Season 1, Leg 27 - Millwall PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry   
Monday, 02 March 2009 06:52

Millwall v Oldham Athletic – League One

The New Den, Bermondsey

Saturday 28 February 2009, 15:00 K.O.

Pre match

 

This was to be a very long day, even by our standards, as we moved from Northern Line to Northern Soul (and Motown), with song titles coming to mind along the way. We were conscious that parts of this day would be sad, as it brought back memories of our last London journey, to Ernie’s funeral, when Millwall FC had been well represented. Up at 5:00am and off by 6:30am, we headed towards the outskirts of Leicester and then down to the end of the M1. We parked at Brent Cross, before catching the Northern Line and District Line Tube trains to Kensington (Olympia), for the ‘Who Do You Think You Are? Live’ genealogy exhibition by 9:45am..

We had received unexpectedly the offer of two cheap tickets to attend this event from a relative of my great great great great grandfather Cubit McHugh (born c1800). Margaret is in the midst of researching her family history and I had completed mine last year, so far as it is possible to complete a subject limited by available records. This exhibition provided a great opportunity to take advantage of a gathering of expert genealogists, record holders and specialist exhibitors, with experts on hand to help, along with family history societies from across the country.  When we left Olympia we were laden with lots of literature to carry along with the Ernie Flag.

As the District Line was terminated temporarily at Embankment, we changed there to the Northern Line and headed South to Kennington and then North to London Bridge. There was a short break for lunch (my ‘lucky’ full English breakfast with chips, toast and coffee for £3.95 - possibly London’s best value) in a small Italian café opposite Guy’s Hospital. Then it was a short walk round the corner from St. Thomas’ Street to the George pub in Borough High Street.

The George

This pub added a bit of culture to the proceedings, as it is London's only surviving galleried coaching inn, with a wealth of lattice windows and oak beams. It was rebuilt in 1676, after a devastating fire swept Southwark. The Great Northern Railway used the George as a depot and pulled down two of its fronts to build warehousing, leaving only the South face. It is now in the safe hands of the National Trust.

The George 2

The pub is tucked away in a cobbled courtyard and the ground floor is divided into several connecting bars. The Old Bar was the waiting room for coachmen and passengers. The Middle Bar was the Coffee Room and a haunt of Charles Dickens. The bedchambers (now the restaurant) were in the galleried part. Although providing an insight into London of long ago, the pub’s beer prices provide a stark reality of what is tourist London today. We met up with Paul from Newport, South Wales, Jenny from Wrexham, North Wales, Hannah from Oldham and the OASIS (Oldham Athletic Supporters in the South) gang. It was Hannah’s first Millwall ‘experience’ and Jenny’s first by train.

From the pub we walked up to London Bridge rail station and by train to South Bermondsey. On the outward journey it was permitted to smile, in stark contrast to the return journey later in the afternoon.

Train

As we exited the station, we followed the away supporters’ ‘I’ve Passed This Way Before’ (Jimmy Ruffin) route down a specially constructed walkway, surrounded by very tall metal railings, leading all the way to the away fans’ entrance to the stadium, This made it impossible to get lost or stray into potentially dangerous situations with the locals, whose reputation had been more notorious than those in Seville, despite strenuous efforts by Millwall F.C. to rid itself of troublemakers. To a certain extent this notorious reputation is greatly exaggerated nowadays, and it has led to a siege mentality among the decent, law-abiding fans, who are a constant easy target for the media in general. Hence their famous ‘No one Likes Us, We Don’t Care’ song. Millwall F.C. had been very co-operative by including a reference to the Flag and a link to this web site on the Club’s official site.

Millwall FC

The Club had also published a special item in the official match programme about Ernie, who had been one of its fans. The Club had also arranged for us to ‘trespass’, escorted by a steward, into home fans’ territory outside the New Den stadium, in order to take the customary picture with the Flag outside the official entrance. In a gesture of which I am sure Ernie would have been smiling down on approvingly, we talked about Ernie with some Millwall fans, including Steve Davis - not that one - and they joined us on the photograph.

Flag at Den

Millwall FC is also to publish the above picture in a future programme and, as requested, I send a copy to Steve. As we departed I said that we would have to do it again in the Play-offs. Millwall’s nickname is ‘The Lions’. It was changed from ‘The Dockers’ after the Club had been referred to as "Lions" for its acts of giant-killing in the F.A. Cup run of 1900, when it reached the semi-final. The Club adopted a lion emblem, and the motto: “We Fear No Foe Where E'er We Go“, which words are also included in the Oldham Athletic fans’ ‘Blue Flag’ song. I had carried the Ernie Flag all over Olympia and the London transport network for so long that I felt lost without it when it was on display at the match.

Inside The Den

We were expecting an afternoon of the locals abusing Lee Hughes, and expectations proved to be well-founded, as they continued from where they had finished at the end of last season‘s match, when one man had come after him on the pitch and he had also been struck by coins. Hughes had said in the Oldham Chronicle that he knew he would get abuse, which he would use as motivation. Also in the newspaper, midfielder Danny Whitaker had said that the New Den was an ugly place to go, because when taking corners, players were liable to be pelted by objects.

Danny did not have to worry about experiencing anything like that, because he had been dropped from the squad, as had Dean Windass. Kevin Maher replaced Whittaker and new loan signing Steve Kabba from Watford replaced Windass. Danny Jones, on his second loan spell from Wolves, was back after injury and Neal Eardley replaced Seb Hines. A large screen in the corner to our left helped with enjoyment of the match.

Big Screen

Latics were in control from the start and took the lead after just five minutes through Deane Smalley. New boy Steve Kabba did very well to win the ball and pass to full-back Neal Eardley charging down the right wing, like ‘Backfield In Motion’ (Mel & Tim). His cross was missed by defender Richard Duffy’s attempt to head it, and the ball struck Deane Smalley’s leg before rolling into the net. Five minutes later it was 2-0 as Kevin Maher crossed and the much-abused Lee Hughes leaned away from goal and stooped to glance his header perfectly inside the post for his 16th goal of the season. Once again the Millwall fans’ abuse had spurred on Hughes to end his barren goal spell.

The wounded Lions, whose woeful first-half display had drawn a chorus of boos from the home crowd, reminiscent of many Latics performances at Boundary Park, emerged for the second half with renewed impetus.  It only took nine minutes for the hosts to pull a goal back when Neil Harris slotted in from the penalty spot, following Eardley's foul on Dave Martin.Suddenly the Lions had their tails up and started playing with full confidence. The Millwall fans found their voices and the ‘No-one Likes Us, We Don’t Care’ song reverberated around the New Den, echoed by our ‘No-one Likes Hughes‘ version.

Not surprisingly, with 22 minutes still to play, Millwall drew level when Ashley Grimes cut inside from the left and curled a fine shot from about 18 yards into the bottom corner of the net. Now confident Millwall looked the more likely to win the game, as Latics had to dig deep to withsatnd a lot of pressure. Gradually Latics regained composure and both teams were looking for the winning goal on the break.

Latics continued to play excellent football as they had all afternoon, with debutant Steve Kabba involved in much of the game. We despaired at the thought that the golden opportunity had gone when Kabba missed, by appearing to strike the ball with his wrong foot, after great approach work to create the opening.

Action

In the 86th minute Lewis Alessandra came on as substitute for Kabba and the game continued to swing from end to end. As the end of the ninety minutes approached, I retrieved the Flag, returned it to its carrying bag and handed it to Mark (OASIS). The Flag was to remain in London for the weekend before being taken to Boundary Park for Monday’s game against Leeds United, who had taken the lead at home to Scunthorpe to put themselves within a point of us at that stage of the afternoon‘s proceedings.

Despite letting Millwall back into the game to keep themselves one point above Latics and giving the Lions’ fans gloating rights, we had continued to stand and sing to help lift the team. Chris Taylor’s dad was stood at the back of the stand with us and he must have been going through all sorts of emotions as Chris blasted an effort over the bar.

We had developed our own siege mentality and then suddenly we were rewarded for all our efforts in the second added minute of stoppage time. Kevin Maher swung over a great ball from the right and Oldham-born Latics fan Chris Taylor raced in, cut across defender Richard Duffy and soared above him at speed to plant an unstoppable header in off the post. The Latics faithful 319 in the crowd of 8,551 went absolutely wild, reminiscent of the last-gasp equaliser at Scunthorpe a couple of seasons ago. We were delirious as we hugged complete strangers. It was one of those magical golden moments the followers of Latics dream of and reminisce about.

From being witness to a two-goal lead thrown away and the prospect of a weekend of doom and gloom from some of those fans whose ‘glass’ is always half-empty, in that instant the season had been kept alive and everyone’s ‘glass’ was overflowing. ‘Think About The Good Times’ (Rufus Lumley) came to mind. Latics had overtaken Millwall in the League and were still three points ahead of Leeds. The Lions’ hearts were broken, as they were ‘Out On The Floor’ (Dobie Gray), and in spite of Millwall continuing to press for another equaliser for two more added minutes, the final whistle was greeted with great jubilation by the Latics supporters. At the final whistle we only remained briefly to applaud the team and then made a swift ‘Road Runner’(Jr. Walker) exit, striding out up the special walkway towards the station.

We could still hear Latics supporters singing ’Oh Chrissy Taylor, you are the love of my life…… I want ginger hair too!’ reverberating around the stadium corridors. With the station PA announcing ‘Move On Up’ (Curtis Mayfield) to enable more people to get on the platform, and thoughts of ‘Come On Train’ (Don Thomas), the first train passed through without stopping. So by the time the 17:06 arrived, the platform was packed mainly with stunned, dejected home supporters. Along with two B.O.A.S.T. (Bristol Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Team) members, we were all under strict self-control to keep our ’I Just Want To Celebrate’ (Rare Earth) feelings in check. We did not wish to draw attention to ourselves by smiling or grinning, to break what was a very sombre mood on the platform and then on the train.

Once safely in London Bridge station, we allowed the joy to become unbridled before going our separate ways. Then Margaret and I were off up the Northern Line to Brent Cross and by 6:00pm we were on the MI heading for the Midlands.

On arriving home, it was a sandwich, quick change, dancing shoes on and then into a taxi for a night of Northern Soul and Motown at Burton’s Guildhall.  As we had stood throughout the exhibition, pub and match, we had been on our feet all day, apart from when travelling. By the time we got home and to bed, it had been a twenty and a half hours hard day’s night spent keeping the Faith and one to be remembered ‘Long After Tonight Is All Over‘ (Jimmy Radcliffe).


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Last Updated on Saturday, 11 June 2011 21:04