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May 31 2023 1.15am

Palace 1-1 Millwall

December 5 2005

Ben Watson

Ben Watson

First Brighton, then Crewe, now Millwall. Whenever we play the team at the bottom, be it home or away, we cannot clinically despatch them into oblivion. In fact, despatching anyone at the moment seems a long way off, writes Simon Pophale.

Dowie might have surprised a few with his choice of players, keeping Speroni in goal and Popovic in defence, to Kiraly and Ward. AJ was back, with an out-of-sorts Clinton Morrison making the bench.

The 1st half got underway with us attacking Millwall, but our final ball being very poor. Ben Watson had a number of free kicks and corners, without any danger being carried to the Lions.

In fact, the first notable strike on goal came from Millwall, when a Jody Morris corner found Marvin Andrews in the box, but Speroni made a great one handed save from close range to deny the Millwall defender on 23 minutes.

We hit back with Dougie Freedman forcing Colin Doyle into a smart save as his piledriver from the edge of the area, was tipped onto the bar by the keeper. Referee Dermot Gallagher gave a goal kick, to the disbelief to the entire ground.

From then on, as Jose Mourinho once said, “it was whistle and whistle, foul and foul, and cheat and cheat”. It was the turning point in the game and worse than losing out to the majority of the decisions, we went behind just 4 minutes before halftime.

Mikele Leigertwood fouled Tony Craig on the edge of the penalty area and from the resulting free kick,Jody Morris free kick went undefended and Ben May, with acres of room on the left sent a close range header past Speroni.

It is impossible to blame the keeper, but where was the left side of the defence? Once again we concede a goal from the left. The boos which rang out at half time should have been enough to galvanise the team and Dowie, into a stirring second half comeback.

What happened was the exact opposite. Our passing became more erratic, the set pieces even more impotent and we made Millwall look like a team gunning for the the playoffs, rather than the one at the bottom.

Going forward for most of the game, Millwall had the one and only clear chance, which was on 55 minutes, Bruce Dyer heading against the post from yet another Morris free kick. We were not learning our lessons.

The rest of the half played out with Speroni trying to get the team to build slowly from the back, which usually ended up with the ball getting to or just over the half-way line, before possession was conceded. He has not got the kicking ability of Kiraly and without that, all attacks were meaningless.

The Millwall fans began to chant for the inevitable victory, chanting monosyllabically and generally acting like this was their greatest victory yet, while the Palace fans seemed on 85 minutes resigned to the fate and started leaving in droves.

Then, deep into injury time one last surge saw Dougie Freedman send a cross into the box which Ben Watson steered past Doyle to send everyone into raptures. 1-1 and no sooner had the match restarted, it was over.

The look on Speroni’s face when the ball went in was a picture, all contorted with joy. Millwall's fans faces were also contorted, with anger.

What happened next was nothing short of disgraceful, Millwall fans started to throw missiles into the Holmesdale, some started to try to scale the wall to get to the disabled area to get access to the Palace fans, while outside Millwall fans were seen to be attacking police and fans alike.

It left a sour taste in the mouth after what was a poor game. Millwall are bottom for a reason, but you wouldn’t have known which team was bottom and which was going for promotion.

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