After the disaster of Saturday (and it was a disaster), Millwall became the first stop on the road to redemption. To say I was nervous would be accurate: lose and it would have been five defeats in a row, which would have been a poor reflection on the start we’d enjoyed but also the quality of the team itself.
From my point of view, I’d just assumed that this game would be on Sky. Imagine my panic at 6.18pm then when I realised I had to part with cash (not actual cash) to watch the game on iFollow. Imagine that feeling/sensation, coupled with the fact that my phone had installed an update since the last time I used the iFollow app and that meant I was required to put in my credentials (as people in IT jobs tend to say). I actually couldn’t remember my password, so had to reset it.
I won’t go on about it, but basically it was really bloody annoying and time consuming and to be honest, for a game that was a massive inconvenience to me anyway (I’d spent the first part of the week watching the excellent documentary ‘Undertaker: The Last Ride’ and was eager to see the conclusion) and the fact that I’d watch it on mute (Dellor/Gooding on comms wasn’t it) I really couldn’t be doing with this nonsense.
As the frustration eased (it didn’t ease) I turned my attention to the team news and gave a solid nod to no one in particular, the kind of nod you give yourself when you turn into a multi-storey car park and get a space nearest to the lift/entrance/place you need to be.
Bringing Holmes in made sense. Esteves, at times, struggled on Saturday and failed to do the ugly stuff. Whilst I like him and think he will be good long term, Holmes seems more solid, like the sort of chap that would keep a secret of a friend that say, I don’t know, once accidentally stole eight packets of Panini Euro 2016 stickers from a Tesco in Great Yarmouth whilst on holiday with his family because he genuinely (genuinely) forgot that they were underneath his bag for life in his trolley...
I couldn’t work out if it was still a legitimate feeling to dislike Millwall even though their fans weren’t in attendance. And then I realised that yes, it was, because Millwall are easily the most anti-football team in the league. Five goals scored at home this season? Behave yourself! What was clear early on was that there was little link-up play between defence and midfield and that this could prove to be a problem for us in the game. Meite looked sharp and direct, whilst Holmes looked solid. Rafa was proving his (very quiet) critics wrong and Joao was busting himself up front.
Regular readers will know that I’ve normally moaned about Dellor/Gooding more by now, so here it comes: on 30 minutes, Semedo carried out a pwoper nawty challenge on one of the Millwall players, which prompted Dellor, a man paid English pounds to directly call the action on the pitch, to say “two Millwall players have collided and somehow the ref has given a free kick and a yellow card to Semedo”. If this sentence/statement was an emoji, it would be that face that has a straight mouth.
Just before half time, the team that had only scored five goals at home this season (not sure if that’s been mentioned) won a free kick. Of course, they scored from it, sending the Royals into the half-time break on the wrong end of the score line. Oh. Goody. Speaking of half time, I had a real hankering for some Huski Chocolate. I had no idea why, I just really, really wanted some Huski Chocolate. Instead, what I actually did was iron a shirt for the next working day and eat a fun-size Twix.
I’m sure some of you use this too, but the Sky Sports Football Score Centre app thingy has recently undergone a quite radical transformation. As a result of that, I get notifications on everything that happens of any great significance in our games. This was fine when our games were on Sky, but it turns out that iFollow is about 7-10 seconds behind the Score Centre, meaning I knew Joao had scored before he actually did. A well-worked goal with some oil-slick passing was tucked away by the big man and we were back in the game.
At this point, we were on top and looking threatening. Why subs weren’t made before the 90th minute then was an absolute mystery to me. There’s an old saying: always strike while an iron is warm enough to do some damage, and Pauno really should have heeded that ancient proverb. As the game wore on, the impetus in our play fell away and we were forced to settle for a draw. If Joao’s last-minute shot had been the other side of the post, we’d be talking about three points instead of one, but as far as our recent form goes, a draw was a decent result.
In contrast to Saturday, our second 45 minutes were much better in this game. We responded well to going behind and put the game plan back onto the Lions. There does seem to be a lack of fluidity to our play, especially between the departments on the pitch, but I’m pretty sure the message was “don’t lose”. This gives us a base to move forward with and will hopefully make the players realise that we haven’t just become a terrible team.
I’m still not sure how good, bad or ugly this team is. This was the worst we’d played in five matches, one in which we got our only positive result of that sequence. At least the team are keeping us on our toes: let’s hope they can start to do that more with the opposition that is put in front of them.
Until next time.