There were some big decisions to be made at the KCOM tonight. Mainly would the unseasonably warm weather give way to a bitingly cold evening meaning should one or two socks be worn. Adkins also had some decisions to make after been mauled at Brentford. Namely in finding some decent form from an increasingly crocked or couldn’t be arsed squad. Not wearing gloves except for Marshall we lined up:
Lichaj De Wijs Burke Kane
So 5 changes from Saturday but no place for Long as City’s number one. Yet. Martin comes in for injured Campbell up front. Behind him is an attacking triangle of Pugh, Grosicki and Bowen. At the back the defence sees a welcome return for stalwarts De Wijs and Burke.
Both teams enter the pitch to a ripple of applause that is more in keeping to welcoming a speaker at a conference for bankers. City then kick off to a sparsely populated North Stand. In fact all stands are sparsely populated these days but on the 70th anniversary of City’s biggest attendance the KCOM witnesses its lowest crowd since 2002. Whilst most weekday games across the Championship have seen a rise in empty seats since Sky introduced the red button we all know there’s another reason why City would be lucky to hit 5 figures tonight. Today marked the day when the Oystons were finally removed from the Blackpool board showing that fan power combined with principled protest can win through.
On my previous visit to the New Den in December the attendance was roughly the same so I guess both teams are used to playing in front of 1/3 full grounds. But it’s City who are generally on top in the opening period with the thinking that if we dictate we can get away with an absence of ‘tacklers’ in midfield. The new Holy Trinity of Pugh, Bowen and Grosicki are causing Millwall problems. On 4 Pugh’s shot is blocked after finding space on the edge of the box. On 8 the Polish winger charges down the wing and finds Henriksen whose shot is parried into Bowen who finishes well amongst a sea of slate grey Millwall bodies. 1-0. As an added plus Wallace goes off not long after due to an injury in the goal build up.
On 12 we get to see Bowen win a tackle, charge down the right, evade one challenge, then another, then loose the ball, win it back and cross to Grosicki. Later he dances through three Lions as if he were Roy Castle doing a tap dance world record. Goals, dribbles and a genuine off field attitude. That should add another few million Mr Pochettino. The 15000 who are not here are missing some smashing football played by the Tigers – it’s such a shame. On 24 Grosicki finds space again in the middle and attempts to curl a shot into the top left but goes wide, despite Archer diving acrobatically in a vane attempt to make himself look good.
Millwall don’t seem to be able to get going with all defenders plus Irvine and Henriksen spoiling their offensive play. Millwall certainly don’t look like Brentford away. They don’t even look like Millwall away. But, of course, as goals change games, they also change the tone of match reports. And so on 33 a free kick picks out the elderly Morrison who finds room to swing in a cross that evades both central defenders but not Hutchinson who tees up then fires in from close range. Bah! 1-1. The 50-odd away fans go wild but thankfully leave the seating intact during their celebrating. No bushwackers here tonight then. Though the Lions board have done a good job in eradicating hooliganism from the New Den, trouble still tends to follow that team at either away games or around the stadium as Everton found out recently. I’m sure some ‘fans’ may argue the toss that football has lost its soul compared to the hooligans heyday of the 70s and 80s when the Union Jack meant exactly what it meant and you could buy a copy of Bulldog outside a ground but on choice I’ll probably take today’s sanitised product. But onto the game!
Buoyed by equalising Millwall start running at City a bit more not realising we are good on the counter. On 42 the Lions loose possession in our box and Kane waltzes down the right, swings in a peach of a cross to Pugh who takes a touch then rifles in from just outside the box. 2-1. A real peach of a goal. It appears our players can be arsed after all. But if 2-0 is a dangerous scoreline, 2-1 is even more dangerous. But to be honest any marginal lead is dangerous for City given the last few games.
After the break Millwall attempt to get back on level terms. Marshall keeps City in the game by making two saves in quick succession firstly from Tunnicliffe’s volley then from the other Marshall. But it’s not all one way traffic. Grosicki who is a constant thorn on the Lions right cuts inside and shoots hitting the post rebounding onto Archer but unluckily out of play. Not long after our Polish rakieta twists Marshall and crosses to the newly introduced Dicko but it hits the Malian’s standing leg. What we have gained in Dicko’s chasing the ball around we have lost in goal scoring ability with Pugh off. That we are going to try and hold on is confirmed when Ridgewell is introduced for Martin on 78.
Recognising that route one to his forwards is not working well Neil Harris introduces the lanky Tom Elliott and instructs his team to go route one to him. This is effective and Millwall start winning headers. City now have to start defending like beavers. ‘Defence, Defence, Defence-Defence-Defence’ the home crowd don’t sing but should as this will see us over the line. On 83 Bowen somehow gets his body in the way of Marshall’s pinpoint shot. More Lions pressure follows but City start to waste time and waste space as on comes Milinkovic. Wearing gloves. 4 minutes extra time bring little of note and referee Bond, Darren Bond blows for full time.
So City climb to the heady heights of 11th and are still in with a shout…..no let’s not go there. But what is important that is that City can win, play well and look generally enthusiastic about doing so in this mini mid table league. And much more important is that I have broken my winning reporting duck. Hurray!
Dominic Fellowes (via Tiger Chat)