Saturday, 9 May 2009
Millwall v Leeds Utd 9th May 2009
An early morning rendezvous at Selby station was needed to get a suitable train for the journey to the smoke. The Happy Chocker and I had secured our tickets for the play off semi final clash with the Lions of Millwall and yet again we were full of eternal hope at the start of another Leeds away day. As we only had a paltry 1000 ticket allocation there were only another two die hard whites fans on the platform..................but for the first and probably last time we were outnumbered by hordes of York City fans resplendent in their new purple shirts on their way toWembley for the FA Trophy Final. Now I've learnt something today and that is apparently Leeds are the team that all York fans hate?????? So after an interesting 15 minutes debating this point with one of HC's York supporting mates I nearly fell off my seat when he rationalised the "Leeds hatred" by accusing us of being "Glory hunting bastards" who should support your local team!!!! Yeh right what he meant was glory hunting 3rd Division bastards and as there's only 3 mile difference between the trip to York and Elland Road his argument fell apart and he scuttled back to his seat. Once in London we eventually found a pub that was open and we reflected on the forthcoming game over a traditional English breakfast of fry up and beer. Both HC and I felt that as long as we were still in the game when the return leg kicks off at ER we would be fine. In fact by the time the 3rd pint of traditional breakfast had been quaffed I was confidently predicting a 2:0 win to Leeds. Good stuff this breakfast! We met up with Welly and negotiated our way by tube and taxi to the New Den choosing to walk the final 500 yards through sunny Bermondsey to the ground. Now was not the time for the Happy Chockers MOT ringtone to spring into life! The atmosphere in the ground was electric as KO approached although the home seats weren't all full.
As to be expected from such a tense game the opening salvos were full of apprehension and nervousness and the football was decidedly scrappy. Millwall's towering centre backs were soon to the fore in commanding any long balls coming their way.
Leeds had the better of the opening quarter and after Snoddy and his marker were booked for having a heated debate in front of the linesman both teams had chances on goal but without making either of the goalies earn their corn. The nip and tuck type of play resulted in a tight game as expected but as the half wore on Leeds began to get a slight upperhand and when Becchio drove the ball just wide after good work from Killa and Becks I felt a goal was on the cards. There was precious little constructive football in the middle of the park on show though as Leeds tried to get the ball forward early as often as possible, much to the chagrin of some supporters around me. Beckford was well marshalled by the Millwall back four and at times his less than robust approach to chasing the ball down did him few favours with the overly critical Leeds fans.
At the back Sammy and Bam Bam were coping admirably with anything Wall could throw at them and I don't think Casper had a shot to save before the break. As the teams went off for their cup of tea I felt we were just in control of a tight tense encounter. Definitely not a game for the neutral! The Millwall fans were getting behind their team and cranking up the volume in the first half and creating a hostile atmosphere that lifted the boys in blue. For our part the 1000 fans that had made the trip gave as good as we got in the singing stakes.
Leeds started the 2nd half in the ascendancy attacking the goal where their fans were congregated and when they forced 3 consecutive corners a goal again looked likely but to no avail. In fact it was Millwall who nearly snatched the lead when Harris brought a superb save from Casper to keep the scores level. This lifted the home crowd and Millwall stepped up a gear as the decibel levels increased. Leeds were rattled and started to struggle to keep the ball as Millwall harried them into mistakes. Up front Becchio was working hard as ever and Beckford escaped the clutches of the Millwall defence only to curl his shot wide.
The deadlock was broken on 70 minutes when Delph lost possession and a Millwall cross was missed by the redoubtable Bam Bam and Harris tucked away the chance past the despairing Casper. The celebrations would have graced a Champions League Final winner and the home fans spilled onto the pitch (I thought that wasn't allowed?) and one knobhead appeared to throw a punch at Casper.
Still we had 20 minutes to pull a goal back and Larry soon introduced Robbo and Johnson to try and snatch an equaliser. But with Wall were in the ascendancy and it was difficult to see Leeds pulling one back and this fan was happy to hear the final whistle with the score at a recoverable 1:0.
For all the hype and talk of trouble flaring at this flash point fixture the reality was quite different as the segregation did its job and the match passed off without any notable incidents. That didn't stop an impressive defensive line up of the Metropolitan Police's finest horses strung out in front of us at the final whistle. almost looked as imposing as the 4 respective centre backs on show in the match.
As we waited in the baking sun to be herded onto the cattle trains back to Kings Cross a certain Mr Kandol was spotted making his way to the train station with the Leeds fans. He stopped to chat with the fans and sign autographs while we waited to be let out.
Whilst we were being frog marched through London Bridge station with police on all sides I noticed a little old white haired lady in the middle of the phalanx of whites fans doing her best to keep up. "Are you alright love" I enquired "Yes I'm going to see my daughter in St Pancras" she replied slightly out of breath. I whisked out of the throng and into the arms of a policewoman who pointed her in the right direction. I'd love to been a fly on the wall when she finally got to her daughters house!
The trek home is always a long one when you've lost but by the time we were leaving Grantham behind 1:0 didn't seem too bad and with a full house at ER rocking on Thursday night anything is possible. An early goal to Leeds and the pressure will be back on Millwall. I'm getting nervous already.