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Lancashire Experience: Reality Check

3 November 2012

With the same kind of inevitability as when pride comes before a fall, if you’re gonna be brought crashing down to earth after such a good month, it’s going to be in fairly spectacular fashion, or at least as far as the scoreline goes, since this game was not won and lost by spectacular football.  Functional may be a more fitting description in that Millwall had a game plan and stuck to it, and in the process making the most of our inability to effectively deal with their more physical attributes.  To the towering Mark Beevers and the proverbial brick outhouse that is Danny Shittu, our front line had no answer.  And of course it’s always going to be an uphill struggle if your defence suddenly morphs into last season’s version with its tendency to display its watertight qualities currently on a par with a Subway station in Lower Manhattan. 

But to go from the high of a 4-1 away win to a 4-1 home defeat is hard, even allowing for the fact Millwall are enjoying a run of form, including an impressive 4-0 win last Saturday.  With our record against the Lions – at home at least (and unbeaten here since 2005) – generally good, it ought to have been about as easy to predict the result of this game as next week’s US Presidential election result. 

So was it complacency?  Ironic it was prior to the Barnsley game that SOD uttered this warning.  Certainly the programme notes would have you believe it given the general upbeat mood, though (necessary) changes at the back may have had something to do with it, and for the first time we’ve seen how much we’ve missed both Halford and Ayala, the latter something I struggled to imagine myself saying at the start of the season. Elliot Ward did OK, but it was quite clear the back four were playing as if they’d only just met. 

The last time we were on the receiving end of a 4-1 home defeat was a footballing lesson by a Premiership club in the Cup.  Today we were simply poor.  Amazingly, despite the stuffing suffered today we drop only one place and remain within a couple of points of the top six – and today’s result can be forgotten about with a good win over Boro on Tuesday.  No pressure, mind, since they too won 4-1 away from home today.

FLC, Saturday 3rd November 2012, 1500hrs
Nottingham Forest 1 – 4 Millwall
The City Ground

Bright, cool breeze
Away fans
The 700-odd travelling fans will have enjoyed their afternoon, and for long periods made the most noise from high up in the Bridgford Lower, even if a lot of the time it was their trademark high pitch drone.
TBBM interestingly pointed out today how a European club was recently fined for kicking off late.  A good job such sanctions are not imposed here, otherwise a colossal sum in fines would be making a huge dent to the club’s annual financial report.  Today was the usual three minute delay, and with no apparent reason.
The Match
The second goal was the real killer, coming off a well worked free kick in which Darius Henderson had acres of space to head home.  There was still an expectation that we could still turn this around, and having done this against Brum, Bolton and Blackpool there was no reason to believe otherwise.  But the changes had little effect; Cox, Sharp and Blackstock (on for a subdued Reidy) were deprived of service, the midfield looked disjointed, and the defence was beginning to look like last year’s model. First Wood beat Camp with a deflected shot (off Collins) seconds after we’d made a pig’s breakfast of a set piece at the other end. I’d already convinced myself this would be the point of no return with it being beyond the 75th minute, though I persuaded myself to stick it out a while longer in vain hope, not least because no-one else looked like bailing out just yet.  That all changed however with six minutes to go, when we failed to cut out another cross from the left, leaving Keogh a relatively easy task of poking the ball past Camp.  The reaction was predictable as the Millwall fans’ celebrations were drowned out by the sounds of seats tipping up all around the ground, and home fans poured out in their thousands like water from a breached dam.  Ouch, ouch and triple ouch!
Sometimes you just know from the off it’s not going to be Forest’s day.  By the 15th minute, we’d notched up a yellow card, conceded a distinctly soft goal and played 5 minutes reduced to ten men after Radi had limped off having sustained a painful ankle injury.  While The Lions mauled us as if we were playing at their place, our failure to string passes together set the tone for the whole afternoon.  That is apart from a 15-minute period in which we appeared to have recovered, and although the slick one-two between Cox and Sharp was against the run of play, Billy’s precision finish was enough to convince us Forest could re-stage a fight-back similar to that we’d managed at Oakwell last week.  If only.  Although we looked reasonable for the remainder of the period, there was no second goal (despite a nail-on penalty claim right on HT).
The neat passing between Cox and Sharp resulting in us pulling level was pretty much the only thing to go right all afternoon.
Trotter beating Gillett in the 4th minute, bringing on that horrible feeling the ball was destined for one place only, despite Trotter still having a lot to do before firing past Camp from a tight angle.  Radi’s injury a real blow just as we’re once more becoming used to enjoying his trickery on a regular basis.
No-one today, sadly.  Billy at least gave us hope until HT.
An article in today’s programme described Reidy, Collins and Gillett as ‘the glue to hold the team together’ – a statement you’d be inclined to agree with, season to date.  Not today though.  All three looked out of sorts with stray passes and lack of creativity.  You might say that was where we came unstuck on today’s showing.
Sid James doing a very lifelike impersonation of Scott Mathieson.  Did OK for most of first half until he missed a poor challenge by Henderson whose likely red card may have had a different bearing on the game … or perhaps not, given how poor we were today.  And of course, you just know that penalty appeal would have been granted had this been Old Trafford, and Billy’s shirt had a Filth emblem on it instead of a Forest one. Gor, blimey! So if it was no penalty, why was Billy not booked?
Entertainment Value2/10 – Was it the curse of Kids for a Quid? Not the best half-term holiday outing, I’m sure.
Promotion Rating3 – This was easily our worst performance of the season, though not the end of the world – I can’t remember the last time we’d made it to November with less than three league defeats.
Am I the only one to have noticed the PA system (at least in the Trent End) seems to be a little iffy of late? Even allowing for the absence of our regular PA guy (despite star billing in today’s programme), every player’s name in the line-up announcements sounded distorted and barely recognised. Still on the subject of the PA system, the pre-match build-up music failed to reach its desired crescendo immediately prior to kick-off, as that piece that follows Born Slippy does not create the same atmosphere as the one we used for the previous three seasons simply because it doesn’t seem to cross-fade from one to the other as well.

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