Wigan 0-1 Millwall: Hearts at home, minds elsewhere

Wembley Park Station

Wish you were here? I did. (c)Mike Knell

At times like this I wonder whether the Football League fixtures really are computer generated, or if they pay a little man to sit at his desk with an unsharpened HB and Filofax. Do they lock him in his office without breakfast or an emergency supply of Ovaltine, forcing him to quickly scribble down roughly the same fixture arrangements as the previous year?

It may seem a far-fetched notion, but after extensive Wikipedia research, it’s the only way I can explain why we played Millwall during the second week in April once again. Hey, if repeating playlists is good enough for the commercial radio stations, then why can’t the FA do the same?

Alright, I thought it best to shelf that silliness before the serious business of the actual football takes over. Nine FA Championship points might have seemed an ample cushion to seventh place with just six games remaining, but as we were to learn, it’s all easy to be distracted by them there Wemblies Wombling around in your peripheral vision.

Can I see your (Wembley) license, sir?

Remove your eyes from the road for one second and, much like the police in Grand Theft Auto: Paranoia, you’ll be sat in a lay-by attempting to reason with a doughnut munching, stubborn, stern-faced Scotsman. And for the lawyers reading, I definitely am not talking about you-know-who for the umpteenth time this month.

Cop car

Mind parked outside Wembley Stadium? That’s a punishable offence, sir. The penalty: three points. (c)Whpq

Nope. Last night, the part of the sweet-toothed traffic cop was played by the combined force of Millwall FC. Just as one should never even contemplate climbing behind the wheel after a juiced-up evening of drunken mumbling and stumbling, it might even have been wise for the contest not to take place.

Indeed, the match was off to a fractured start when referee Keith Hill ordered the kickoff be retaken as Martyn Waghorn neglected to tuck his shirt into his shorts. For a brief moment, I thought he was about to offer Latics a unique proposition: take a 1-0 loss in exchange for an immediate abandonment. It might be Captain Hindsight talking, but you know what? They may well have taken it.

Sadly for all concerned(?), the ‘game’ would have to continue. Aww, and I fancied an early night!

Okay, maybe I’m being silly again.

Here’s a positive and a half – it was heartening to see Shaun Maloney mark his return with a 90 degree swivel pass, bringing delighted noises from three corners of the DW.

But as an FA Cup Semi Final ticket offer appeared on the digital advertising hoarding, it quickly became apparent what would be biggest burden of all this evening. Not the half dozen changes – these are to be expected during a month saturated with midweek fixtures. Not the moderately worn pitch, which was in great condition for its third game in seven days, but that little piece of moulded tin we so worship.

DW Stadium pitch

Fig. 3: The DW Stadium pitch c. March 2010

It seems my mind wasn’t the only one sat firmly in Wembley Stadium. Though the body of Nicky Maynard strived to chase down every lost cause, it was clear that it, too, was playing for a place in the starting lineup on Saturday.

I awoke with a start as Carlos Edwards’ heavily deflected strike looped over Al Habsi stand-in Scott Carson. As much as I admire Andy King’s goal for Leicester last week, *this* truly was the perfect effort – Carse wouldn’t have stopped it with his heavy duty 20ft fishing net. Heck, he can’t even catch his own goldfish with that.

But enough about Carson’s fledgling angling career.

Big Boxing match

Carse couldn’t have prevented the goal even with gloves that size.

Unfortunately, Rosler would have to break into the crisp fiver Dave Whelan had already given him for Saturday. Nobody wanted to see McArthur and Fortune take to the pitch for the second half, but the men they replaced – namely McEachran and Maynard – weren’t about wipe the deficit clean.

These changes brought a renewed urgency, but the tone for the second half was soon set when Fortune headed Collison’s cross wide. Though Wigan occasionally tested the Lions defence, the South Stand ball boys had the most difficult half of all, as chance after Wigan chance rolled harmlessly and groan-inducingly out of play.

My own frown transformed into a full-on grimace when Nick Powell arrived with a little under half an hour to play. Rosler’s five pounds spending money was now reduced to a mere penny, and it definitely wasn’t a lucky one. A blink of the eye later and 80 minutes had elapsed, and the previously defensive Millwall were preparing a lethal dose.

It should have ended there and then, but Carson’s (double?) point-blank save from Steve Morison bought Latics another ten minutes of cheap keep-ball. From both teams, as it happens, though the hosts’ training ground-esque one-twos were in stark contrast to Millwall’s detailed, but equally time-consuming inspection of the ball at almost every throw-in. We’ll have to remember that one for Wembley, eh Uwe?

Aaah, the full time whistle – sweet, sweet monotonal music.

As if you couldn’t tell from my lack of actual match analysis, this evening down at Robin Park wasn’t necessarily one to log in your ten-year diary.

Heheh, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to do this, but… well defended, Millwall. *Applauds*

Now roll on Wembley, *please*.

Second opinion

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