20 December 2009

Charlton 4 Millwall 4

A fantastic game warmed everyone up on a freezing cold day, in a vibrant, proper derby, atmosphere. Before kickoff the parents of Jimmy Mizen, a Millwall fan, and Robert Knox, a Charlton fan, were presented to the players and the crowd. Both lost their sons to street violence and the game was dedicated to the campaign against it. It was hugely symbolic, of course, to use this game. It's 13 years, I think, since Charlton last played Millwall, and back then I'd have been quite worried about my safety on the way to and from the match. Millwall have changed - not entirely, but noticeably. I remembered during the game that fans used to chant to each other "You're going to get your fucking heads kicked in" and "You're going home in an ambulance", and that just doesn't seem to happen anymore. Of course improved police intelligence and tactics have made a difference, but when the revolution in fans' behaviour has even reached Millwall, it looks like it's here to stay.

And so to the game. Wow. Millwall started by far the more enterprising team, and in the seasonal spririt they'd show all afternoon, Charlton's defence gave them an opening goal. The referee joined in, giving them a corner no-one else had seen, from which they scored the second. It was quite depressing at this point. Losing the home unbeaten record to Millwall, of all teams! But all those years when no referee would give Charlton a penalty were repaid when the referee gave two. One of them resulted in a Millwall sending off, so at half time, it was level and Charlton had a numerical advantage.

The second half could not have started better - a super goal from Nicky Bailey inside 35 seconds. Surely it would be simple from here? You would only say that if you've never watched Charlton. They went off the boil, as so often inviting the opposition to come forward, and another defensive mix-up let Millwall equalise. Charlton retook the lead near the end of normal time but five added minutes was plenty of time for Millwall to get another equaliser. Their fans celebrated as if they'd won, while it did feel a bit like a defeat for Charlton. But a draw was as much as we deserved, and Millwall absolutely earned their point so no complaints.

Both sets of fans cheered the news that Fulham have beaten United 3-0. An unusual show of London unity, and although I may be the only person to see it this way, a fitting reminder of the display of unity against violence before the match.

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