"He's behind you!!"
"Oh no he isn't!"
Captain Hook, evil Stepmothers, the Giant up the Beanstalk and evil Queens. These are just some of the classic pantomime villains who we queue up to see over the festive period meet their comeuppance. This year on a cold Friday night, the Millwall fans took their seats and made their feelings known about Queens Park Rangers two ugly step-sisters, in particular Ian Holloway. Holloway's pending return created a hostile atmosphere outside the stage door, but his actual arrival prompted scenes of anger, mainly due to Holloway's panto villain antics at the front of the R's coach.
The black cloud that Holloway had left under a few seasons ago was borderline apocalyptic, and it took the bravery of our Cinderella style football team and our legendary fairy godmother, Neil Harris, to get us out of the cold and wet cellar of League One that Holloway had locked us in. We were left in rags and tatters, with only the scraps we could find to get us out of the mire, but Neil Harris and David Livermore succeeded and turned our mice into fully grown and glorious thoroughbreds.
As with many pantomime performances, the quality was of very little to start, but the actors on stage were lively and full of energy. Giving QPR very little time on the ball when they entered our half and Lee Gregory in particular having a point to prove, charging down every ball. Obviously disappointed in his supporting role alongside our veteran Widow Twanky up front, Gregory would've come close in the 7th minute if it wasn't for a slip in the box. A minute later, Millwall's Buttons on the left wing, Aiden O'Brien blazed over shortly after from close range.
QPR were relishing in their role as stage villains. They perfectly played up to the cliché of threatening, but offering very little, with attacks that the Millwall fans and team chuckled at. There may have been some ooh's and aah's from the QPR fans at the sight of continuous shots going well over, well wide or crosses to thin air, but as the classic storylines read out, the villain has to appear slightly threatening before the heroes rise to victory.
Millwall did manage to muster up a couple more attacks, with Twanky and Buttons both coming close in a matter of seconds in the 29th minute, before our Dick Whittington on the right wing, Jed Wallace, came agonisingly close in the 33rd minute when he clipped the side netting. Rangers had the best chance of the half in the 35th minute. A free header from Jake Bidwell should have put the R's 1-0 up, but our Peter Pan flew across the goal line to keep the scores level at half time.
After grabbing refreshments as the interval, we took our seats again for what we hoped would be a better second half to this soiree, and we weren't to be disappointed. Just as in a fairy tale, Widow Twanky picked the perfect time to score his first goal of the season. After an excellent cross from Jed Wallace in the 55th minute, Steve Morison read the script superbly and powered his header home. The two ugly sisters on the side lines ran backstage into their dugout in disbelief, allowing our veteran striker to take the plaudits and our fairy godmother on the side line to soak in the fan's admiration.
The part of Buttons fell to Shaun Williams, coming on for Aiden O'Brien in the 68th minute, and the QPR side could not keep up with the midfield combination of Tunnicliffe, Saville and Williams in the middle of the park. Our four Prince Charmings at the back also continued to make life hard for the QPR front line, restricting them to nothing more than hopeless long range efforts that produced nothing.
One final, last minute attack from Matt Smith almost caused this production to be slightly off plot, but our heroes prevailed and as expected before the game, we were victorious. At the sound of the referee's midnight chime, Holloway's glorious carriage had turned into nothing short of an old pumpkin. The horses pulling his carriage had turned back into mice, and like the classic villains they are, Holloway made for a quick exit off the stage and did not come back for his encore.
🏆 Man of the Match 🏆
Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is! Who else but the man who made sure Holloway left The Den with his tail between his legs?
💬 Fans after thought 💬
This week, as he helped me put my match report together, my fans after thought is my eldest son, Harris Avery.
Name: Harris Avery (after Neil Harris)
Favourite player this season: Steve Morison
All time favourite player: Lee Gregory
Greatest Millwall moment: Has to be going to Wembley to watch Millwall win.
What did you think of today's game?: Good game, but should have taken more of our chances. Happy to win and a good atmosphere.