemed to be playing on their left side) flicking one great chance wide. Kirkland then made a good save in a one on one, the follow up was cleared off the line by Palmer and we had definitely had a lucky escape.

We barely offered anything going forward in the first half hour, but Millwall’s pressure faded and an awful half of football broke out. Wednesday probably ended the half on top but still creating little, Keane putting our best chance over the bar when he should have really hit the target.

A quick half time drink kept us awake but we had little to feel positive about – the only conclusion we agreed on was that something had to change. Whether it was personnel, formation or just attitude. Millwall looked a poor side and yet had been the better team. We simply had to improve.

Things didn’t look like they were going to improve in the second half as Millwall had a great chance to take the lead, a cross from their right (again) causing havoc and they really should have punished us. But then we broke, passing the ball out from the back and all the way up field, Keane leading the charge. The ball switched between a couple of players as they approached the area and then Lewis McGugan, who wasn’t having a great game up to this point, calmly passed the ball across the goalkeeper with his left foot and it settled nicely in the corner. BLIMEY!!!!! Not only had we scored a goal, it was from open play, and had come with calm passing and a calm finish.

WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON?!

The Wednesday fans, who had come in great numbers (1,000) all things considered, but had been strangely quiet, suddenly found our voices. Finally we had shown our quality and it bred confidence in the players, and had clearly been a sucker punch for Millwall. A chance at their end that should have put us 1-0 down, but 30 seconds later suddenly we were in control.

Nuhiu celebrates

Never any doubt about the big lad

Maghoma had an effort tipped wide but then we extended our lead with more uncharacteristic play. Maghoma went down the left and played in Nuhiu who returned it to Maghoma with a lovely flick. He then moved into the box, Maghoma picked him out with a simple pass and the big Austrian took one touch to control it and another to sidefoot it into the net. BLOODY HELL!!!!!!

Not only had we scored a goal, it was from open play, and had come with calm passing and a calm finish. AND WE’D DONE IT TWICE!

There was no way we were going to lose this now and you could visibly see the confidence grow in the players. As Stevie May was introduced from the bench I said to my Dad “the only thing that would make this game better now is if May could get himself a goal”. His first action was to be flagged offside, so that didn’t seem likely, but then a few minutes later he bustled his way into the box and, seemingly crowded out, stabbed a shot through the legs of the goalkeeper and he had his goal. CRIKEY!!!!

Not only had we scored a goal, it was from open play and had come with calm passing and a calm finish.

THREE TIMES!!

IN ONE GAME OF FOOTBALL!!

IN FACT ONE HALF!!!!

We still managed to put a slight dampener on the evening by conceding a late goal, a fact that Kirkland and Gray were clearly unhappy about. A cross from (you guessed it) their right hand side seemed to be an easy one for Palmer to head clear, but he inexplicably ran towards the ball and therefore jumped underneath it. It fell to Fabbrini, who had been their best player by a country mile and arguably the best player on the pitch full stop, who got the goal that he deserved but that Kirkland didn’t deserve to concede. By this time the Millwall fans had almost all gone home, so the groan from the away end probably drowned out the muted cheers from the home end. At least the queue for the train would be smaller!

Stevie May scores

Hitting the target makes everyone happy

The final whistle went and the players took their applause. It had been an odd game. We are clearly a better team than they are, but could easily have gone behind. And the second half was so unlike us this season – I’d guess we had 4 meaningful shots, 4 on target, 3 goals. Hopefully the strikers can take some confidence from this, and learn that finding the target is more important than power. So often this season we have dominated possession, created lots of openings and yet somehow barely worked the ‘keeper with all of our chances. Meanwhile Westwood has been our man of the match a few times because the opposition have made him work, despite having far fewer chances.

Simple lesson Wednesday: Hit. The Target.

The train journey back was similar to the one out – a long wait for a delayed train and then it pulled into the opposite platform. As we squeezed on it turned out we were on a ‘special’ – which seemed rather pointless being as the regular train to London Bridge was about to arrive on the other platform, and the next one was 2 minutes after that. Sure enough we sat there waiting to depart, as the originally scheduled train arrived on the other platform, took a dozen or so passengers on and then left before we did. So what was the point in this ‘special’ again?

A quick celebratory pint and a KFC on the way home was the perfect way to end the evening.

We were far from convincing, but the rot has stopped and maybe, just maybe, the players have some belief again. Meanwhile I will savour the memory of this game, as I can’t see us being back there next season. Fabbrini aside, they are a poor team.

It’s a shame as I do enjoy making David sweat on the departure time for Millwall away.

OWLS ALIVE circliar yeller SPACE

Chris
Owls Alive
E-mail: admin@owlsalive.com

Twitter: @chris_shelley and @OwlsAlive


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