Forde focus keeps Hammers at bay

Millwall 0 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Football

"Welcome To Bandit Country" proclaimed the Millwall banner aimed at the West Ham fans, but like any chance of drama here yesterday, it had gone before the final whistle blew.

As an industrious Millwall side made it six-and-a-half hours without scoring and ambitious West Ham extended their unbeaten run to six games, maybe the banners' owners had plans for fun of their own; for this was the first meeting between these fierce London rivals since it all went horribly wrong in a League Cup tie two years ago at Upton Park.

That night featured a stabbing amid running battles inside and outside the ground; the three pitch invasions by West Ham fans resulted in a £115,000 fine and ensured a massive police presence just over the river yesterday.

No official figures were released but it looked as though the police had the 2,000-strong visiting West Ham fans marked man for man, with a handsome few left over to deal with any potential Millwall miscreants.

Local business owners were warned to beware, the club shop was closed and the visiting supporters were penned in to the top deck of a two-tier stand behind a goal; the lower tier populated solely by a large Millwall Lion flag.

The West Ham fans probably did not have as good a view of that as they did the Millwall fans' banner celebrating their rivals' relegation from the Premier League last season; with a group flying a plane over Wigan's ground proclaiming "Avram Grant – Millwall Legend" as that fixture sealed their rivals' fate.

And about 100 Millwall fans went to greet the West Ham team coach an hour-and-a-half before kick-off. The bus was escorted by three police "meat wagons" and a human shield of police officers but the only things thrown at the West Ham players this time were verbal insults and a deep rumble of the drawn-out "Millwall" chant.

On the picth it could have been so different had we witnessed one of football's funniest goals barely 10 seconds in with the Millwall goalkeeper David Forde off the pitch, unaware the game had started when Henri Lansbury spotted this only to shoot wide from the centre circle.

Forde and Lansbury met again in the 35th minute when the goalkeeper fumbled a cross but made up for it with a stunning point-blank save from the on-loan Arsenal man, who then blasted the rebound against the crossbar.

Millwall had a few first half chances of their own with the impressive Liam Trotter forcing a good save from Robert Green.

As this nervy encounter headed for stalemate, West Ham sent on David Bentley while attack-minded Jay Simpson and James Henry were introduced by Millwall.

The former Arsenal man Simpson's poor touch denied him the chance to make an instant impact as the ball ran away from him as he broke clear form the half way line.

With 15 minutes to go, Forde palmed away a Julien Faubert shot low to his left but Bentley dragged his close-range shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

There was still time for late Millwall substitute Danny N'Guessan to make an impact but his powerful low drive was well saved by Robert Green at the foot of a post.

The West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, correctly identified his side had the better chances and his new-look team is likely to improve as the season progresses.

Millwall (4-2-3-1): Forde; Dunne, Robinson, Mkandawire (N'Guessan, 87), Ward; Stewart, Trotter; Bouazza (Simpson, 64), Feeney (64 Henry), Abdou; Marquis.

West Ham (4-5-1): Green; O'Brien, Tomkins (30 Reid), Faye, McCartney; Faubert, Nolan, Taylor (59 Bentley), Noble, Lansbury (73 Baldock); Cole.

Referee: Lee Mason

Man of the match: Trotter (Millwall)