Charlton have played Millwall in 69 league matches since they first met at The Den in the Third Division (South) on New Year's Eve 1921. They won this game 1-0 and followed it up with a 2-1 win at The Valley a fortnight later. It was a short honeymoon. The next twelve games produced four draws and eight defeats, culminating in a 5-0 thrashing in front of 25,000 at The Den in February 1928. Thankfully, Millwall were promoted that year so some respite was gained the following season but, when Charlton followed their neighbours into the Second Division, the pattern continued. One win, two draws and seven defeats until Charlton's relegation in 1933. It wasn't until 1935, when Jimmy Seed's boys began their ascent into the top division, that we recorded another double over our neighbours and said goodbye to them for over thirty years. Since they caught us up again in 1966 the pattern has been similar. One win in twelve until our relegation in 1972. A rare victory at The Den in October 1978 with goals from Peter Shaw and Dave Shipperley. Needless to say, revenge was taken in the return game in March 1979 with Millwall 3-0 up in eighteen minutes and winning 4-2. We won twenty five games in our promotion season of 1980/81 but failed to beat Millwall. Promoted again in 86/87 we could only record draws (2-2 and 3-3) against The Lions. When they finally join us in the First Division in 1988 they turned up at Selhurst Park in September, scored after 18 seconds and proceeded to a comfortable 3-0 victory. It was to be another 8 games before John Hendrie (on loan from Tottenham) secured us a win in front of barely 8,000 people at Upton Park, and a further three years until 1995/96 when we beat them home and away. Young Lee Bowyer with a bicycle kick at The Valley and the never-to-be-forgotten Kim Grant brace with the orange ball on the snow. This was the last time we beat them at their place and it is twenty years ago. Not much has changed since the turn of the century. 4-2 up against ten men in December 09, but drawing 4-4. The infamous 0-4 three months later. Three draws and two defeats since then with no goals, meaning that it is now nine hours since our last goal against them. All in all, 11 wins in 69 games - a ratio of a win every 6.2 games. Compare this with our record against Palace (17 in 56 = every 3.3); Chelsea (22 in 66 = every 3); Manchester Utd (10 in 56 = 5.6); even Arsenal (9 in 52 =5.7).
But surely it has to be different this time, doesn't it ?
It is hard to believe that, less than two months ago, Charlton seemed to be sliding inexorably down to the twenty second place occupied by Millwall. On January 31st, when Ricardo Fuller secured a 1-0 win for The Lions at Forest and Charlton conceded a late equaliser to Rotherham there were only six points between the two clubs and the impetus was in Bermondsey. Two weeks later, Millwall won again at Birmingham while Charlton surrendered to Norwich. The gap was down to three points. Since then, however, Millwall have lost six and drawn three scoring five and conceding seventeen. Charlton have recorded seven wins and the gap is now 21 points.
Millwall have won only three games at home all season. They beat Leeds and Blackpool in August (putting them in fifth place) and Cardiff on 25th October. Since then the home faithful have seen four draws and eight defeats. Manager Holloway paid the price when he lost his job after the 1-4 thrashing by Norwich. Neil Harris has managed two draws in his first three games but the creditable 2-2 draw at Brentford last time out felt like another defeat as they surrendered a 2-0 lead with just six minutes to go. Nevertheless, their performance showed a lot of spirit and they will still be believing that they can escape relegation as they did last year. Charlton have recently beaten both their relegation rivals Blackpool and Wigan 3-0. The form book suggests a similar result on Friday. Surely, someone in the Charlton team must be ready to join Grant, Shaw and Shipperley in our post-war folklore.
Don't bank on it. I'm going for 0-0 yet again and a thirty minute wait in the wind and the rain afterwards.