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History showed Millwall were always going to beat Charlton on Saturday
2:26pm Tuesday 24th September 2013 in Sport
MILLWALL columnist MATT LITTLE looks back this week at his side’s impressive record against Charlton after yet another win over their neighbours at the weekend.
WELL, that wasn’t what Sky was hoping for when they decided to show this south London derby to a bored nation. However, it was hardly a surprise that the game didn’t live up to its billing; as neither side approached the match like a derby.
Charlton, both on the pitch and in the stands, were probably the most timid club to ever participate in a derby fixture since rival villages first started kicking a pig’s bladder from parish to parish.
They mustered their only meaningful attempt on target in the 94th minute, having been spurred on by thousands of faded red plastic seats and a lone drummer.
Conversely, Millwall looked like a team sent out by an under pressure manager hoping to prove that the humiliation at the hands of Derby County just a week before was a blip sandwiched between two very good performances against Brighton and Blackpool.
Out went the attacking verve seen in both of the aforementioned games and in came a more measured approach. Unspectacular as it was, the sharp passing and solid shape was easily enough to keep Charlton at bay. Therefore it was understandable once we’d taken the lead, we settled for just keeping Charlton at arm’s length given the rollercoaster we’ve endured this season.
As fans, we could only watch in nervous anticipation. None of the above makes for a ding-dong derby, but frankly who cares? Well, Charlton fans do, they really do dislike us.
I’d always wondered why, but a look at the history of this fixture perhaps explains a lot.
The first ever meeting between the two clubs didn’t come until a full 36 years after Millwall had been founded on the Isle of Dogs in 1885. Millwall were still an East End club when Charlton Athletic came into existence in 1905 and would remain so for another five years until moving to New Cross in 1910.
Until that first game played on the 10 October 1921 the clubs had avoided each other, with Millwall playing in the Southern League and Charlton content with local kick-a-bouts until 1919 and then turning professional a year later.
In 1920 Millwall joined the newly formed Third Division of the Football League, yet Charlton didn’t join them until eventually being voted in the following season. Therefore the first bragging right can go to Millwall fans, who can cheekily claim the Lions are the far more established League side.
The first ever meeting turned out to be a charity game at The Den for the London PFA, which Millwall won 2-0. But south Londoners didn't have long to wait for the first ever league meeting, coming as it did just two months later on New Year's Eve.
Charlton fans were waking up the happier with their sore heads on New Year's Day after their team had recorded a 1-0 win at Cold Blow Lane.
They would have been reaching for celebratory drinks once again when the return match ended 2-1 to the Addicks, thus securing the first ever double in this fixture - Charlton's first of three such achievements.
This would prove to be bit of a false dawn for the boys from SE7, however. Indeed, Millwall's first ever league win over Charlton came the same year. The first ever penalty awarded in this fixture helped the Lions on their way to a 2-0 win at The Valley in front of 18,000, after the meeting at The Den the week before had produced a 1-1 draw for the 25,000 in attendance.
Interestingly the first of Millwall's nine doubles over Charlton was achieved when Charlton decided to move to Catford and adopt blue as their new colour in 1923/24.
While imitation is the best form of flattery, the Lions were annoyed enough with this incursion into Lewisham to dish out two 1-0 defeats in the same week.
Charlton sulked back to Greenwich and reinstated the red. However, it made no difference as Millwall recorded their second double over the Addicks in as many seasons with a 3-0 aggregate score.
The Lions then put five goals past the hapless visitors without reply while on their way to setting a league record, which still stands to this day, for the most home goals scored in one season (87), as Millwall became champions in 1927/28.
The goal scored in the 1-1 draw at The Valley earlier in the season contributed to a divisional record of 127 goals scored in a season, which also still stands to this day.
Charlton soon joined us in the Second Division, and so the first ever second tier game between the two was played in front of 32,218 at The Den for a 1-1 draw in 1929.
On the 3 January 1931 the biggest win to date in this fixture occurred, with Millwall running out 6-0 winners at The Den.
Sadly, the 1930s turned out to be something of a watershed for both clubs. Charlton recorded a rare double over the Lions in 1934/35, both 3-1 wins, as they started a journey towards the First Division, where for a time they looked set to establish themselves as a genuine force.
At the time Millwall, along with the Addicks, were one of the ten best supported clubs in the country and looked destined to join their near neighbours in the top flight.
However, Mr Hitler soon put a stop to all that and neither club really recovered from having their momentum stopped dead at a crucial time.
Despite winning the FA Cup in 1947, Charlton were in slow decline, while the bomb damage to The Den and the break-up of the communities around the club sapped Millwall’s pre-war strength.
Who knows, if not for the war this derby could have been up there with the likes of the Manchester, north London and Merseyside derbies. Instead the clubs met for the first time in 30 years in the familiar surroundings of the Second Division, with 20,364 turning up for Millwall’s first home game of the 1966/67 season. The 0-0 draw was the 47th match in the Lion’s famous 59-game unbeaten run at home.
The return at The Valley was also a 0-0 draw, but for older Millwall fans it was enough that the Lions once more finished above their neighbours, as they had done regularly in their youth.
The first ever top flight match saw a Teddy Sheringham goal in the first minute set the Lions on their way to a 3-0 win, which included a Les Briley screamer, in 1988. It was played at a sunny Selhurst Park and the majority of the 13,735 crowd were away fans.
Millwall completed the double with a very late 1-0 home win in front of 17,025 in the New Year.
Interestingly Millwall’s last win at their famous old home was also a 1-0 win over Charlton, with Jon Goodman the last Lion to ever score on the hallowed Den turf.
Our first visit to The Valley since Charlton’s return was a well earned 0-0 draw against the early league leaders in front of 8,416, having played an hour with10-men after Alex Rae had been sent-off.
Charlton’s first visit to the ‘new’ Den saw them grab a 2-2 draw in the now sadly deceased Anglo-Italian Cup in front of 4,003 bemused spectators.
The real thing occurred in March 1994, when 13,320 turned up for another late Millwall victory, with Rae this time the hero by scoring both in a 2-1 win, the few hundred away fans realising that a new stadium didn’t mean old habits dying.
Thankfully I missed Charlton doing the double over us in 1995/96. My granddad and I turned back in a snow storm, convinced the game at The Den would be called off anyway. Good call I think.
We had to wait 14 years to put things right, thumping the Addicks 4-0 in front of 17,632 mostly ecstatic fans on our way to promotion. This followed the 4-4 draw at The Valley where 19,105 were treated to a real rollercoaster of a match which saw two penalties, a sending off, an own goal, and a deserved injury time equaliser for Millwall.
Charlton fans had allowed themselves to think their stint in the Premier League meant things were going to be different now, and so you could visibly see them deflate as they were beaten by little old Millwall once again.
Young Addicks are getting to grips with how this derby works now, having seen three defeats, two draws and zero wins, which fits perfectly with the overall record of just 11 wins in 67 league meetings. They shouldn’t feel too bad. though, as we also have the better of it in our meetings with Palace and West Ham too.
We now face Leeds, another team who see us as a bogey side. Let’s hope Steve Lomas can continue the turnaround and keep that perception going. And if any Charlton fans want to see what a derby could be like, then they should pop along.
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