Date: 31 October 2006
What a miserable evening out. After leaving the pre-match pub, it was all down-hill. Long before the ninety minutes, fans on both sides were whistling for the match to end. When some Bournemouth supporters were evicted (hard to know what for, as they were behind us) a number of others were asking if they could be taken out too! OK, admittedly it was a bitter cold night - as England moved straight from summer to winter in one go, completely bypassing autumn this year. But the weather conditions were the only thing that couldn’t be blamed on the manager!
Bond was allowed, under Johnstone’s Paint Trophy rules, to use five players who have hardly featured at all this season - in other words, some of the unblooded youngsters. But he chose not to, instead going for a virtual full strength squad. Not that you’d realise it from their miserable performance. He chose 11 players who would make a passable 4-4-2 with, for example, Hart at full back, Ainsworth wide midfield and Hayter up front. But he didn’t play them that way. He asked Hart to play as one of three centre backs, Ainsworth as one of two twin strikers and Hayter deep again. The 3-5-2 system that had failed and needed changing last time we were at Millwall, just two and a half weeks earlier, was tried again - and had to be changed at half time again. Except that this time, he also started substituting players from half time on, so we never did see the starting 11 in their best positions.
Having watched three of the four matches with Bond in charge, I have to say that the decline in morale that I’d observed between Millwall (a) and Rotherham (h) has continued and apparently gathered pace. Hardly any player seems bothered anymore, the exception being Anderton who, despite being physically limited these days, at least gave everything he had. And I’ll give Moss the benefit of the doubt too; but, apart from needing to make a couple of good saves, he was hardly tested any more than the Millwall ’keeper was for most of the game. Foley looked good when he came on; Songo’o had brief flashes of brilliance but spent the rest of the time falling over. Hollands - who’d recently been playing so well - had a very quiet game. So did Hayter, especially in the first half when he was in midfield.
Both teams hoofed the ball around randomly. Millwall looked better than Bournemouth when going forward, but it wasn’t a great game. There was no atmosphere either, less than 2000 supporters looking totally lost in such a massive stadium as the New Den. Millwall did, however, make the most of two opportunities to put the match beyond Bournemouth: scoring through Hackett in the first half and May just after the break.
For the record, our best chances both came in the second half when Bournemouth were playing towards their own supporters. Best got a brilliant opportunity to pass to an unmarked Hayter (now playing as a forward) who was in a guaranteed-to-score position. So what did he do? Slam the ball into the side netting, resulting in cries of “Scummer” from the longsuffering Bournemouth supporters who were now at the end of their tether. He clearly heard the chants, because he appeared even more demotivated (if that’s possible) from then on, but at least we're not likely to see him in Bournemouth colours again. A bit later, Anderton made a great long shot from outside the area, which required the goalie to push the ball round the post for Bournemouth’s only corner of the half. All eyes turned to Foley, fortunately now on the pitch (Bond always seems to introduce him in the second half), but with so few Bournemouth players in the box there was nothing useful he could do with it.
Millwall fans sang, deservedly, “Can we play you every week?” Swansea and Boston must be licking their lips
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Gowling (7), Young (7), Hart (6);
Purches (7), Anderton (8), Hollands (6), Cummings (5);
Best (5), Ainsworth (5).
Purches, Young, Gowling, Hart;
Songo'o, Anderton, Hollands, Foley;