You know the drill by now – question quirky team selection, raise hopes briefly after an energetic start before reducing them very quickly after more huff and puff than a moralistic fable involving pigs, shout at Henri Lansbury and ask ‘what’s up with him?’ for the gazillionth time this season, realize Chris Burke is playing only after his number goes up on the fourth official’s board, get briefly excited about Jamie Paterson coming on, ask ‘what’s up with Jamie Paterson?’ five minutes later, watch a defender kick the ball hard and long in the vague direction of an attacker and wonder when the pain will end.
Milwall. Millwall were poor: without a win in eight games, under pressure at the wrong end of the table and with more misplaced passes than a stag party crashing a wedding convention. There was no better opportunity to claim a much needed three points than perhaps face a beleaguered Blackpool with barely a squad to name on the opening day of the season. But fair play to Ian Holloway and his team – they just waited for an inevitable error at the back to claim a deserved three points for an unspectacular yet textbook away win.
At one mind-numbing moment in the second half, this observer caught himself thumbing the back page of the programme (excellent one today, by the way) and pining for the days of Danny Collins – he wasn’t that bad, was he? These musings tend to occur when it strikes you that Kelvin Wilson is looking like a composed libero with a Masters in catenaccio; and when Wilson is looking like your best player, maybe, just maybe, the rest of the team are having a bit of an off day. Stephen McLaughlin enjoyed a productive loan spell at Notts County this season, deployed as winger. On his return, he has been utilised at left back while Dan Harding has been allowed to leave on loan to…erm…Millwall. This isn't to suggest that Danny Collins or Dan Harding are the answer to our problems but when one finds oneself wistfully recollecting their efforts then you know something isn’t quite right.
The goal, when it eventually came, was like watching one of those scenes from a Michael Bay movie in which the hero, having rescued the apparently helpless woman and generally rectified all things wrong with the world, realizes that his best buddy’s life is the price to pay for achieving such derring-do and watches in agonizing slow-motion as said buddy is dispatched by bad guy’s henchman with a grudge and mouths ‘NOOOOOOOOO’…while running towards the camera…in slow motion.
‘UNBELIEVABLE!' screamed a chap near me. Not really. Quite the opposite really. It was actually entirely plausible and indeed very believable. One might even go as so far as to assert that it was even predictable.
In his post match interview, Stuart Pearce claimed, "there was a team out there waiting to be beaten." There can be no other post game statement so rich in irony as this one. Poor bloke: he sounded as browbeaten and bereft of ideas as the fans. If fortunes cannot be turned and confidence rebuilt after that second half performance at Derby then when? That first half collapse at Fulham merely four days after Ben Osborn’s heroics could prove to be a pivotal point of the season should our form continue. Worried about the next few games? You should be given the current form table.