Darius Henderson has been a big player for Millwall over the last 18 months; however, I feel there is life after the forward dubbed ‘The Hulk.’
Since joining the club at the start of the 2011/12 season Henderson has played his part in keeping the Lions in the Championship and helping us compete in the race for a play-off spot.
Last season the former Sheffield United frontman was Millwall’s top scorer with 15 goals in 31 league appearances for Millwall, six of those goals being in hat-trick performances away to Leicester City and Barnsley respectively. Of the 15 goals Henderson scored, only five goals were either the opening or winning goal. Take the two hat-ticks away and its 11 goals and three being the opening or winning goals.
I am in no way knocking his contribution during his tenure at the club, when he was fit and playing, he was almost unplayable. Leicester and Burnley found that out.
The issue I had with Henderson was his injury record, something that was flagged up from the start when he joined the club back in 2011. When he wasn’t injured and he was playing, invariably he would play well and give is all – a real Millwall-type player.
His goal per game ratio is impressive too, considering the number of games played. 26 goals in 56 games in all competitions tells its own story, working out at under a goal every three games. In the 74 league games Millwall have played since Darius Henderson arrived at the club, he has scored 22 goals in the 51 he has played and still missed 23 games, that’s half a season!
As mentioned previously, only five of Henderson’s goals last season were either opening or winning goals, this season that statistic stands are five. So overall, even though Henderson has scored 22 goals, only ten have been ones that are influential in a game. Now I know all goals are, the point is he has scored the majority of his goals when the team are winning or are comfortable.
We will miss Henderson’s physicality up front and his unequivocal knack of winning headers and flicking the ball on, along with holding up play for others to join in. That is something that needs to be addressed going forward when a replacement is found. Henderson can and will be replaced.
When fit and available, he is a top player to have at your club. He will be a loss to Millwall, but he is not the be all and end all of our goal scoring or our season by any means.
Millwall still have a great chance of reaching the play-offs with the position the team are in and the tradition of the club to finish a season strongly and, if I may, going back to the important goals relativity – Andy Keogh has scored more important goals than Henderson.
We have a player in Keogh who on his day is Premier League player, he oozes class and his touch and technique are something that might be taken for granted from our fans. He scored seven in 20 games last season after his January move from Wolverhampton Wanderers and this term has netted six times in 22 games this term, including the audacious chipped penalty at the Reebok Stadium against Bolton Wanderers on January 12th.
Of the ten goals Andy Keogh got last season, seven were either the opening or winning goal and four goals that have proved vital this season. That’s 11 of Keogh’s 16 league goals which have been influential. Keogh is still a player that can win games, with or without Henderson.
We ultimately stayed in the Championship last season without Darius Henderson. Keogh scored the goals to keep us up in the final seven games – along with Harry Kane, the player that replaced the injured Henderson. In the grand scheme of things, Millwall are stronger with Andy Keogh, but we would be weaker without Henderson.
It will be a loss but something we will get over. We got over Steve Morison and Neil Harris going, we will get over Chris Wood and Henderson leaving. We did it last season in a vital stage of the season when Hendo was injured; we can do it again, as long as the right replacement is bought in. That player must complement our main forward option in Keogh.
The season is still alive and kicking and the timing isn’t the best, I hope I’m proved right and Millwall replace Henderson to be striker heavy rather than striker light for the remainder of the season and finish strongly as I believe we can.
Best of luck to Henderson at Forest, if they wrap him in cotton wool, they have a player who on his day is unplayable. Let’s hope that day isn’t Saturday 27th April 2013.
Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger
This season has been pretty disappointing after last year’s heroics of a ninth place finish after our promotion from League One in 2010.
The manager, Kenny Jackett, has said this season is a transition – changing our style of play to be more ‘modern’ as the boss puts it.
However, languishing in the bottom half of the table and in the midst of a tight relegation battle is what it has been like for much of the season. A lack of creativity in the final third and an air of anxiety in or play has cost us this season, along with the lack of defensive stability that was there the previous season.
Rarely this campaign have we been outclassed, I can count on four occasions where we have been humbled. All teams have games that they aren’t at the races, but the little things have cost us this season. Losing by the odd goal and not killing teams off has been issue.
That has been prevalent this season; however, throughout the campaign small bumps occur that we can’t seem to get over.
Home form has been an issue. In recent years The Den has been a fortress, hard to beat and teams hated to travel to SE16. This season, teams can’t wait. Our away form recently is better, the old cliché that there is less pressure on a team playing away from their own turf. If you don’t win your home games you struggle, that’s fact.
Team selection and tactics have been an issue too. Playing 4-5-1 (4-3-3) at home for me, is absurd. Play 4-4-2, get at teams, attack them at home, this is a must. Jack Smith who by trade is a defender, has been playing the holding role in place of Jimmy Abdou and the injured Tam Mkandawire this season, and having on loan Spurs forward Harry Kane in centre midfield. It has had the fans questioning if Kenny Jackett is losing the plot?
The short answer to that, no. KJ has said this season is a transition and with experimenting to play football the modern way and becoming a solid Championship side, you need to experiment. In hindsight, I can see why he has tried different teams/selections. The layman way of describing it, is that he doesn’t know his best eleven. That may be true, but if there is a tactical or positional issue arising, try and solve it in-house rather than spending unnecessary money on outsourcing the answer.
In the frustration, in the moment after loses and bad performances, fans would feel like it’s time for Jackett to go. I’ve felt that a few times this season. When cooler heads prevailed, I’ve realised sacking Jackett would be suicide. Owners and fans want results, and if they are not coming, the want changed. In the four years Jackett has improved the team’s fortunes. From League One relegation fodder to visiting Wembley in consecutive years, getting to and winning a play-off final; something the club had never previously done.
Another frustration is the defensive side to Millwall this season. Either excellent or shaky, no middle ground to describe the defensive plight. The once impenetrable back-line has been breached far too often this season. Last campaign Millwall had the third best defence in the league, behind promoted QPR and Swansea. The problem in the back four’s inability is hard to fathom, but this needs to be sorted once again if we are to avoid the drop back into the abyss that is League One.
One thing that is becoming clearer to me, that hasn’t been that much of an issue before, is the performances of David Forde. Others have been slating him for a while but I’ve thought it may have been down to a bad day at the office.
However seeing the team struggle, for the first time with Forde in goal, it’s becoming more obvious.
While in previous years we have had solid seasons defensively and Forde hasn’t been tested anywhere near as much as this season, he has dealt with things well when called into question.
This season, I’ve seen him make more mistakes and more frequently. Brighton away; 2-1 up last minute, Kezenga Lua Lua takes a free-kick and Forde spills it to drop two valuable points. Reading at home; 1-0 up a poor punch into the path of Hal Robson-Kanu, and indecisiveness in coming to the ball cost us a second goal. Losing to Reading 2-1 after going a goal up at home is disappointing.
When Millwall are doing well Forde’s cracks are masked, when we aren’t doing so well, I’m afraid, his errors are highlighted more and are becoming more costly as the season goes on. He can’t become a bad goalkeeper overnight; he is a Republic of Ireland international – this could just be an off season. However it’s costing us more and more. With less than 15 games left, that too needs to be resolved.
The table doesn’t lie, but we have played well and competed valiantly in many games this season, the luck seems to be against us.
As it stands we are six points above the drop zone. The next six fixtures are season defining.
I still remain optimistic that we will survive, just. If survival is achieved then the summer will see a change in many personnel to make sure this doesn’t happen next season. Yet remain fully behind the manager to steer us away from the drop zone.
Millwall have five of the bottom seven to play, and I feel this is to the advantage of the Lions. Away form is picking up and helping us more than current home form, so with five away games to the bottom sides I can see performances and points being of a standard to pull us over the line.
It’s going to be a scrap to the very end of the season with teams like Peterborough and Watford not out of the woods yet, and the introduction of Portsmouth to the relegation dogfight.
If we can perform during the rest of the season the same way we played against Brighton, Barnsley and Burnley – all of which were games away from The Den, we will be fine. If the home form version of Millwall turns up too often like in games against Birmingham, Watford and the first half against Middlesbrough, there will be trouble ahead.
Kenny will save us; the majority of fans have backed him and never turned against him when we were a fixture of the bottom three.
You could call it a rally cry, but it’s anything but. Millwall supporters will back their club, when times get hard, and we are the underdog, the Lions roar. Keep the faith, show support and the team will respond. This is a time for, as Michael Calvin would put it; “Real ‘wall”.
We can stay up, I think we will. But the players need support on the pitch. The fans haven’t turned so far, and the longer it stays that way the better chance we have of staying up.
In Kenny we trust.
Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger
Dagenham and Redbridge haven’t done too badly in this season’s FA Cup; they have beaten Bath City and Walsall, both after drawing the first games. Walsall was another penalty shoot out success, which John Still’s men seem to be very good at this year, but I can’t see it going anywhere near to penalties on Saturday.
Reward for the Daggers’ cup endeavours is a home tie against Millwall. Not who I would have liked to get if I’m totally honest, their reputation precedes them and with our closeness to West Ham United it’s certainly not ideal, but I would have loved a Premier League side. No disrespect to Millwall but every club at our level hopes of getting a Manchester United or Liverpool at home, don’t they? We are no different and why should we be.
The FA Cup holds special memories for me, I remember the days when anyone could win it, not just the top four as its been for the best part of the last decade, another knock-on effect of the Sky era and Champions League money. I remember watching Coventry beat Spurs, Wimbledon stopping Liverpool doing the double, Wrexham beating Arsenal with Mickey Thomas getting a last minute goal, and the Daggers own exploits down the years – Charlton, Ipswich, and who says they cant beat Millwall?
They have a punchers chance, the guy who gets written off but has that one almighty knock out blow in his arsenal, he stands there getting battered round after round, and then when his opponent thinks he’s moving in for the kill, he lands the blow that shocks a nation. That is what the FA Cup means to clubs like mine.
It’s us, the underdog, against the big boys. A team made up of journeymen and young lads, fighting against teams with four times the fan base and money, who may, just may be able for one day live like kings and sip at the cup of glory.
There will be a few changes to the side which has played so well in the league in the last few weeks, and especially at Christmas. Injuries have forced two of them with Peter Gain and Kevin Maher both being out for up to six to eight weeks, although Abu Ogogo will return from his suspension. I would expect Christian Montano, the West Ham loanee, to miss the game as his loan is due to end soon. He’s been an excellent signing for since he’s been here and I would love him to stay for the season, but unfortunately I can’t see that happening.
Mark Arber has recently played his first game since his hernia operation but Saturday will be too early for him, a shame because the side will needs his experience sooner rather than later. Michael Spillane has joined on an 18 month contract; a great bit of business by the club once again as it adds to the overall strength of the squad. Spillane has been bought in to cover the absence of Arber and has played superbly at centre half alongside Scott Doe. However, the quicker the captain returns with his experience the better I’ll feel.
Up front Brian Woodall has to start – he’s hit a very good run of form, scoring goals and is very humble about the whole thing. Coming from as far down the non-league scale as he did, he took a while to settle which was to be expected, but since scoring against Bath in the First Round he’s been on fire. Another John Still gem.
I would expect a line-up like this - Lewington; Femi, Doe, Spillane, Rose; Green, Bingham, Ogogo, Nurse; Woodall, Scott. That side will give an out of form Millwall a real go on Saturday, and who knows we may even win to taste the magic of the cup for just a little longer.
Written by Anthony Hodgson, We Are Going Up’s Dagenham & Redbridge Blogger
Yes, you read that right – Millwall have indeed won a game! It wasn’t your quintessential scruffy 1-0 smash and grab either, far from it. The result was well and truly deserved, and the performance was sublime – Millwall hadn’t won away all season, and hadn’t tasted victory since beating Nottingham Forest 2-0 at the Den on August 13th.
It is The Lions’ second win of the season, coincidently they have both come against former two England managers!
A hard fought point away to Middlesbrough and a point at home to Brighton were decent results against high flying opposition after the international break. A corner had seemingly been turned. If only slightly.After these matches it was a trip to big spending Leicester City on Saturday with even the most optimistic Lions fan struggling to see points to be gained, the eventual outcome was even harder to fathom. Prior to kick-off hearing the announcer name the Leicester starting eleven, most Lions fans questioned if their side would even get a point, but money cannot buy you everything!
A Darius Henderson hat-trick (I’m not making this up) was the icing on the cake in what was a perfect performance, the big target man got his first from the spot, and his second came just before halftime.
The second was crucial, going in at the break only one goal up would have been great, doubling the lead was deserved and needed. Leicester would have come out stronger in the second period had they been trailing by the one goal, and maybe pegged Millwall back. The second was an insurance.
A 2-0 lead isn’t a safe scoreline by any means, so when Liam Feeney’s 68th minute corner was headed in by Henderson to make it three and complete his treble, the game was safe.
To a man, Millwall performed like their nickname. Solid in defence, creative in midfield and clinical up front.
Compare that to the lacklustre performance from Sven’s men, and you would have thought the two teams were in the opposite situation.Leicester did assert pressure and press at 2-0 down, but the Millwall defence was impenetrable. £35,000-a-week man, Jermaine Beckford was subbed off at half time after, like he was for Leeds, non-existent against Millwall. Lloyd Dyer came on in his place and made more of an impact, but it wasn’ the Foxes’ day.
If Kenny Jackett is reading this (big fan! Keep it up!) signing Brian Howard on a permanent basis is key. He has calmness in abundance and is very creative on the ball, his experience is something the midfield have lacked this season. Against Leicester he won the penalty and dictated the direction of Millwall’s attack, he would certainly be a great addition to the squad.
Performance aside, the surprise of the day was the forgotten man, Jack Smith. All Millwall fans know how good the defender is, and barring the injuries he has had, should be a first team regular. After today’s performance, I think that will be the case. A right-back by trade and even an auxiliary centre-back, Smith found himself at left-back but played admirably. This has been somewhat of a problem position for Kenny Jackett this season, playing Tony Craig, Jordan Stewart and most recently Scott Barron in the position. In all honesty none have impressed, until today.
Smith was coolness personified on the ball all afternoon, bringing it out from the back with composure. Solid in defence and showed purpose to get forward, he was arguably Millwall’s best full back who did his chances the world of good in what was a vintage performance. He plays so nonchalantly and I feel he is underrated.
Nothing was going to get past Millwall at the King Power stadium, it was the day of the underdog.
The win was long overdue and it was a performance to be proud of.
Leicester have the money, but that can’t buy team spirit and togetherness. A side of individuals or a crafted team? I know which I’d prefer!
In KJ we trust!
Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger
The international break comes at the perfect time for a struggling Millwall side. Without a win in eight games and only one solitary goal in that run, Kenny Jackett’s men are sitting second bottom of the Championship. Poor refereeing decisions, bad luck and injuries have all played their part but the performances have been lacking.
A lack of goals has been the main problem in tandem with not being able to keep them out. Last season Millwall had the third best defensive record in the whole league, behind champions QPR and play-off winners Swansea City. However so far this season the Lions have shipped goals for fun. In their last six games they have conceded nine goals and scored only one; something that must be put right and fast.
A handful of striker combinations have been tried to get the much-needed goals but as of yet, none have worked. Bringing back former loanee Jay Simpson from Hull was a move that excited Lions fans. Despite this we are still to see the Jay Simpson that won Player of the Year in League One during the 2007/08 campaign. His performances have epitomised how the team has been as of late.
In my eyes there seems to be a lack of fight and ‘Millwall spirit’ amongst the players, as if the changing room isn’t at ease like last season. This could be having an effect on the team, as with each defeat and flat performance confidence and morale get shattered.
Inevitably this season was going to be compared to the previous campaign, the benchmark was set and fully expected to be equalled or bettered this time around. Sadly so far it has been more of a stagnant and slow start with just one win against fellow early season strugglers Nottingham Forest. Since then it has been three draws and five defeats for Jackett’s side, including three losses on the bounce, the latest a 1-0 home defeat to Eddie Howe’s Burnley side.
In the first half Millwall were playing with a high tempo for the opening 20 minutes, then the pace dropped, and so did the performance. A lull in the Lions’ concentration was pounced upon at a Burnley corner. The ball played in to Jay Rodriguez whose effort on target was, to be fair, a pea roller but it beat everyone in the box and even David Forde who only got a hand to what would be the only goal of the game.
Millwall’s second half performance was a lot more positive, putting much more pressure on the visitors. However a contentious offside decision ruled out a goal and a penalty appeal was turned down to sum up Millwall’s afternoon. Simply put, they lack goals and the defence is vunerable.
The second half against Burnley was one of the better performances seen recently, besides the goal the visitors did not cause Millwall many problems and the pressure the home side built up during the second 45 should have culminated in a goal but untimely, it didn’t.
Darius Henderson, the experienced front man was out again and he was sorely missed. A player that can stick up top and stay there, which will bring others into play will be a great addition to the team after the international break, which resumes away to Middlesbrough.
In light of recent form, the gloom and doom merchants have risen up and are making their voices heard. Some are blaming the board for not investing enough, others the players’ attitude and even for Kenny Jackett to be sacked – which in my eyes would be ludicrous and potentially suicidal.
Removing the Championship’s longest serving manager is a non-starter. There are not many managers Millwall could get to replace him, in terms of the success he has had, or even on the club’s financial budgets. Mr Jackett is undoubtedly the best man and only man for the Millwall hot seat.
I feel is a complete lack of confidence running throughout the side and they are not doing things instinctively. Collectively they are thinking about things too much and not wanting to over commit. These are simple things that with confidence will become easier to pull off and lead to more free-flowing football rather than rigid, protective play and hopefully results too.
The acquisition of Brian Howard on loan from Reading is a good move. Coolness personified when on the ball, his experience will be vital when things get rowdy in the middle of the park. Looking to the possible grim future, his experience will be needed should Millwall face a relegation battle. Howard’s no-frills approach, coupled with incisive runs off the ball give the team more control in midfield. He will hopefully turn out to be an integral part of the squad beyond his initial three-month loan.
The international break provides a good opportunity for Millwall to go back to the drawing board and spend time on the training ground to sort out the faults and bring back winning form which is desperately needed.
Sooner or later, they have to break their duck and pick up three vital points.
All good things come to those who wait. Millwall, we are all waiting.
In KJ we trust!
Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger
As the away side in a football match, you are expected to keep things tight and make life difficult for your hosts. More often than not a well-fought draw will do and if you pick up a close victory, even better.
Thrashings in football aren’t a regular occurrence but they do happen. However it is rare when the visiting team hands out a pasting to their hosts. Last week Andy Hessenthaler’s Gillingham did just that with a 6-1 victory at League Two strugglers Hereford United, so today Toppo’s Top Ten looks at those occasions where the visiting team has a field-day in front of goal, leaving the home fans heading for the exits early.
10: Burnley 2 Sheffield Wednesday 7 2003
Sheffield Wednesday were already relegated by the time they travelled to Turf Moor for a Division One fixture in 2003 – you wouldn’t have known it though looking at the final score.
Paul McLaren opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range effort which Burnley goalkeeper Nic Michopoulous failed to save. Two minutes later Ashley Westwood added a second with a close-range tap-in Brian Barry-Murphy’s cross. Defender Richard Wood made it 3-0 to Wednesday, his first senior goal coming minutes after Burnley striker Ian Moore was sent off.
Burnley manager Stan Ternent hauled off the goalkeeper replacing him with sub-goalie Marlon Beresford and the Clarets pulled one back through a Robbie Blake penalty but in truth it was a miserable first half for the hosts and things didn’t improve. A minute after the break, Richard Evans beat Beresford with a cross-cum-shot from 35 yards before Blake made it 4-2 with a left-footed drive.
Chris Turner’s Wednesday quickly restored their three goal advantage as Steven Haslam scored from Alan Quinn’s free-kick and within seven minutes they scored again. Burnley’s French defender Artur Gnohere put Grant Holt’s cross past his own goalkeeper before the travelling Owls capped off a memorable afternoon, Quinn hitting an excellent 30-yard drive past Beresford for an 7-2 success.
9: Crewe Alexandra 1 Coventry City 6 2002
In February 2002, Coventry City visited Dario Gradi’s Crewe Alexandra in a Division One fixture where the hosts had a shocker. The Sky Blues were still harbouring hopes of a play-off spot while Crewe went into the match having won their last four games in a row. By the end of this 90 minutes though there was only one emphatic winner.
The first goal came on 37 minutes when a Lee Hughes cross was spooned into the air by Alex goalkeeper Ademole Bankole and Laurent Delorge knocked it into the net. Crewe equalised in injury time when Shaun Smith curled in a corner and Rob Hulse powered a near-post header into the back of the net, but seconds later Coventry were back in front when £5 million signing Hughes turned Steve Foster before driving in a curled shot from 15 yards.
Two minutes after the break striker Hughes made it 3-1 as he beat Bankole to the ball, nodding home Lee Mills’ flick-on from a long throw-in. After the Crewe defence failed to clear a cross ten minutes later, Hughes saw his shot blocked but it fell to Delorge who slammed it home to extend the visitors’ lead.
Midfielder David Thompson made it 5-1 after a mix-up in the Crewe backline and then with 20 minutes to go Hughes completed his hat-trick as he ran onto Thompson’s through ball, outmuscled Efe Sodje and Bankole before finishing easily. Gradi hauled ‘keeper Bankole off, replacing him with Clayton Ince but by then the damage had well and truly been done.
8: Hereford United 1 Gillingham 6 2011
Hereford United have made a poor start to the League Two campaign this season and their misery was compounded last week as Gillingham inflicted a 6-1 home reversal on them.
West Ham loanee Frank Nouble opened the scoring after good interplay with Chris Whelpdale before Garry Richards made it two five minutes later, his looping header beating Bulls ‘keeper Dave Cornell from Danny Jackman’s cross. Luke Rooney scored the Gills’ third on 38 minutes as his driven cross-cum-shot deflected off a home defender and into the net.
3-0 down at the break and things didn’t get better for Hereford as Jackman netted a fourth for Gillingham three minutes after the restart as he curled an excellent effort into the top corner of the net from wide on the left. Hereford missed a penalty midway through the second period but it was Gillingham who scored again, Whelpdale’s low effort bobbling over the diving Cornell and in.
On 82 minutes the visitors added a sixth when Stefan Payne netted his first senior goal with a strike from 20 yards but Hereford did salvage some pride, as with three minutes to go as Sam Winnall powered home a free-kick from 25 yards. Despite that it was the Bulls’ worst home defeat since returning to the Football League.
7: Millwall 1 Watford 6 2010
Millwall went into this Championship encounter against Watford proudly defending a ten month unbeaten record at home, but the Hornets ended that run in style.
John Eustace bundled home Don Cowie’s corner after seven minutes to give Watford the lead, which Jordon Mutch extended six minutes later, lashing the ball into the back of David Forde’s net after seeing his first effort blocked. Marvin Sordell’s left-footed effort two minutes into first-half stoppage time tricked over the line and saw Millwall 3-0 down at the break.
Nine minutes after the restart another Cowie corner led to a Watford goal as Adrian Mariappa headed the visitors into a four goal lead. Liam Trotter reduced arrears two minutes later but soon after Danny Graham rifled a powerful finish into the top corner to restore the four goal cushion for Malky Mackay’s side. They made it 6-1 added time as Martin Taylor directed a header low into the bottom corner to compound Millwall’s misery.
6: Reading 0 Bristol Rovers 6 1999
Having moved to the new £50 million Madejski Stadium in August 1998, four months later Reading put in one of the worst performances seen at the ground as they slumped to a 6-0 home defeat at the hands of Bristol Rovers.
The Division Two fixture in January 1999 saw Rovers’ pick up one of their best-ever away victories while The Royals were left embarrassed, particularly when the half-time score was 0-0. In the second half Jamie Cureton ran onto a through ball and slotted a composed finish beyond the advancing Reading goalkeeper for 1-0. The striker then made it two from the penalty spot and soon completed his hat-trick, knocking in after a defensive mix-up between Elroy Kromkeer and Chris Casper. Jason Roberts then set up strike parter Cureton for his fourth goal – all of them coming within the space of 20 minutes.
More poor home defending allowed Roberts, a £250,000 summer signing from Wolverhampton Wanderers, to score twice and make it 6-0 to Ian Holloway’s men.
5: Bradford City 0 Portsmouth 5 2003
On their way to the Division One title and promotion to the Premier League in 2003, Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth travelled to Valley Parade in their final league match, where they hammered Bradford City 5-0.
Italian defender Gianluca Festa marked his final appearance for Pompey with a goal, his left-footed shot beating City goalkeeper Aidan Davidson to open the scoring. Svetoslav Todorov hit a quick-fire double after the break to make it 3-0 and was then felled by Bantams defender David Wetherall in the box for a penalty.
The Bulgarian striker stepped up and converted the spot-kick to complete a ten-minute hat-trick. Former England winger Steve Stone finished off the rout on 67 minutes with a well-struck right foot shot to give Pompey only their second victory at Valley Parade in 14 attempts and the best possible preparation for life in the top flight.
4: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 8 1994
Plymouth Argyle made the long trip north to Hartlepool United for a Third Division clash in May 1994 and left Victoria Park with all three points and a hatful of goals scored. Dwight Marshall set the visitors on their way with a 29th minute strike and Steve McCall added a second ten minutes later. Richard Landon and Paul Dalton made it 4-0 at half-time and there was no let-up after the break as Landon hit number five. Steve Castle added yet another goal before Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Peverell grabbed a consolation effort with 20 minutes remaining. Landon completed his hat-trick on 77 minutes to restore Argyle’s six goal advantage and midfielder Paul Dalton completed the scoring with a minute to go, as the Devon side racked up a remarkable 8-1 away win.
3: Oldham Athletic 1 Cardiff City 7 2002
Division Two promotion rivals Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City met at Boundary Park in March 2002, where it was the visitors who prevailed by some scoreline.
Veteran Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram played for Oldham the club between 1981 and 1987 and was brought in by boss Mick Wadsworth to resolve a goalkeeping crisis for this match, but he found himself conceding seven goals. Scott Young put the Bluebirds ahead early on before Leo Fortune-West and Peter Thorne gave them a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.
Andy Campbell made it four half an hour in before Oldham’s Matty Appleby was sent off. Fortune-West hit the fifth and his second of the afternoon just before half-time and after the break striker Campbell completed his hat-trick, netting in the 64th and 73rd minutes. Stuart Balmer pulled a goal back for Oldham, a mere consolation sixteen minutes from the end which did little to gloss over a very poor performance from the Lancashire outfit.
2: Torquay United 1 Scunthorpe United 8 1995
In October 1995 Scunthorpe United equalled their club-record victory as they thrashed a lacklustre Torquay United 8-1 at Plainmoor. Torquay had made the Division Three playoffs the season before but lost in the semi-finals to Preston North End, however they suffered a play-off hangover at the start of the 1995/96 campaign which culminated with the 8-1 reversal at the hands of the Iron.
Future Torquay striker Andy MacFarlane caught the eye as he netted four goals but the manner of the defeat hit Torquay chairman Mike Bateson hard, admitting he could have sacked the vast majority of the players who took to the field for the game. Instead he relieved manager Don O’Riordan of his duties in a bid to turn around the club’s fortunes. See the goals from the game in the clip below.
1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 2009
Colchester United manager Paul Lambert inspired his side to a remarkable 7-1 win at newly-relegated Norwich City on the first day of the 2009/10 League One season, putting himself in the frame for the manager’s job at Carrow Road in the process.
As Norwich City began life in the third tier for the first time in half a century, no one saw this result coming. Kevin Lisbie gave the U’s the lead after ten minutes, Clive Platt netted twice, David Fox netted from a free-kick and Lisbie found the net again as Norwich were 5-0 down within 38 minutes. Cody McDonald netted for the Canaries after the break but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s close-range finish made it 7-1 to the visitors – a fantastic performance from Lambert’s side inflicting Norwich’s heaviest home defeat in their 109 year history.
Norwich sacked manager Bryan Gunn within a week of the thrashing and turned to the man who helped deliver it, Lambert being appointed Norwich boss soon after. He galvanised the Norfolk outfit and led them to promotion as Champions, before embarking on a memorable season the following campaign as the Canaries finished 2nd in the Championship to secure Premier League football for the first time since 2005.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger
Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens
In previous weeks, Millwall boss Kenny Jackett has highlighted his forward line as an area of weakness.
The departure of Steve Morison didn’t seem to have affected the club in pre season, but five games into the new campaign (and after a 0-0 draw at home to widely tipped strugglers Barnsley) it was clear something had to be done. There’s commitment and heart in abundance, but in the final third that cutting edge has been lacking, the final ball not quite there. The squad is also weaker than last season. Case in point: 17-year-old forward Aiden O’Brien making the bench for the first time at the weekend.
With the fans calling for signings, Jackett could see too that reinforcements were needed to give Millwall some firepower up front. The first signing on deadline day was Dany N’Guessan, signing on a permanent three year deal from Leicester after impressing during the early stages of his loan spell at The Den. In hitting the winner in the Carling Cup first round and setting up a vital second goal in the league against Forest, he has shown promise of fulfilling his potential and being the quick, powerful front man that the Lions have lacked in recent times.
24-year old Liam Feeney also penned a three year deal after making the switch from south-coast side Bournemouth for an undisclosed fee, reported to be roughly £200,000. From what I can remember, Feeney was impressive in the League One play-off semi final last season, despite eventually missing a penalty in the shoot-out defeat against Huddersfield.
Both deadline day signings are a welcome addition to Millwall’s struggling forward line; Feeney has good technical ability and N’Guessan the power. Two deadline day deals completed, only the one to go – however the return to The Den of former Millwall loanee Jay Simpson was dependant on other deals going through.
First off, Leicester had to sign a striker to replace the outgoing Martyn Waghorn (who left for Hull), before Nigel Pearson could release Simpson to go back on loan to the Lions. Despite Sven signing Jermaine Beckford from Everton, the 11pm deadline passed without any confirmation of the deal, leaving many fans worried that the move wouldn’t go ahead. Shortly after 11pm a deal was confirmed to bring Simpson back to South London.
Speaking to the official site (www.millwallfc.co.uk) Simpson said: “It’s like coming home. I am delighted to be back at Millwall because I had a great time here on loan earlier in my career. It has been a long week but I’m just glad the deal has gone through in time. I think it went through at 10.58 last night!”.
Before August 31st, the Lions’ attacking options were threadbare, now they have added strength in depth and increased competition for places. Jackett is blessed with options he hasn’t had this season. Selection headaches in Kenny’s forward line are a wonderful thing, and hopefully will make Millwall a more potent force in the final third for the foreseeable future.
N’Guessan should be fit for the visit for Birmingham on September 11th, with Feeney also set to make his debut and Simpson taking his second Lions bow. All three will improve the squad and add raw pace and goals to the team. Oh, and as a baptism of fire for Feeney and Simpson, their first home game as Millwall players will be against the club’s dearly loved London rivals West Ham.
I am more optimistic about the season ahead now, and hopefully the three additions will pay dividends. Jackett was backed fully by the board so it all looks rosy again down SE16; he just needs the results now.
In KJ we trust!
Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger
After Peterborough United’s 7-1 demolition job over Ipswich Town on Saturday, it is only fitting that this week’s top ten takes a look at some other big victories in Football League history.
Football is all about putting the ball into the opposition’s net and the vast majority of league fixtures will be settled by a couple of goals at the most. Sometimes there are dull, drab affairs with little goalmouth action, however occasionally there are matches which go against the norm.
Defences go walkabout while attacking sides run riot, having the sort of goal-gluttinous day they can only dream about. One goal quickly turns to two, two to three, three to four…..you get the picture. As one team bangs them in, the other looks on in bemusement and suffers complete embarassment. Such games go down in folklore – for the winning team anyway. Here’s ten memorable games from the Football League where one of the sides involved went goal-crazy:
10: Portsmouth 6 Leicester City 1 2010
Seven games into last season, both Portsmouth and Leicester found themselves nestled at the wrong end of the Championship table. Pompey, under new boss Steve Cotterill, were attempting to rebuild after Premier League relegation months before, amid financial woes which saw Cotterill working with a small, depleted squad. Leicester, having finished in the play-off spots the season before also had a new man in charge, Paolo Sousa, but the Portugese only picked up five points from his first seven matches and it was about to get worse for The Foxes.
Having beaten Pompey in the Carling Cup a few days previously, Leicester stayed on the South Coast ahead of this Friday night fixture, which got off to a bad start as centre-back Michael Morrison handled the ball in the box ten minutes in, Liam Lawrence converting the resulting penalty. Lawrence added a second twelve minutes before the break and as the teams headed off at half-time with the score 2-0, few could have predicted what would happen during the next 45 minutes.
Thirteen minutes into the second half David Nugent’s finish from a tight angle made it 3-0 then the striker turned provider for Dave Kitson, as he set up the former Reading man who netted with a chipped effort. Down to ten men after Migel Vitor rugby-tackled Nugent during the first period, Leicester’s defending went array follwoing Steve Howard’s consolation goal for 4-1. Kitson grabbed his second after the Foxes failed to clear a corner and then Michael Brown went on a sauntering run from midfield before slotting home from an acute angle to make the score 6-1. Leicester were humbled and Sousa was axed not long after with former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson arriving to steer the East Midlanders to mid-table safety come the end of the season.
9: Burnley 2 Sheffield Wednesday 7 2003
This game involved a side already relegated from Division One. Neutrals looking at the scoreline would’ve thought that team were Burnley, instead it was Sheffield Wednesday, doomed to the drop, who would sign off their campaign in the second tier with a thumping victory at Turf Moor.
Paul McLaren opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range effort which Burnley goalkeeper Nic Michopoulous failed to save. Two minutes later Ashley Westwood added a second with a close-range tap-in from the brilliantly named Brian Barry-Murphy’s left-wing cross. It got worse for the hosts as Ian Moore was sent off on 21 minutes for a cynical challenge on Barry-Murphy.
Defender Richard Wood made it 3-0 to Wednesday, his first senior goal coming as he volleyed home Grant Holt’s header. Burnley manager Stan Ternent hauled off Michopoulous, replacing him with sub-goalie Marlon Beresford. The Clarets pulled one back through a Robbie Blake penalty but the substitution failed to stem the flow of goals. A minute after the break, Richard Evans beat Beresford with a cross-cum-shot from 35 yards before Blake pegged The Owls back again with a left-footed drive.
Chris Turner’s side quickly restored their three goal advantage as Steven Haslam scored from Alan Quinn’s free-kick and within seven minutes they had another. Burnley’s French defender Artur Gnohere put Grant Holt’s cross past his own goalkeeper before Wednesday set the seal on their performance as Quinn hit an excellent 30-yard drive past Beresford for an unexpected 7-2 away win.
8: Oldham Athletic 1 Cardiff City 7 2002
In the 2001/02 season both Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City were gunning for promotion from Division Two and the sides met at Boundary Park in March 2002, where Cardiff sent out a real statement of intent, leaving their hosts stunned.
It was a nightmare return to the Latics for veteran Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram. He played for the club between 1981 and 1987 and was brought in by boss Mick Wadsworth to resolve a goalkeeping crisis, which he could not solve as he shipped seven goals. Scott Young put the Bluebirds ahead early on before Leo Fortune-West and Peter Thorne gave them a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.
Andy Campbell made it four half an hour in before Oldham’s Matty Appleby was sent off making his side’s day even worse. Fortune-West hit the fifth and his second of the afternoon just before half-time and after the break striker Campbell completed his hat-trick, netting in the 64th and 73rd minutes. Stuart Balmer pulled a goal back for Oldham, a mere consolation sixteen minutes from the end which did little to hide the total embarassment his side suffered.
7: Nottingham Forest 7 Swindon Town 1 2006
After Nottingham Forest suffered relegation into League One in 2005 they struggled to adapt to life in the third tier under manager Gary Megson. A series of humbling defeats at the likes of Yeovil and Oldham saw Megson leave by mutual consent in February with the team 13th in the table, four points off relegation. Assistant manager Frank Barlow and coach Ian McParland jointly took charge until the end of the season and resided over an fantastic run which nearly saw the Reds reach the playoffs as they won 8, drew 4 and lost 1 of the pair’s 13 games in charge. The highlight came during their second match in the dugout as the Reds ran riot against Swindon Town.
Nicky Southall bagged a hat-trick as the Reds stuck seven past their visitors at the City Ground, Southall opening the scoring just three minutes in with a half-volley which flew into the top corner. Wes Morgan and Ian Breckin nodded home corners to make the score 3-0 before the half-hour mark. After the break Swindon continued to ship goals as Forest’s passing football and the pace of Nathan Tyson down the left stretched them, Southall heading home his second goal before rifling home from close-range to complete his hat-trick. Morgan scored his second from another corner before Jerel Ifil received his marching orders for Swindon.
Football League journeyman Trevor Benjamin netted a consolation for The Robins, but Forest finished off the rout as Jack Lester’s deflected effort looped into the net to complete a memorable afternoon’s football for the Reds.
6: Preston North End 6 Cardiff City 0 2009
Two teams hoping to secure Championship play-off spots met at Deepdale in April 2009 and while the result may not have instantly affected Cardiff’s chances of a top-six finish, come the end of the season they would go on to rue their heavy defeat.
Neil Mellor opened the scoring on 17 minutes as his strike deflected into the net off Cardiff defender Roger Johnson then made it two on 41 as he got the final touch to another deflected effort, this time from captain Paul McKenna. Billy Jones then conceded a penalty, offering the Bluebirds a chance to get back into the game, but Ross McCormack saw his spot-kick superbly saved by Andy Lonergan.
In the second half Jon Parkin made it 3-0 as he raced onto Mellor’s pass and slotted a composed finish beyond the on-rushing Stuart Taylor and Mellor contributed to Preston’s fourth as his cross was headed into his own net by Mark Kennedy. Mellor was soon replaced but the goals kept coming as sub Chris Brown headed a fifth with fifteen minutes to go and Lee Williamson completed the scoring, making it a 6-0 thrashing four minutes from the end.
On the final day of the season Preston beat QPR 2-1 while Cardiff lost 1-0 against Sheffield Wednesday leaving the two sides level on points and a goal difference each of +12. By virtue of goals scored it was Preston who occupied the final play-off place having scored 66 goals to Cardiff’s 65 – an agonising near miss from Dave Jones’ men courtesy of that 6-0 defeat.
5: Millwall 1 Watford 6 2010
Newly-promoted Millwall went into this Championship encounter against Watford proudly defending a ten month unbeaten record at home. Ironic then that their defenders went missing as the Hornets racked up an unexpected five-goal win at the New Den in September last year.
John Eustace bundled home Don Cowie’s corner after seven minutes to give Watford the lead, which Jordon Mutch extended six minutes later, lashing the ball into the back of David Forde’s net after seeing his first effort blocked. Marvin Sordell’s left-footed effort rolled over the line two minutes into first-half stoppage time leaving Millwall 3-0 down at the break.
Nine minutes after the restart another Cowie corner was not dealt with by the Lions and Adrian Mariappa took advantage, heading Watford into a four goal lead. Liam Trotter reduced it to three two minutes later but that was as good as it got for the hosts, Danny Graham rifling a powerful finish into the top corner to restore the four goal cushion for Malky Mackay’s side. They got a sixth in added time as Martin Taylor directed a header low into the bottom corner to compound Millwall’s misery.
4: Peterborough United 7 Ipswich Town 1 2011
Darren Ferguson returned to London Road midway through last season and steered them to promotion via the League One play-offs. He’s done it before in 2009 but as was well-publicised, he left the club a few games into the Championship season which saw Posh relegated amid a host of managerial changes. You sense the club has learned from that experience, Ferguson too from his unsuccessful time as Preston boss and all parties are better for it now. At the weekend they hosted Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town and blew them away with a performance which has made the rest of the league sit up and take notice. The loss of 35-goal man Craig Mackail-Smith to Brighton left some fearing whether Posh would have the firepower to compete in the second tier but with Paul Taylor, Lee Tomlin, and Grant McCann finding the net they have goals in the team. It was the visitors who went in front though as midfielder Keith Andrews slammed a 25-yard effort in off the post. Paul Taylor levelled with a fine volley from the edge of the area and Tomlin made it 2-1, chesting down a lofted ball forward, skillfully turning away from his marker and hitting an excellent shot into the far top corner. Taylor then pounced on a loose ball and sprinted away from the Ipswich defenders before slotting a composed finish past goalkeeper David Stockdale. Soon it was 4-1 as Tomlin grabbed his second, running onto McCann’s superb through ball and cooly rolling the ball through the ‘keeper’s legs.
Ipswich winger Lee Martin then saw red for a rash challenge on Mark Little and the controversial decisions continued as, 71 seconds after the break, Town subsitute Tommy Smith was sent off for bringing down Tomlin in the D, outside the penalty area. Despite that, the referee gave a penalty which McCann stepped up and scored with applom. Ten minutes after the break it was six as Lee Frecklington’s low cross was converted, via a deflection, by McCann for his second. In injury time the impressive Tomlin completed his hat-trick, following up on his cleared effort to make it 7-1, leaving Ipswich boss Paul Jewell reflecting on what he called an ‘embarassing’ defeat.
3: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 8 1994
This Third Division clash in May 1994 saw a relegated side host a promoted one and the gulf in class was easy to see, Plymouth Argyle thrashing United as they looked forward to a place in the third tier. Dwight Marshall set the visitors on their way with a 29th minute strike and Steve McCall added a second ten minutes later. Richard Landon and Paul Dalton made it 4-0 at half-time and there was no let-up after the break as Landon hit number 5. Steve Castle added yet another goal before Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Peverell grabbed a consolation effort with 20 minutes remaining. Landon completed his hat-trick on 77 minutes to restore Argyle’s six goal advantage and midfielder Paul Dalton completed the scoring with a minute to go, as the Devon side racked up a remarkable 8-1 away win.
2: Crewe Alexandra 8 Cheltenham Town 1 2010
One of the stand-out performances in the Football League last year came at the Alexandra Stadium as Crewe Alexandra decimated visitors Cheltenham, hitting eight goals as they chased a play-off place.
Clayton Donaldson opened the scoring for the hosts four minutes in, slotting home from Shaun Miller’s pass. The latter then added the second as he tapped in from Danny Shelley’s pass before Shelley laid on the third for Donaldson. Joel Grant made it four just before half-time and Cheltenham pulled one back after the break, Wesley Thomas with a close-range finish. Alexandra midfielder Ashley Westwood scored his side’s fifth as he converted Matt Tootle’s cross and Donaldson completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Steve Elliott handled in the area. Grant scored his second with a tap in and got his own treble with two minutes remaining as he netted Crewe’s second penalty of the match, awarded following a trip on Donaldson in the area. It would be a long trip home south for the travelling Cheltenham fans.
1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 2009
As Norwich City began life in the third tier for the first time in half a century, no one could have predicted their opening day result at home to Colchester United as the visitors secured a memorable 7-1 victory in front of a stunned Carrow Road.
Kevin Lisbie gave the U’s the lead after ten minutes, Clive Platt netted twice, David Fox netted from a free-kick and Lisbie found the net again as Norwich were 5-0 down within 38 minutes. Cody McDonald netted for the Canaries after the break but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s close-range finish made it 7-1 to the visitors – a fantastic performance from Paul Lambert’s side inflicting Norwich’s heaviest home defeat in their 109 year history.
Norwich sacked manager Bryan Gunn within a week of the thrashing and turned to the man who masterminded it, Lambert being appointed the new boss at Carrow Road. He galvanised the team and led them to promotion as Champions, before embarking on a memorable season the following campaign as the Canaries finished 2nd in the Championship to secure Premier League football for the first time since 2005.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up blogger
Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens.
After being sold to Norwich earlier in the transfer window, Lions fans could have been forgiven for thinking we wouldn’t score any goals. But in all honesty Steve Morison, so far, hasn’t been at all missed!
Instead, Lion’s fans are seeing the dawn of a new hero in SE16. Step up, Darius Henderson. The former Watford and Sheffield United target man has had a bright start in a Millwall shirt. Two goals in his first two games have helped Millwall up to fourth in the Championship; early days of course but an unbeaten start with plenty of positives.
Following a 2-2 draw on the opening day to play-off finalists Reading, manager Kenny Jackett bemoaned the lack of options on his bench. With Josh McQuoid injured and Shaun Batt still recovering from injury, attacking options were limited. 48 hours later and The Den boss brought in Leicester City forward Dany N’Guessan and he made an instant impact with the winner away to Plymouth in the Carling Cup.
Fast forward to Saturday and the failed England manager Steve McClaren arrived at the den with his Forest side that narrowly beat rivals Notts County on penalties in the League Cup during the week – prior to kick off, Millwall mascot Zampa the Lion paraded on the pitch with an umbrella to the amusement of many of the supporters in the ground.
In a game that the home side dominated, the win was just rewards for a determined performance against the not so Tricky Trees. For small spells in either half Forest kept the ball well, but in the final third there was no end product. The closest the visitor’s came was when USA international Robbie Findley hit the base of the post.
Seven minutes in and after heavy pressure from the off, the Lions broke the deadlock. James Henry whipped in a corner that was remarkably back heeled in from Henderson to the amazement of the Forest defence, and the goal scorer himself!
The second half, new signing N’Guessan came off the bench to pick up the ball in his own half and show great pace down the right wing to deliver a ball which fell into the path of Liam Trotter to stroke home from six yards to secure all three points.
Since joining Millwall, both N’Guessan and Henderson have shown signs of doing well at the club – both appear shrewd transfers, out of left-field from Kenny Jackett. If both can sustain fitness and form then both will prove to be very astute singings come later in the season.
Steve McClaren sarcastically thanked Millwall fans for the “fantastic welcome” he received on Saturday. McClaren, as well as every other manager, should know they will never get off lightly when they enter the Lion’s den. If come out the other side with a result, you know full well you have earned it.
Next up is newly promoted Peterborough, a team I know a little about. Being at university up there, I’ve had the opportunity to see a few of their Tuesday night fixtures. A win at home to Crystal Palace and then Stevenage in the Carling Cup gave the Posh the perfect start to the season. Darren Ferguson’s men fought bravely in a narrow 2-1 defeat to Blackpool last weekend for their first defeat of the season.
They are an organised team that score goals and create bundles of chances. With their gung-ho mentaility and strong centre back pairing of Gabby Zakuani and youngster Ryan Bennett, it will be a diffucult test for Kenny Jackett’s side.
The Posh are in a similar situation to us though, losing their top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith. An excellent player and a big loss. Having said that they don’t look like they have missed him so far, much like us with the sale of Morison.
Buoyed by promotion they will be looking to upset the Lions on their own patch. A few people I know, one in particular (you know who you are!) really want to beat us. I don’t fancy the stick I’ll get at uni if we lose, so it’s a must win for the Lions on Wednesday night! I predict a close game, but Millwall’s experience to shine through. A 2-1 win and another three precious points.
Every game in this division is difficult and we will have to be on our game again if we want to get more important early points on the board.
In KJ we trust!
Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger
The first day of the football season is always eagerly anticipated. The pitches are a lush green, the sun is shining and fans up and down the county are dreaming of a successful campaign, whether it be promotion or avoiding the drop. Nothing is decided on day one of course, but it is always good to get off to a winning start. Sometimes you can send out a statement of intent to your rivals or be caught in pre-season mode and find yourselves on the wrong end of a spanking. This week Toppo’s Top 10 looks at some of the more glorious and (for some) disasterous opening days in Football League history.
10: Bradford City 11 Rotherham United 1 – 1928
Kicking things off is an opening day defeat from nearly 80 years ago so bad it deserves a mention here. It was the first day of the 1928/29 Third Division (North) season with The Millers travelling 40 miles north to Valley Parade. They probably wished they hadn’t bothered as they returned home having been thrashed 11-1 – not surprisingly Bradford’s record home victory to date.
9: Queens Park Rangers 4 Barnsley 0 – 2010
Following a 13th placed Championship finish in 2009/10, QPR were placed amongst the favourites for promotion the season after, with Neil Warnock about to begin his first full season in charge and a squad assembled with bags of Championship experience. Warnock brought in eight new faces including Paddy Kenny, Shaun Derry, Jamie Mackie, Bradley Orr and the mercurial Moroccan Adel Taarabt, joining permanently from Tottenham having been on loan at Rangers the season before.
Barnsley were the visitors to Loftus Road as the season kicked-off on August 6th, 2010 and the Hoops dispatched their visitors with ease, setting the tone for the forthcoming campaign. Heidar Helguson put them in front from the penalty spot four minutes before the break, Mackie made it two and new captain Taarabt slotted home Rangers’ second penalty on 63 minutes for 3-0. The rout was completed when Hogan Ephraim laid on a tap in for Fitz Hall as Warnock’s side began the season in style, sitting top of the table. It was a position they would relinquish only twice during the campaign as they returned to the Premier League after 15 years away.
8: Notts County 5 Bradford City 0 – 2009
The summer of 2009 will go down as one of the most memorable in the history of Notts County. The club were taken over by Munto Finance, supposedly backed by mega-rich Middle Eastern owners who were going to take the Magpies into the Premier League within 5 seasons. Former England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson joined as Director of Football and after years in the doldrums, a bright new dawn had beckoned at Meadow Lane.
League Two County wasted no time assembling a squad capable of securing promotion, even bringing in former England defender Sol Campbell and Ian McParland’s men heralded the new era with a thumping display on the first day of the season. Ben Davies made it 1-0 on 17 minutes then new marksman Lee Hughes hit two in four minutes as Notts went 3-0 up by the break. Hughes secured a debut hat-trick from the penalty spot before Brendan Moloney’s fine solo strike capped off a fine team performance.
Unfortunately for County Munto’s takeover was based on false promises. The money was never forthcoming, Sol and Sven soon left and the club was on the brink of collapse. New owners came in to save the club who did get their promotion into League One at the end of a tumultuous campaign.
7: Walsall 4 West Bromwich Albion 1 – 2003
Paul Merson spent his latter playing career in Division One, helping Portsmouth to the title in 2003 before leaving to join Walsall, their fans hoping his magic touch could establish them as a force in the second tier. Merson’s debut could not have gone better, the ex-Arsenal man scoring a brace as the Saddlers demolished West Midlands rivals West Brom. Albion travelled to the Bescot on the opening day having just been relegated from the Premier League and Gary Megson’s plans for a swift return got off to the worst possible start.
A record crowd at the Bescot saw their side out of reach by half-time, Merson breaking the deadlock with a sweet right-foot volley which flew past Russell Hoult and into the top corner. The midfielder made it two with a drive which crashed in off the bar then just before half-time Jorge Leitao bagged number three as he tapped home after Simon Osborn’s shot hit the post. Former Wolves midfielder Steve Corica made the game safe 12 minutes after the break as Saddlers fans basked in the warm August sunshine, the only blot on their team’s day coming as Jason Koumas netted a consolation goal for Albion.
In February 2004 Merson was handed the manager’s role at Walsall following the sacking of Colin Lee but could not prevent the club from being relegated to Division Two on the final day of the season.
6: Chelsea 5 Derby County 0 – 1983
A game from back in the days when Chelsea were an second tier team! In the summer leading up to the 1983/84 season, Blues boss John Neal made several signings including Pat Nevin, Nigel Spackman, John Hollins and prolific frontman Kerry Dixon. The new faces inspired Neal’s side to a 5-0 demolition of Derby County on the season’s first day at Stamford Bridge.
Spackman put Chelsea ahead after just four minutes, Chris Walker made it two after the break and Chris Hutchings netted a third not long after. Dixon then plundered his first two Chelsea goals on 63 and 68 minutes to complete the rout. The win set the tone for Chelsea’s season as they finished top of the Second Division – with a 5-3 win at Fulham plus 5-0 victories over Leeds United and Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United along the way – Dixon top-scoring with 36 goals.
On paper a 2-1 win may not seem too remarkable but the significance of the day makes it a match few Seagulls fans will forget in a hurry. Since the club’s owners controversially sold the club’s Goldstone Ground in 1997, they have spent 14 years waiting for a new stadium to call home, playing their games at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium and the Withdean Stadium.
Construction finally began on a new ground in 2008 and earlier this year the club were finally handed the keys to the £100 million AMEX Stadium ahead of the 2011/12 campaign. Gus Poyet led the Seagulls to the League One title last season meaning the club would be hosting Championship football in their state-of-the-art arena.
Doncaster Rovers were the first visitors as emotional Brighton fans created a great atmosphere, 22,000 waving flags long before the teams entered the field. Doncaster netted the first league goal at the ground, Billy Sharp’s partially-blocked effort crawling over the line to give the visitors the lead.
It seemed as if Doncaster would spoil the party, however on 83 minutes they failed to clear a Brighton set-piece and the ball fell to Seagulls new signing Will Buckley, who hit a crisp, low volley from the edge of the area into the bottom corner to level matters. Injuries to Doncaster’s James Hayter and goalscorer Sharp saw eight minutes of added time at the end of the second half and Rovers forced to play with 10 men after they used all their substitutes.
Brighton took full advantage as former Watford winger Buckley broke forward and curled home a 98th minute winner. There were scenes of jubilation as Brighton secured a dramatic first victory at the AMEX, fans and players celebrating wildly.
4: Newcastle United 5 Leeds United 2 – 1989
On the opening day fans get the chance of seeing their club’s new signings for the first time and in 1989, debutant Micky Quinn put on a show in front of over 40,000 Newcastle United followers.
Leeds United were the visitors to St.James’ Park as Jim Smith’s Magpies faced Second Division football after relegation from the top flight two months before. Quinn was signed for £680,000 from Portsmouth, having hit 54 goals in 121 appearances for the South Coast club and soon got on the scoresheet for his new employers, along with fellow debutant John Gallagher. Leeds led 2-1 but the big centre-forward put the game out of reach of Howard Wilkinson’s men, hitting 4 goals on his first appearance for the club. He went on to net 34 times in the league that season, making him the top scorer in England by a distance.
According to his autobiography, after scoring his fourth Quinn ran towards the crowd shouting, “That’s who f*****g Mick Quinn is, that’s who f*****g Mick Quinn is, *****g Come on!”
Nobody told him that he was screaming at the family enclosure full of children.
3: Brentford 4 Leyton Orient 3 – 1991
At the start of the 1991/92 Division Three season, London sides Brentford and Leyton Orient played out a thriller at Griffin Park. Future Wimbledon and Bolton striker Dean Holdsworth put the Bees in front just before the break. Orient equalised in the second half then went in front as Kevin Nugent nodded home Ricky Otto’s left-wing cross.
Holdsworth made it 2-2 straight from the restart, pouncing on a rebound after Richard Cadette’s shot was saved. The frontman then bagged his hat-trick, latching onto Terry Evans’ long ball forward and slotting a composed finish past the goalkeeper. Orient weren’t out of it and Ricky Otto again put a teasing cross in from the left which Andy Sayer converted for 3-3.
That wasn’t the last of the goals as Brentford went in front again. A set-piece was floated into the penalty area, centre-back Evans met the ball with a header which looped over the ‘keeper into the far corner of the net to make the score 4-3 to The Bees. An amazing opening day match that kick-started a promotion campaign for Brentford, which saw them win the league and boast the top scorer in Holdsworth, who netted 38 goals.
2: Millwall 0 Rotherham United 6 – 2002
An incredible scoreline from the New Den on the opening day of the old Division One in 2002. Millwall lost in the previous season’s play-off semi-finals while the Millers just escaped relegation – but it was the hosts who were left stunned.
Ex-Walsall striker Darren Byfield started the rout, powerfully heading home Paul Warne’s cross. Lions goalkeeper Tony Warner then gifted the visitors their second as he let Martin McIntosh’s 35-yard free-kick squirm through his grasp and over the line. After the break Millwall capitulated, hesitation in their defence allowing Byfield to make it 3-0.
Despite going forward in search of goals, Millwall conceded a fourth when Chris Sedgwick cut in from the right to score then Byfield completed his hat-trick with ten minutes to go, chipping the ball over Warner from the edge of the penalty area. Sixty seconds later he had another as he rounded the goalie and slotted home a sixth goal for Ronnie Moore’s side. Unbelievable stuff.
1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 – 2009
It can be argued that this game was a watershed moment in the recent history of Norwich City. Having been relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time since 1960, the Canaries were instantly placed amongst the favourites for an immediate return to the Championship. With legendary former goalkeeper Bryan Gunn in charge and new signings arriving at the club in pre-season, it was expected that they would get their League One campaign off to a good start.
Their first game of the season, at Carrow Road against Colchester United, was a disaster as they slumped to an incredible 7-1 home defeat. Kevin Lisbie put the U’s in front after 10 minutes, scoring after a mistake by Canaries goalie Michael Theoklitos. Clive Platt made it two then grabbed another soon afterwards with a back-post finish. David Fox bent home a free-kick before Lisbie’s second goal, a header, meant Norwich were five down after just 38 minutes with their fans already heading for the exits, two even ran on the pitch and threw their season tickets at manager Gunn.
In the second-half Cody McDonald grabbed a consolation but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s tap-in set the seal on a fantastic result for Paul Lambert’s team, inflicting Norwich’s worst home defeat in their 109-year history.
Within a week of the game Bryan Gunn was sacked and Norwich turned to the man who masterminded Colchester’s thumping win – ex-Scotland international midfielder Paul Lambert. Aided by the 24 league goals from Grant Holt, Lambert turned the club’s season around as they won the League One title. He then went even further, guiding them to 2nd place in the Championship and a second successive promotion in 2010/11 – meaning that just two years after one of their darkest days, Norwich City will be playing Premier League football this coming season.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up Blogger
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