“Every fairy tale needs a good old-fashioned villain. You need me, or you’re nothing. Because we’re just alike, you and I."
Just like the world-famous detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, Neil Harris and David Livermore have used expert observation, forensic science, and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic to solve seventeen cases in the Football League Championship. But on a warm Friday evening on the other side of London miles away from 221b Baker Street, the Cottagers made their way into The Den and proved to be more than a match for our detective pair. Zampa Road had turned into the Reichenbach Falls and Jokanovic was James Moriaty.
The Lions arrived at the scene of the crime and instantly took the game to Fulham and as quick as Holmes has solved a Study in Scarlet, Jake Cooper climbed to meet a gorgeous corner in the 3rd minute. Seemingly in slow motion, Cooper had unravelled the direction of the ball, where his opponents were placed and rose in the air unmarked. The only thing the Millwall defender had not solved was the power he needed and the 17,000+ in attendance watched astonished as the ball crashed into crossbar and bounced away from the target.
Fulham struggled to throw our Holmes off the scent and were nearly captured by our private eye when Sherlock thought he had cracked another case in the 15th minute. A scramble in the six-yard box resulted in the ball landing at the feet of George Saville and buried into the back of the net, Millwall ran to celebrate and the police sirens sounded around the stadium. During the commotion the referee had told everyone that the goal should not stand, and the game remained 0-0. Millwall were continuing to make a valley of fear and the Cottagers did not seem comfortable with our hounds of the Baskervilles howling from the stands.
After surviving an onslaught and high tempo attacks, Moriaty and his men started to get a foothold in the game. Sherlock Holmes once said that ‘You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear’, but only Jake Cooper could read a Fulham attack and managed to clear the ball off the Millwall goal line in the 24th minute.
The Lions were not shaken by this attack and continued to press Moriaty’s back line, having another attack that came close in the 28th minute. A lovely cross came in from Ben Marshall on the left wing and although the Fulham goalkeeper got a hand to it, Jed Wallace brought the ball down and unleashed a shot at goal. So silent and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent that the Millwall fans had thought our number 14 had put the Lions 1-0 up, but a defender in white slid in at the last minute to keep the game all square.
Ryan Sessegnon on the left wing had gotten into the game now and was causing Millwall problems. In the 31st minute, Sessegnon found space and under Moriaty’s instruction fired a shoot wide of the far post. The fans were stunned as this trickled wide, and my horror at his crimes was lost in my admiration at his skill. A Sessegnon inspired Fulham had the last attack of the game when they too thundered an effort into the crossbar in first-half injury time. Millwall left the field the better side and Holmes and Watson were on course to crack the case…
The second half was in its infancy when Fulham found the back of the net. Moriaty’s three classic rules are: 1. Order your existence in a way which is necessary to meet your needs, 2. Surround yourself with people that can be manipulated, 3. In every conquest find a way to be victorious and Sessengon used these rules to his advantage. A long shot manipulated Jordan Archer who could only palm the ball to his right, and the young winger found a way to be victorious and beat the chasing Millwall players to the rebound. Connecting and finding the back of the net, Moriaty’s side was one up and Holmes on the side line was in shock.
The rest of the half remained under our arch nemesis’ spell. Johansen came close a minute later to finding the back of the net, before Fulham struck again in the 56th minute. Mocking our two detectives in the dugout by saying “only an idiot guesses or reasons or deduces”, a long-range effort went through the hands of Jordan Archer and into the back of the Millwall net. Holmes and Watsons tactics had been discovered by Moriaty and we were powerless.
The Lions continued to be on the back foot, Neil Harris was a man who should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, but his tactics were not working against Fulham. Another audacious lob came from Mitrovic in the 71st minute, before another Sessegnon effort in the 84th minute came close to making it 3-0.
The game was finally put to bed in the 89th minute and Sherlock Holmes plunged down the Reichenbach. Mitrovic was in lots of space after a defensive mix up in the 18-yard box and buried the ball in Jordan Archer’s top right hand corner and secured the three points. The final whistle sounded and Holmes and Watson had been defeated. Our detective and our chances of a Championship play-off place had plunged down the side of a deadly waterfall, but as the classic story shows, this was only a temporary blip and the Baker Street investigators came back stronger. There are two games left and still in Millwall’s hands, and with Neil Harris at the helm, there’s every chance Sherlock Holmes’ powers of deduction will return.
🏆 Man of the Match 🏆
Not many players had a great game overall, but what struck me was the effort and constant chasing George Saville did in the early stages of the game. Not a stellar performance, but a good one nevertheless.