Cardiff City 0 Millwall 1. Match Report

Last updated : 23 February 2005 By NigelBlues

A night of high farce, freak football, controversy, incompetent refereeing in the extreme and a never-to-be-forgotten finale will be the talking points but the aftermath is that Cardiff City somehow lost 1-0 at home to Millwall, have only themselves to blame, and may well be back in the relegation battle.

The only thing that matters are the record books will show that City lost 1-0 to a 20th minute Danny Dichio penalty. They will also show that three players, Ginge Collins for City with a second yellow and Millwall's David Livermore and Alan Dunne had straight red cards for a 90th minute flare-up where frustrations took over. Millwall manager Dennis Wise also appeared to be sent off although was not shown a card and there may be more repercussions for both teams where the ref gets around to writing his version of the truth to the football authorities about his competence and that he was let down by the players and officials.

Millwall were tough, uncompromising, spoilers who came to disrupt City and show us who the most streetwise side were - nothing unusual about that. That also enjoyed a fair slice of luck and a referee who could not have been more helpful.

Unbelievably, the ref's name was Jones! On the downside, he's from Chester! And, for fans, he'll replace Barry Knight as he most hated referee and most incompetent referee in a City match.

Why he choose tonight to have what must have been the worst game of his 7 year career, mostly in the lower divisions, we were unfortunate to witness it. Why the football authorities didn't put a referee more familiar with games of high profile, we can only speculate too. Calls from the stands of "ref, we've come to watch the game, not you" went out in the first half, long before controversy arrived as Jones blew and gave free-kicks with amazing frequency.

Jones and his linesmen showed no consistency, no advantage played, unceasing disruption (as Millwall wanted), players who committed offence after offence not spoken to so they carried on doing what they were doing, no logic sometimes and, in many ways, play into the Londoner's hands. Most of the contentious calls went their way, some major decisions that should have gone City's way were bottled.

None of that however should disguise that bad ref or not, Cardiff should still have never lost this game and must look at themselves. In many ways, it really was one of those nights where the only luck we had was bad luck. Millwall defended magnificently but, at times, City made it too easy for them with a lack of quality in the crucial moments, somehow missing enough clear chances to have won two games and just not having enough presence and idea in attack. They certainly didn't deserve to lose but they are struggling for goals, especially in open play, and it's evident why.

Lennie, acknowledged as one of the game's most experienced and canny managers, doesn't seem to prove that in the things he says on record. Last week, he admitted that he was wrong to have said, "judge me after 12 games", "we'll have a sustained play off or promotion charge this term" and other misdemeanours. None of the lessons he should have learned for that stopped him from going into this game declaring, "one more win and we're safe from relegation", "beat Millwall and relegation battle will be consigned to the dustbin of history" and declared his prediction that finishing, "halfway is the realistic target".

They'll now be the latest words to bite him on the bum. He said these things when there was just no need to and he'll make himself look foolish. To me, it also came across as a little complacent, maybe arrogant, the team went into the game still for closer to relegation than mid-table and addressing that should be our sole focus and matter to concentrate on, not how far up the table we can finish. Ah but some fans love how openly and honestly Lennie talks, how he's genuine and decent, so that's ok then.

City excellent recent run and few problems meant the formality of naming the same side for the third successive game. The only issue for Lennie was whether to pick Fleetwood and Jerome for a substitute berth, both returning from injury. Jerome won the day.

The only other news surrounded bit part player Robert Page transferred and sent to Coventry 24 hours ago. Lennie didn’t want him to go, the player himself didn’t want to leave either but needed first team football. The average City fan is probably still partying about the news. It seemed an odd transfer to many, it never worked out for anyone.

To balance that, we'll also have to raid the cupboards for Prozac with other news that 5th choice (at best) striker Campbell has again failed miserably to take another chance, this time on loan at Doncaster, and returns to Ninian Park next week. Can’t Coventry take him too please???

City therefore lined up with Alexander, Weston-Collins-Gabbidon-Barker, Langley-Inamoto-Kavanagh-McAnuff, Thorne-Lee. Subs were Warner-Bullock-Jerome-Ledley-Vidmar.

It must have been a strange feeling for Tony Warner, a Millwall hero for the last 5 years, who has struggled badly at Cardiff not to be involved in the match but Millwall's back up goalie wasn't even there. Graham Stack, a regular until recently and on loan for the season, appeared in court the day before the game charged with rape in his own home leaving the management duo of Wilkins and Wise to name 5 out-field players for substitutes.

Whilst City were enjoying their football and getting results with 13 points in their previous 6 games but still stuck in the lower placings, it was the exact opposite for the Sarf Londoners of Miwaw. Just 2 points in 6 games (or 5 points in their last 9 games) and no goals in the last 3 games had seem them fall from play-off certainties to a team falling away, exactly what happened to them a year ago. They came to Ninian Park in 9th, trailing the final play-off place by 4 points with assistant Ray (not so) “Butch” Super Dooper Wilkins declaring the clash a ‘do or die’ for his side.

Wilkins ran the show from the touchline taking some orders by mobile phone from Wise presumably tucked away in the Director's box until late on.

Dennis Wise’s men for the night were Marshall, Livermore-Lawrence-Ward-Phillips, Sweeney-Craig-Dunne, Dobie-Hayles-Dichio. It was a loose 4-3-3 formation although Dichio was often more advanced than his strike partners and caused Gabbidon and Collins far more problems than most strikers. Subs were Elliott-QuigleySerioux-Simpson-Weston. Unfortunately, injury gave us no chance to heckle Jody Morris, the player who agreed to sign for us and then walked out of the Vale hotel without telling anyone last season.

Conditions were bitter … and then some. Temperature across the region fell to -3 although it seemed slighter above freezing at Ninian, there was the odd snow flurry but, thankfully, the daytime wind which made it bitter seemed to drop by night. A few Aussie-based City fans were in The Lansdowne pre-game, no wonder they were hankering to get back to the surf and barbie.

Despite that, the pitch was in good nick with nothing hard apart from Inamoto in the tackle. Credit to all who turned up in the 11,424 crowd on a night when it was easier to stay home. That included an almighty 120 (count them, that’s 120) from Millwall who travelled without the restrictions we go through to visit them. Millwall don’t run from Cardiff, as some sang, they just don’t show up!

Not even thermal jockstraps, a few tots of Scotch, pictures of Abi Titmuss and Paris Hilton’s phone book could keep the chill out of your boxers. There was a new naffness in headgear at a City game. Russian cossacks, wooly hats, HyperValue specials, Frank Spencer caps, Elmer Fudd style headgear, some ill fitting and even a bobble hat or two, all awfulness was on show. Extra layers of clothes, scarves, thick jackets, the ground sold more coffee and bovril than beer and still we shivered the night away. Both sides had a pre-match huddle or was it just their way of getting warm?

As for the game, City, following a 10 day lay off, started hot enough. They could have scored early on, efforts from Ginge and Gabbidon were scrambled off the line and three bursts down the channel by Alan Lee when he cut the ball back behind Millwall defenders saw the ball across the penalty area just behind City's forwards, just in front of our advancing midfielders. Jobi McAnuff was a foot wide with a 20 yard drive across the face of goal. Inamoto screwed wide following fantastic trickery outside the box and Kav fired over. All this inside the first 15 minutes.

Millwall were struggling to get forward and when they did, it was usually because old and slow Barry Hayles got away with something. The first signs that the refereeing may be sub-standard came when Hayles backed into Barker on halfway and handled the ball as is came down to him. City prepared to take a free-kick upfield but ref Jones instead allowed Hayles to take a quick free-kick for Millwall. Fortunately, it came to nought but City players complained furiously to the ref.

On 20 minutes, Collins' had his first moment of madness for the night as he lost Danny Dichio who drifted behind him, a Millwall midfielder noticed the opportunity and hit a high diagonal ball over Ginge which Dichio was meeting at the far post. He went to nod back across goal, Ginge anticipated he was heading at goal and jumped with his arms stretched out, the ball hit him, penalty. It was tough but there were no complaints. Ginge lost concentration, something he has been very good at lately.

The penalty, I'm afraid, was just far too predictable - after all, we had Neil Alexander in goals - the worst penalty facer I've ever known. Dichio, looking twice the size of Alexander, took it. Alexander dived to his right, and yes correct, DICHIO rolled it completely the other way. How has Alexander mastered the art of always diving the wrong way with penalties and why can't it be reversed?

It was a bodyblow but the agony increased when City were certain they had levelled within 90 seconds as superb wing play and far post cross by McAnuff was nodded back by Thorne and Inamoto bundled the ball over the line inside the 6 yard box with is head. Everyone's arms went up but so did the linesmen's flag, offside awarded.

Six minutes later, came one of the game's most controversial moments, as Alexander tried to take an awkward bouncing ball on the wide edge of his area, his touch didn't have full control and the ball went outside, then he chested it back into the area. As he did and grabbed the ball, Danny Dichio steamed in and caught his trailing leg right in front of the meagre Millwall following in the Grange End. It looked deliberate, he was, without doubt, later than a local train. Alexander was taken out, City players were incensed.

The decision to red card seemed little more than formality. I am sure 9 out of 10 referees would have done that but not this one. Whether he felt intimidated by Dichio's man mountain size, I don't know, but he spoke to him for ages and showed him yellow. Dichio shook hands with Alexander, relieved and very lucky.

City fans were disgusted and it nearly cost us moments later when Dichio met a corner, again having lost Collins, and sent a header a fraction over that, to most, looked in all the way.

The remainder of the half went much quieter. City had a succession of corners but didn't do much with them. Kav and Langley completely messed up one short effort which gave Millwall a break on our goal. Lee should have done so much better with a far post Weston cross but cushioned wide when, had he used his physique and strength, have been a perfect opportunity. It's perverse, he's big and strong outside the box, but doesn't display that in the area.

On half-time, with City now losing their way a little, Kav was inches away with a flashing 30 yard skimmer that had Marshall completely beaten. Inamoto was the star man, his tackles, work-rate, quick feet and passing all exceptional, we have to try to keep him.

Half-time: CITY 0 MILLWALL 0

With the teams returning to the Super Furry Animals The Man Don't Give A F*ck, paying homage to ex-City bad boy Robin Friday, maybe it was to forewarn us of impending antics and behaviour.

Millwall had no chances to secure the game, their brief was simply to hold onto what they had and see if City were good enough to break them down. We weren't, started the half well enough but got bogged down, frustrated, the quality dried up and so did the ideas but they had their chances and extreme bad luck.

If we didn't already doubt that it just wasn't City's night, there was two amazing escapes for Millwall that proved it. The first came 10 minutes into the half when Weston sent across a great diagonal long ball which found Thorney who nodded back to Kav. The Captain's drive was low, true and hard. Andy Marshall fell to the floor in desperation, the ball then somehow hit him on the arse, squirted right across the goal and, unbelievably, went behind a few inches wide of his far post. Any other angle, any other deflection, any other spot and it would have been 1-1.

The other came when Marshall, under pressure, spilled a high Chris Barker cross. Thorne knocked it inside, McAnuff was first onto it and shot at goal with Marshall stranded. Any other spot, angle or position and it was 1-1 but it flew at Ward, the only player behind the ball who nodded off the line. In between that, Kav, Inamoto and Collins latched onto chances and the ball flew a fraction wide each time.

Darren Ward, with long flowing blonde hair, was the game's outstanding player shone as man of the match but, boy, did we make him look good. Very little variation, power and precision on crosses. The game became narrower as City got desperate and Millwall packed their defence and we played into their hands. Play was either charges through the middle, where inevitably someone got a tackle sooner or later, or aimless balls floated in at head height. With Thorne and Lee not hitting it off as a duo, and showing little presence, it was food and drink to Ward and his defenders.

Changes were inevitable. Ledley for the once again ineffective Richard Langley on the hour was positive and obvious by that stage. Ledley went left, McAnuff went right and, to be honest, I think it may be the way to go. Langers has scored and won a penalty but is anonymous in games.

Jerome for the poor Alan Lee was the right choice too but left until late, just 17 minutes remained, long after City had long lost their way. Peter Thorne was anonymous, Alan Lee after his bright start was just dreadful. The most telling moment was when Junichi Inamoto played a brilliant ball between Millwall defenders for Lee who never moved or reacted, even Lennie showed his fury at that.

For the final 11 minutes, Lee Bullock was thrown on too with Weston withdrawn and City going to a 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 then 3-3-4 but, again, with no quality play or service around the box and just long aimless balls, it was all forlorn.

Ref Jones and his officials continued to annoy at every opportunity. Ignoring blatant Millwall time wasting with players kicking the ball away or into the crowd not even spoken to, others were allowed to persistently infringe and decision-making continuing to be inconsistent and antagonise.

It sounds petty but examples were when City took a throw on the attack and a second ball entered the pitch from the Bob Bank way behind play, Jones stopped play. Instead of a re-take, which is the norm, he gave a drop ball which Millwall cleared. Later when the same thing happened with Millwall stuck deep in defence, he let them re-take. Mark Phillips of Millwall took foul throw after foul throw, it defies belief that a pro footballer could not throw a ball properly. The ref pulled him up just once for it, it got so embarrassing that Wilkins even stopped play at one throw to change the taker and stop him taking more.

And so the grand finale ... ...

The game had all but gone from City, 4 minutes added time had just started. Millwall launched a ball out of defence which Dunne latched onto and ran towards the Grandstand/Canton Stand corner simply to play out time. Chris Barker came across, the slightest touch and down went Dunne with an old pro's trick to win a free-kick and waste more time. Ref Jones duly obliged and then Dunne started to roll around as if shot, simply wanting to waste more time.

The ref stood off and watched, Chris Barker had enough and went to the player telling him to get up. When he stayed there just looking at him, Barks' frustration was such that he grabbed the player by the shirt and shoulders to make him get up. Dunne made a miraculous recovery, forgot he was injured and put hands in Chris Barker's face.

The outcome was predictable, yellow card for Barker but straight red for Dunne, all of it would have been avoided had the ref got involved in the first place and been assertive instead of standing back letting things develop. To compound that, Dunne then refused to leave the pitch, the ref still stood back and away and just let things develop again. As that happened, the 4th official had an early shower off Dennis Wise infuriated by the decision who promptly squirted and threw a bottle of water all over the 4th official's jacket. He went on the pitch to join the ref.

With tensions and frustrations running so high, partly because of the result and partly due to the ref's inability to control the game, and set examples much earlier in the night, it boiled over. Ginge Collins, only booked a few minutes earlier, ran to Dunne telling him to get off. Millwall players reacted, Cardiff players reacted and suddenly 15 or 16 seemed to be involved. It was ugly for a few seconds, there was a melee, the usual posturing and handbags at ten paces but, amongst that, a Millwall hand came out of the crowd and clearly pushed Collins in the face and backwards, Ginge now mouthing off.

It was complete chaos, the officials had lost all control, players were appealing for calm and with the ref to restart but we waited for what seemed an eternity whilst he spoke with the officials and he then showed Collins a second yellow then red and Millwall's Livermore a straight red making 3 red cards within seconds. Jones then went to the bench and sent Wise to the stands but did he send him off? No card was shown but his intentions were very clear.

Then more mayhem as there was a fracas in the tunnel with Dennis Wise who was lashing out but there were so many there, I don't know who it was with. Many believe it was Collins and there were afters. I don't think the officials know what went on as none of them were on the scene.

However now the stewards, police and officials were pouring into the tunnel. All the police with the Millwall fans left them to get to the fracas, if ever there was a time for the supporters to get it on, this was it. There was nobody to stop them!

The Aussie supporters were no doubt chuffed to see that the players had arranged some impromptu Aussie rules football for them. It was chaos.

The game restarted and there just had to be one more controversy to finish. One final ball into Millwall's congested box, someone flicked it on and Thorne (or was it Ledley or was it Bullock, it was hard to tell) were blatantly felled as they were about to shoot at close range with the whole goal in front of them. Ref Jones bottled it, as simple as that. I've got no doubt he just wasn't up to the job of dealing with what would have been possible more incidents had he awarded it, disgraceful.

Moments later, he blew the final whistle and ended the game. Immediately, he was surrounded by five coppers and as many stewards and taken down the tunnel. His officials were forgotten about and had to find their own way off. Never have I seen such an escort for a ref, the whole ground (apart from 120) directing their fury at him. Kav doing his best to get in the middle of the police complaining bitterly that he hadn't played the 4 minutes. He probably had a point, 3 minutes were lost with the aggro.

The players clamed down, shook hands. Millwall chuffed, City will be bitter but will reflect and know they let themselves down. If they continue playing like this, they'll get results and be ok.

They fell to 20th but Gillingham, the club in 22nd and the final relegation spot, also lost at home thankfully and remain 6 points behind with an inferior goal difference and have played a game more. Forest below them are 11 points behind City but with two games in hand. And Lennie should shut up with his mid-table aspirations because where we are and these clubs are who we need to focus on, not those in front of us.

The immediate programme isn't easy Sheffield and Ipswich at home, Sunderland and Coventry away. They have to fight hard for points or we could have real problems. This was a bad night and bad result but not a disaster. Hopefully we'll have enough good days and nights in the 13 remaining games.

As for ref Jones' let's just hope that we never see him again. And I think Millwall will agree with that too. Last time he refereed them, a couple of seasons ago at Bristol City, he sent off three in injury. One for the home team and two for visitors Millwall. Talk about deja vu!

Report from FootyMad

An explosive final minute saw three players dismissed along with Lions manager Dennis Wise, but it was all too late for Cardiff City.

The visitors led after 20 minutes when Danny Dichio stroked home a penalty after James Collins had handled.

City responded immediately and Junichi Inamoto headed in at the far post a minute later only for overworked referee Mike Jones to disallow the strike for offside.

The Bluebirds pounded the visitors' goal for most of the second half but were unable to prise open a solid defence in which Matt Lawrence and Darren Ward were outstanding.

City named an unchanged side but Millwall brought in David Livermore and Peter Sweeney.

The game came to life when Lawrence swung a ball to the far post. Dichio headed it back in and the ball stuck the unfortunate Collins on the arm, handing the Lions striker the chance to score from the spot.

With Jobi McAnuff and Richard Langley raiding down the flanks Cardiff kept pressuring the visiting rearguard but a good final ball always seemed to be lacking.

The second half was all Cardiff but they couldn't force the ball home despite numerous chances and all their frustration erupted in the final minute.

Chris Barker and Alan Dunne clashed on the touchline and Dunne then appeared to strike Barker, leaving the referee no option but to issue a red card.

As soon it appeared there was a huge melee in the centre of the field involving all the outfield players.

Once Mr Jones had regained control he showed a second yellow and then a red card to City defender Collins and followed that with a straight red for Millwall's Livermore.

Wise was so incensed on the touchline that he threw a water bottle that struck the referee's assistant and he was also sent from the field off play.

Unfortunately all this came too late to help Cardiff and the defeat means they still have the spectre of relegation hanging over them.

External reports
Western Mail