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Hit the Wall

About this time last year, I sat back after watching us lose 4-1 to Wycombe and thought we were shown a side of football that we haven’t experienced since 2002.

Fast forward a year, and our latest first round exit had exactly the same scoreline.

However, unlike last year, Cold Blow Lane 4 Plough Lane 1 has a bit more of a sting to it. This may be a slight exaggeration, but this hurts. No, we weren’t better than Millwall, they proved like Wycombe why they’re two divisions above us, but I really did feel deflated afterwards.

Why? Maybe it was the cold, but to go 2 goals down, pull back and then just visibly see all that hard work drain away through fatigue does hurt. Their fourth goals felt like collapsing at the finish line only to see your opponent bend down and nick your wallet.

What makes it worse is that for the first half, we matched them. Seriously. It was as though we were determined not to do what we did against Wycombe. And when we got to half time, at 0-0, there was a bit of confidence, a bit of “yeah, we might get something out of this”. Needless to say, that optimism lasted for a good three minutes…

So, what have we learnt from tonight? Firstly, the likes of DK, JM, Jamie Pullen and in truth our back four aren’t going to be playing League One football anytime soon. They are good players at our level, but tonight proved there is a gap in quality. If/when we make a push for the League, we will either have to properly go full time, or replace half our squad. In all likelyhood, both will apply.

Secondly, and perhaps a bit less pessimistic, it does prove that we’re quick learners. Whereas I think we got caught up in the whole Wycombe thing, we were a lot, lot better this time around. Which is why the 4-1 scoreline hurts like fuck to look at. There wasn’t so much hype this time, we looked far less overawed than we would have been in seasons past. This time, we were beaten because they went up the gear(s) that we couldn’t. We won’t be the last team to ever suffer that fate.

Thirdly, and I’ve heard this theory mentioned a couple of times recently – we all know that we still can’t seem to beat anyone bigger than us. But I think it’s coming clearer why, especially if you watched Northwich beat Charlton on Sunday. Millwall reportedly trained Saturday and Sunday for our game tonight. In other words, they didn’t treat us lightly. One suspects the Addicks went up to Northwich on Sunday and went through the motions because, hey, it’s “only” a Conf North outfit.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that Millwall raised their game for us (though it would be one helluva ego stroke if they did), but I covered Millwall v Huddersfield earlier on in the season and they approached us in the same way tonight as they did that day too. And they won that 3-1 as well. If this is a reason (as opposed to an excuse) why we never seem to beat the better sides, then it’s one hell of a compliment to us. Even if that does make it hard to swallow when we do fail to win yet again…

One day, we will meet a higher division team who are actually a bit crap and we will beat them. And it will be sweet.

Other thoughts : damn good turnout, which looked pretty impressive on their big screen. I thought we could have been a bit louder, but then again we were apparently “heard” around the ground. Singing West Ham songs to them may have been funny at the time, although bloody suicidal now thinking about it…

OK, we did ask for the pro-Franchise songs back after that. I guess their taunts at “Fatty” was aimed towards Salad, but does anyone know who the “slapper in the white” was? You know, the one whose cunt apparently could be smelt in the Millwall end? Unless it was one of their mothers…

Your editor somehow managed to lose his ticket stub between the turnstile and the entrance to the block. No, I don’t know how either, and I still haven’t found it. Fortunately, my powers of persuasion convinced the poor jobsworth that it wasn’t really worth arguing about it. So technically I jibbed in.

Good to see Millwall acknowledge Allen Batsford, and three others whose names I have criminally forgotten at this time of night Scott Fitzgerald, Les Briley and John Leslie. Maybe they were just being polite, but after we’ve lost so much it’s nice that we don’t get our noses rubbed in it when they accept that many of us saw those players at Plough Lane.

There were a couple of idiots who saw fit to take in bottles of Carlsberg in sight of the pitch in the second half. One of them being the one who kept saying “Millwall cunts” rather vigourously for most of the second half. Was he a West Ham supporter? Did he once have a bad time at New Cross station? Or were there some E-numbers in the Carlsberg that set him off?

Anyway, another year and another FA Cup run now over. Let’s see if we can pick ourselves up for Barrow on Saturday. Let’s hope the journey is used for reflection and plans to get back on track – after all, it’ll be long enough…