"It was no longer the fear of the gallows, it was the horror of being Hyde that racked me." - Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
Mary Shelley. Robert Louis Stephenson. Bram Stoker. Edgar Allan Poe. Gaston Leroux. Stephen King. All famous horror authors who's work has lasted the test of time. Pieces of work so terrifying that they leave a lasting memory in the mind of all those who read them. Unfortunately, today Millwall Football Club can be added to this list of novelists that have created a story so frightening you'd wished you'd never begun reading.
After performances to inspire confidence and belief against the likes of Norwich, Leeds and a late fight back against Reading, our 11 Dr Jekylls in the middle of the park were slowly morphing into Edward Hyde in front of our eyes. The game started brightly and in the 4th minute Lee Gregory made his way through to a perfect one-on-one situation and looked destined to score on his first game back from suspension. Unfortunately for Gregory, he gulped some of the great doctor's serum and it resulted in a finish that was lacklustre and easily deflected wide for a corner when it looked impossible to miss. "I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck" wrote Stephenson in 1886 and a better finish here from the Millwall number 9 could have had the team from London who had been founded the year before setting sail towards three points.
An uninspiring first half was to follow, with only a small handful of chances. A deflected shot from Jed Wallace in the 33rd minute was followed by a pinball scramble in the 38th minute in Jordan Archer's 18 yard box which Millwall only just dealt with. Up until this time, The Lions had shown a wooden cross and tied garlic round their necks to keep this Dracula attack at bay, but unfortunately as the folklore dictates, someone invited these northern vampires into our goal. The titular character from Bram Stoker's classic, sunk his teeth in and was beginning to drain the life from Millwall. The impressive Tom Bradshaw met the ball in the 40th minute and nestled it into the back of the net, going 1-0 up.
Half-time was approaching and it seemed like we would go into the break 1-0 down, when suddenly the ball was played through to Lee Gregory and our brave Van Helsing had the beast in his sight and would unleash his wooden stake straight into their heart. That was until the Daemon's familiar brought down Gregory from behind and a penalty was awarded. As Stoker dictated "we learn from failure, not from success!" and Gregory this time stroked the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-1. The half time whistle sounded. "It's Alive!" we thought. "IT'S ALIVE!!" Our Frankenstein's monster was twitching, showing signs of life after Gregory's high voltage shock and our Doctor Frankenstein in Neil Harris would get this beast alive and his heart beating for the second half.
Alas, this was not to be. A second half of too much Edward Hyde poison, Frankenstein's monster being uncontrollable, breaking free from his shackles and Dracula's seductive hypnotism was too strong for our boys in navy. A lack of real penetration, a failure to take advantage of our set pieces and corners were punished by another Bradshaw goal which Jordan Archer could only push into his side netting in the 60th minute. "Though sympathy alone can't alter facts, it can help to make them more bearable" wrote Stoker, although this must not have been in the programme notes as Barnsley were taking great delight in reminding the Millwall fans of the result of the 2016 play-off final. No sympathy, just delight in our misery.
Millwall were unrecognisable from the side that had swept away Leeds and Norwich in the past few weeks. "Sir, if that was my master, why had he a mask upon his face?" was asked as the usual reliable defence let the Barnsley attack waltz in the box and then win a penalty. The 83rd minute penalty was put into the bottom corner and Barnsley were taking more joy from the score line which was identical to that day in Wembley when we lost out on promotion.
The final whistle sounded. "I am done with man," the Frankenstein's creatures in the home stands said, leaving their master lifeless and defeated in the middle of the pitch. Hyde had beaten Jekyll. Dracula had conquered Van Helsing. However, these classics are classics for a reason. This type of work and tragedy is not repeated again for another generation or two. Millwall will learn from this and the next chapter in Neil Harris and Millwall's legacy, I have no doubt will be one of success and victory.
🏆 Man of the Match 🏆
Although a bad day for the team as a whole. Webster was reasonably solid and dealt with a lot of things that came his way.
💬 Fans after thought 💬
This week's fan after thought happens to be my Dad, as I found it difficult to find another fan who wanted to talk about today's game!
Favourite player this season:
Jed Wallace - seems to waltz round players so easily.
Favourite all time Millwall player:
Gordon Hill - first player who stood out and had a wow factor.
Greatest Millwall Moment:
FA Cup Semi Final v Sunderland, 2004 at Old Trafford.
What did you think of today’s game:
Disappointed with today's game, our poorest performance I've seen this season, but we've been spoiled so far as the team have set the bar high. Some games are a bad day at the office and today was this for me.
What do you think of the season so far:
Well pleased so far, playing a game with more pace and football than last season. Wallace and Saville have hit the ground running and the rest of the boys playing well.