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Review - Game 13: Chelsea 1-0 QPR
I had eagerly anticipated this game since I was told about the draw on route to Dagenham & Redbridge almost a month ago. I would be sitting with the Chelsea fans but my loyalties were most definitely with the visitors. Pre-match I went for a few beers and then made the short walk down the Fulham Road to the stadium. There was a moody atmosphere and it wasn`t long before a group of traditional Chelsea fans took offence to the Rangers faithful frequenting a pub, something loud crashed above our heads as we walked past, possibly a bottle or brick and there were some minor skirmishes before we had to leap out of the way of charging police horses. The fracas behind us fizzled out and we made our way to our seats, plum on the half-way line and about a dozen rows in front of the press area, the Rangers fans had the entire Shed End and were making a fantastic noise. Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins had said the team would be a youth side similar to Arsenal`s the night before but with Kalou, Joe Cole, Ivanovic, Malouda, Ferreira, Mikel, Beletti and Zhirkov all starting and Terry, Essien, Lampard and Ashley Cole on the bench it was basically a first team.
QPR were far from outclassed all night and were helped by Ferreira disappearing from his right back spot allowing Vine and the R`s midfield to tear Chelsea`s defence apart. Unfortunately the R`s just don`t have the goal presence to make the most of their good build up play, as seen on my two visits to Loftus Road this year, the club have a real problem getting enough goals. On loan striker Jay Simpson worked tirelessly but had little to work with and Vine, Routledge and Faurlin were guilty of some sloppy passing to let Chelsea off the hook. Joe Cole, playing his first match for around 9 months, was the pick of the Chelsea players, dictating their game and spraying passes around with ease, although a little rusty he also worked hard to support the strikers. That can not be said for many Chelsea regulars however, Mikel, Kalou, Malouda, Ferreira (who was still awol from right back) and Belletti looked sluggish and played very poorly, sending countless passes astray and losing possession regularly.
That isn`t to say Chelsea didn`t have chances, they countered well and QPR`s left back, Gary Borrowdale, made it easy by not reading the play and ducking out of tackles. Central defender Kaspars Gorkss was a rock however, covering for Borrowdale and the rest of the back four, tackling, heading and reading the game better than any other on the pitch he was my stand out man of the match. When Gorkss was occasionally beaten then on loan keeper Tom Heaton was more than a match for what Chelsea threw at the R`s. He also gathered crosses assuredly and in my mind should be starting in front of Cerny week in week out.
Although an end to end game there were not any great chances to shout about. QPR were tackling well and able to trouble the Chelsea midfield and full backs but poor crossing from Mikele Leigertwood and Wayne Routledge meant Hilario`s goal was untroubled. In fact I thought Routledge looked rather disinterested all game, he attempted to take on his man a number of times and when he wasn`t successful he just seemed to give up. Also when he lost the ball he wasn`t too bothered about working his balls off and atoning for his error instead allowing others to chase back and attempt to win back possession. A special mention must be given to Akos Buzsaky, the magical Magyar, who didn`t have the best game going forward but worked tirelessly to track back and upset Chelsea`s counter attacks, such as when Routledge gave away possession.
Half time came and besides being crushed in a tiny toilet there was the highlight of a mystery guest to look forward to. The Ranger`s fans boos soon turned to cheers however when it turned out to be Paul Furlong, the ever-youthful striker having played for both clubs and now plying his trade with Barnet who we see in a fortnight and at the end of December. The Chelsea fans clapped him politely and the Rangers fans cheered him to the rooftops, despite being invited by the opposition I`d like to think he enjoyed the R`s reactions more.
The second half started with Lampard replacing an ineffectual Malouda. Despite the big man entering the action it was Ranger`s who started the brighter, carving through a static and bewildered Chelsea defence. Again though there were no clear efforts and the R`s were soon to rue their lack of class in front of goal. A through ball from Joe Cole found Salomon "hasn`t got a" Kalou in an offside position but he was allowed to slot the ball home in the right corner without a whistle from the referee. It shouldn`t have come down to a dodgy decision however as Leigertwood allowed Kalou too much space, backing off him when he should have been closing him down. The refereeing performance and that of the linesman wasn`t great all night, an awful lot of minimal contact was given as free kicks, for both sides although any 50/50 ball was always given to Chelsea. I was not the only frustrated fan in the East Stand, it seemed I was surrounded by R`s fans who had snuck in like wolves in sheeps clothing and were fairly vocal about their preferred winner!
The fact that both Ashley Cole and John Terry were introduced ten and twenty minutes after the goal shows how good the Superhoops were doing to break down the Chelsea defence and midfield. The R`s also were awarded a few free kicks but were unable to test Hilario with Buzsaky shooting a mile over in a tribute to Johnny Wilkinson. From a corner QPR were also unable to capitalise on a Hilario fumble and the game remained at a goal to nil. When the final whistle came I was a little annoyed that some QPR players swapped shirts with Chelsea players but in this day and age it is only the fans who care, or are even aware of rivalries and the history`s of clubs and the passions of supporters. Still, that seems the price many will pay for success, even if that means that the stadium is mostly full of the opposition or tourists from Japan.
Build Up - Game 14: Millwall v Yeovil
Formed in 1885 and originally Millwall Rovers the team wear blue and white due to their Scottish heritage, the team was formed by Scots who had moved to London to work in a newly opened cannery on the Isle of Dogs. The club were originally known as 'The Dockers` but became known as 'The Lions` after a number of cup exploits during the 1900 season when they reached the semi-finals. Their biggest rivals are West Ham.
Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War the club were extremely successful, particularly in cup competitions however despite playing Chelsea in the final of the Southern FA Cup in 1945 (not recorded as a real FA Cup match) the club found itself struggling throughout the Fifties until the Sixties saw an upturn in both attendances and results.
Between 22 August 1964 and 14 January 1967 the club went unbeaten at home for 59 games. They played the first ever league game on a Sunday, against Fulham. To get around the law at the time, admission was gained by "Programme Only" which coincidentally was the same price as a ticket! Millwall are also the only club to be unbeaten at home in four different divisions: 1927-28 Division 3 (South), 1964-65 Division Four, 1965-66 Division Three, 1971-72 Division Two, 1984-85 Division Three.
The Eighties saw the club push on and they were promoted first to the Second Division and then the First for the first time in their history. Prior to this they had been the first proffessional club in London not to play in the top flight. They also became the first club to open a creche at the stadium. However the team were relegated after just one season in the top flight after a great start to the campaign. The Nineties were again a poor decade for the club but it managed to move to a new ground the first built in London since the Second World War had ended. The Noughties saw a return, of sorts to the halcyon days of the club with league promotions and an FA Cup final, their first ever. Although they lost to Man United they qualified for their first European campaign in the UEFA Cup. The club also broke the 125 year record for the youngest player to play in an FA Cup final, Curtis Weston was 17 years and 119 days ols when he replaced player/manager Dennis Wise in the last minute. The club were the first team outside of the Premiership to contest the FA CUp since the Premiership`s conception in 1992.
The club then had another few problematic years but are looking like they may be on the rise again with good finishes the last few years in the league.
Although unbeaten for the first five games of the season Millwall have slipped down the league due to two defeats in a row as well as being knocked out of the JPT by Barnet. However a win against Huddersfield last Saturday and a trip to struggling Leyton Orient this coming Saturday may have them back on track and pushing for the play-off spots once more. Yeovil meanwhile have only one point from their travels and sit in 20th, on the periphery of the relegation places.
Football League Second Division (second tier) Champions: 1987-88
Football League Third Division (third tier) Champions: 1927-28, 1937-38 (Division Three South), 2000-01 (Second Division)
Football League Fourth Division (fourth tier) Champions: 1961-62
FA Cup Runners-up: 2004.
Football League Group Cup Winners: 1982-83
Autoglass Trophy: 1999
War Cup South Runners-up: 1945.
Southern League Champions: 1895, 1896.
Western League Champions: 1908, 1909.
United League Champions: 1897, 1899.
London League Champions: 1904.
East London Senior Cup Winners: 1887, 1888, 1889.
East London FA Cup Joint Winners: 1886.
By train; South Bermondsey station is a five minute walk away.
Tube; Surrey Quays or New Cross Gate on the East London line are a 15 minute walk whilst Canada Water on the Jubilee Line is a 20 minute walk.
By bus; 21, 53, 172, P12, 1, 381, 47, 188 and 225 all stop nearby from various locations.