MATCH REPORT – City 2 Millwall 0

FA Cup Fourth Round – Saturday 24th January 2009

There was a football match played at the KC Stadium this weekend. It will be a pity if the actions of a couple of violent idiots overshadow the good work done by Hull City in achieving a fifth round place in the FA Cup for the first time in two decades.

That said, isn’t it funny to see Millwall’s mongs have a right good cry? As they got more and more upset, and the seats of the North Stand started flying into the East Stand, one felt a sense of pity for them. No, not pity. What is the word? Contempt? Hate? Aye, those two will do.

Hopefully Millwall will realise they are responsible for their fans’ behaviour and will pay for the damage caused to the stadium. Meanwhile, City can look at a place in the last 16 for the first time since Cardiff and Bradford were dispatched in 1989 to set up a sell-out showdown with Liverpool at Boothferry Park.

Jimmy Bullard, signed for £5million yesterday – heh – but not able to take part in this tie due to a mixture of illness and registration timings, was still well enough nonetheless to take a bow to an adoring Tiger Nation prior to the match. He can play in the next tie though. The 4-4-2 which Phil Brown did elect to field was not, as it transpired, desperate for Bullard’s craft and influence as the League One visitors were more interested in drawing blood than drawing the match.

Manucho got a start, and so did Tony Warner in goal. Andy Dawson was welcomed warmly back into the team after way too long out with Achilles trouble. The XI carded: Warner, Ricketts, Turner, Zayatte, Dawson, Garcia, Marney, Ashbee, Halmosi, Cousin, Manucho.

Millwall picked eleven nonentities and included ex-City striker Gary Alexander, complete with wood-treating tool for when a central African endangered mammal required depilatory treatment, on the bench.

Already it was kicking off in the north east corner when the game was ready to commence, though a few stewards were all that stood between two warring factions until the riot gendarmes, with helmets and sticks, sauntered over midway through the half. By the time a unbalanced element of calm was established, City were ahead.

Sam Ricketts was fouled near the corner flag on the right. Dawson swung in the free kick with aplomb and Michael Turner’s header was hefty enough, despite a gloved hand from David Forde making contact, to find the corner.

Millwall threatened for the first time shortly afterwards, when City backed off to allow Izale McLeod to weave through three challenges before scuffing his shot from a promising position.
City nearly then giftwrapped an equaliser, when Warner slipped while preparing to put his foot through Ian Ashbee’s backpass but managed to do enough to grab the ball as McLeod charged in to take possession, conceding a free kick inside the box instead of a goal. Lewis Grabban smacked the set piece wide.

As the half progressed, the tenacity on the pitch spilt over into nastiness, with Kamil Zayatte needing treatment and a change of shirt after a sneaky smack in the face, then Andy Dawson took an elbow full in the face but toddler referee Stuart Attwell only gave a free kick when Daniel Cousin was chopped down seconds later, prompting a livid Dawson to yell at the officials, his face drenched in his own blood.

Manucho sliced a shot over towards the end of the first half after a smart sixpence turn, before the Lions – oddly labelled as such on the KC scoreboard to give a fixture of Tigers v Lions – missed a glorious opportunity to go in level when Marc Laird spooned a close-range chance wide after McLeod headed down David Martin’s left wing centre.

Second half, and again the tensions grew in that corner and the riot rozzers maintained a steely barrier while the match descended into absolute tedium. Manucho hit a volley far too high and Dean Marney almost bulldozed through the whole Millwall rearguard to get a shot away, only for a last ditch tackle to rob him.

As the missiles – seats and plastic drinks bottles which, if Millwall fans are worth the vitriolic salt as sowed by their 1980s predecessors, would have been filled with Cockney urine – continued to fly into the East Stand, the game petered out. A smattering of applause was afforded to Alexander when he was sent on for extra firepower which he patently failed to provide. Caleb Folan replaced Manucho at the same time, picked up a booking for a challenge later than the riot police’s acknowledgement of a problem, and then was lucky not to get a second yellow five minutes later for a scyther near the touchline. Sam Ricketts made sure he gave the hyped-up striker a severe bollocking in order to save the ref a job, and that probably saved Folan from a red.

Alexander and Martin combined down the left in the last ten minutes as Millwall tried to force the heart-sinking prospect of a replay in their Bermondsey midden but the final pull back was skied by Nadjim Abdou.

That was about that, especially when a counter attack started by Marney and continued by the exceptional Cousin was finished stylishly by Ashbee’s swerving shot in off Forde’s far post. A sublime goal, deserving of a better occasion and certainly deserving of the headlines it won’t get because of events off the pitch.

Oh dear. The game wasn’t great, though the required job was done, but this was a game against Millwall. The football on show is somehow always second in the pecking order when they turn up. Let’s see if the book is thrown at them … and make sure you don’t hold your breath, eh? (MR)