"I wanna play a game..."
The new Millwall manager, Gary Rowett, was in the stands watching this Halloween fixture at The Den against Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City. This game at times showed signs of the ghosts that had been around Zampa Road in the last twelve months, but luckily for the Lions, Tom Bradshaw was a ray of light that managed to exorcise the demons that had been haunting South London.
The game under the floodlights had a slow and cagey affair, as both sides came into this fixture in not the greatest of form, however it was the Bluebirds who struck first. Creeping like Michael Myers behind Jake Cooper and getting in front of Murray Wallace in the 12th minute, Danny Ward found space too easily in the Millwall penalty area and headed in the simplest of headers at the far post to make it 1-0 to the visitors. The home fans were stunned to see Adam Barrett’s final game start so poorly, but knew that even the best horror film could have a happy ending.
Evidently affected by the earlier goal, Millwall struggled to get into the opening of this game and in the 20th minute backed away to let Lee Tomlin have a chance from distance, but his long range effort was easily kept out by Bart Bialkowski in the Millwall goal.
Just like the poor Friday 13th sequels, the Cardiff attacks just kept on coming and only two minutes later in the 22nd minute, Bialkowski was again called into action when Ward this time had a chance from distance, but the on-loan Ipswich Town ‘keeper again kept the ball out.
There was very little action for the duration of the half and aside from a Cardiff header in the 35th minute which Bialkowski saw go over his bar, it looked like the first half would finish 1-0 to the Welsh side. Tom Bradshaw, like every good Hollywood superhero, had not read the script and decided in the 45th minute to enter Millwall fan’s dream state and vanquish the Freddie Krueger that had been haunting our playing style in recent times. Against the run of play, the number nine picked the ball up on the edge of the penalty area and buried it into the back of the Cardiff net. The half ended 1-1 and the Lions were back in the game.
The game was only three minutes old when Junior Hoilett got the better of Mahlon Romeo in the 50th minute, and although there was some huffing and puffing from Neil Warnock’s side, the ball managed to sail out over the bar.
Cardiff were comfortably the better side and were torturing the Lions better than Jigsaw playing his games in the Saw movies. In the 57th minute, they retook the lead when Hoilett again found space and expertly curled it around a fully stretched Bialkowski. The away fans in the North Stand were delirious and the Lions had that feeling again that defeat may be looming.
If it wasn’t for the outstanding reflexes of Bialkowski from two consecutive corners, Cardiff would have increased their lead. The Polish shot stopper magnificently kept out two close range efforts from Cardiff corners in the 68th and 69th minute when away goals looked certain.
Sensing that a moment of magic was needed, Bradshaw found himself with the ball at his feet after a lovely ball from Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in the 77th minute and after taking a couple of touches to compose himself, superbly put the ball into the bottom corner of Etheridge’s goal and brought the scores back level.
Aside from a few half chances and gasps, neither side looked like scoring and the game ended all square. Adam Barrett was happy that he had managed to take four points from a possible nine during his tenure, but Rowett will be the man who will look to save the day and turn the Millwall horror story to one of a more uplifting and exciting tale.
Millwall: Bialkowski, M. Wallace, Hutchinson, Cooper, Williams, J. Wallace, Thompson, Bradshaw, Smith (Bodvarsson 70'), Romeo, O'Brien (Mahoney 86').
Subs not used: Steele, McCarthy, Ferguson, Pearce, Molumby.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Peltier, Bennett, Morrison, Flint, Ralls, Pack, Tomlin (Bogle 86'), Whyte, Ward (Paterson 86'), Hoilett (Murphy 67').
Subs not used: Smithies, Glatzel, Nelson, Mendez-Laing, Bogle.