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The Den  - Millwall
Saturday 24th November 2007
V Yeovil Town, League One, 3pm
By Martin Hart

It was supposed to be the day when I finally went to a game at The Emirates (Arsenal v Wigan), but that was always a non-starter, so my attention very quickly turned to 'Plan B' - Millwall v Yeovil.

I was excited, if not, a little edgy about a trip to Millwall. Everyone has heard the stories about their 'hardcore' following - but it's the same with every club. Every team has it's own group of passionate supporters - Millwall's just seem to get more bad press than others. I had also seen The Den on TV (most frequently through watching Dream Team!!) and always thought it was quite a smart looking ground, now was the time to find out if my instinct was indeed correct.

The journey down to London was crazy. What idiot would get up at 4am to go to a game between Millwall and Yeovil? Me! It was non-stop all the way until I finally got into the ground 10 minutes before kick-off. I found it even more impressive that at 2:25, I was still at London Bridge without a ticket for the train or the match. I took the age-old mentality of 'follow the crowd' - which was quite sensible considering the train was packed with about 300 Millwall fans!!
The trip over to South Bermondsey was fine, from which the walk to the ground was no longer than 10 minutes, and again fairly simple.

Before the game, I didn't really have time to do anything because I was so short for time. I only had enough time to get over to the ground, buy a ticket for the appropriately named Cold Blow Lane stand, match programme then get in the ground and have an ok-ish steak and gravy pie. I did though, find time to have a little look at the stands I walked by - which I think were the Main and South stands.

First impressions of seeing the ground were that it's nice, but it's similar in design to a number of grounds that I have visited. The Den though, like no other ground I have been to, can pack in a fabulous atmosphere when the Millwall fans create it. I seemed to have picked the right part of the ground to go in, because I didn't hear any other part of the ground singing nearly as much as where I was.
All four stands are of a similar nature - two tiered, with the bottom tier of each stand having a slightly shallower rake than the top tier, the two stands at the touchline ends are obviously that little bit bigger than the teo behind the goals. There is also a video screen in the North East corner of the ground, food prices are fine and the quality is about average in comparison to most other grounds, the toilets are nothing spectacular, but one thing I would say about a trip to The Den is that the Millwall fans are extremely passionate about their club - away fans should keep colours covered outside the ground, unless of course you have come prepared for a fight.

Now to the game, I have been to many good games in England and a couple of great games (most recently that 7-4 epic at Fratton Park!!), this game was never going to get anywhere near that standard - it wasn't the best game I have been to south of the border, but it also wasn't the worst.

I won't say much about the first half, other than the fact that there was not even a single shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes - I'll leave you to guess what the score was at the break.

The second half was a lot better, but it wasn't really a surprise when Yeovil (backed by about 100 hardy souls) took the lead four minutes after the interval. Some dodgy defending by Millwall led to James Walker drilling a shot across Lenny Pidgeley and into the net. 1-0 Yeovil.

I don't know what it was about that goal, but Millwall must have got a hell of a wake-up call, because as soon as it went in The Lions really started to play football.

It took Millwall a while to break down a stubborn Glovers defence, but as the old saying goes, 'better late than never.' A glorious volley from Jamie O'Hara on 71 minutes levelled the game - and The Den erupted, then 11 minutes later, just to rub more salt into Yeovil's wounds Millwall completed a proper smash and grab victory. Good control by Ali Fuseini allowed him to get a shot past Steve Mildenhall and into the net for 2-1, as fortunate as the goal was from Millwall's perspective, the Yeovil 'keeper really should have done better.

It was far from a classic match, but I wasn't complaining - another 3-goal game for me this season, and I've still never been to a 0-0 draw in England!!

Getting away from the ground was easy enough, just a simple walk back to South Bermondsey followed by a packed train back to London Bridge, then from there it was over to Earls Court for a night in the youth hostel before the return flight back to Edinburgh on Sunday morning and subsequent train journey onto Dundee - and I was home just in time for the World Cup Qualifying draw!

Overall summary of the weekend... it was fun, but sadly I don't think Millwall is somewhere that I will be rushing back to. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the experience and if anything, I'm glad I went - but there was just something that wasn't quite right about my day at The Den, and the funny thing is that I can't actually figure out what it is.

In hindsight though, a trip to Millwall is nowhere near as bad as it used to be. I personally think it's unfair the crap that teams like Millwall, Leeds and Cardiff take because their fans love a good scrap - so what, name me a team who has a perfect group of supporters that have never heard of a fight in their lives? Exactly. Just be a little more careful around the vicinity of The Den and, like me, you will have a completely trouble-free day.

 

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