Poor Millwall, you’d almost feel sorry for them if they weren’t Millwall. Despite their habitual strains of “no-one likes us”, they’re none too keen on ourselves either. It’s not that they don’t ever beat us, they do. It’s more that we always beat them when it matters: FA Cup semi final, Autowindscreens final, Play off semi finals.
Consequently, they must have been rubbing their hands when Wigan Athletic were reduced to ten men following two clumsy challenges from Sam Morsy on Tuesday night. Yet even then they couldn’t get past us due to some heroics from Jaaskelainen, indeed the whole Wigan Athletic team. For Millwall, we remain a thorn in their lion’s paw, no matter how much they try and bully and intimidate us down at their place.
Course, I wouldn’t want to be too flippant about saying Tuesday night “didn’t matter” as we did drop two points but I think a draw at the New Den wouldn’t have been seen as a disaster beforehand and was swiftly upgraded to a terrific result once we went a man down. Keeping an unbeaten run going against all the odds should galvanise the team further into wanting to carry on for as long as possible. We must all hope that playing with ten men for an hour hasn’t drained the energy too much and instead will make the lads want to go out on Saturday raring to go with a full complement on the field once more.
As for Tuesday’s culprit, there were two things I picked up from Chesterfield fans before we signed Sam Morsy. One was that he is a firebrand with a poor disciplinary record; the other is that he is one of the best players they’ve ever had. Having seen sufficient evidence to substantiate both of these claims in the last two games, you’d have to say that it’s a risk we should be willing to take.
Under recent managers who have advocated a passing game, we have been crying out for that kind of combative defensive midfielder – the water carrier who wins the ball, brings it out, distributes it short and simply and gets a foot in where needed, often clumsily. Roberto Martinez lost one of the best (and worst!) at it virtually as soon as he joined the club when Lee Cattermole jumped ship back to the North East, although he did land a more than adequate replacement in Hendry Thomas. Stop laughing at the back! Of course, we had the McCarthy/McArthur twins after that but both were more traditional box to box types.
The closest thing we’ve had since was Danish international William Kvist. How strange that a player with such a strong pedigree could play in a team so poor and fail to get noticed so much of the time? That is the essence of the defensive midfielder however, to do the spade work. Getting noticed is secondary and their influence depends on the attitude of the rest of the team. If the team are up against it or performing poorly, they’re fire fighting at the back. If we’re up for it, then they are a vital cog, the engine room which starts every attack. He may not have been here long but we’ve seen enough to know that we’ll miss Morsy on Saturday that’s for sure.
First published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column Friday 4th March 2016
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