4 February ~ West Ham United play hosts to Millwall today for the first time since 2009’s infamous League Cup tie, when the home fans ran riot both on and off the pitch. An early kick-off plus a scandalously small ticket allocation for away supporters was supposedly designed to prevent any possible repeat of those scenes. It appears to have had the opposite effect, with rumours of Millwall fans threatening to turn up on the day in the hope of gaining entrance to the ground or buying tickets for the home end. Only five days ago Sky announced they would be showing the game – apparently on the request of the police.
Millwall fans will be more concerned about events on the pitch. We are rather fond of the fact that West Ham have yet to beat the Lions over 90 minutes this century. Admittedly, Millwall have only won the fixture twice, but supporters at the Den cheerfully point to the game in 2004, fondly remembered as the "Mothers' Day Massacre", when an FA Cup final-bound Millwall missed two penalties yet still won 4-1. But this could all change come the final whistle today.
The odds strongly favour Sam Allardyce's men. They are pushing for promotion, while Millwall are at the other end of the table trying to stave off relegation. Recent results – barring Ipswich Town’s unexpected 5-1 demolition of the Hammers in midweek – suggest a comfortable home win. How comfortable this may prove depends on one man: Darius Henderson.
Kenny Jackett’s side have blown hot and cold all season. Impressive away wins against Leicester and Barnsley have been tempered by depressing home defeats to the likes of Watford and Bristol City. Despite the club’s lowly league standing, Henderson is the division's top goalscorer. The burly striker does not look like a player who can win matches singlehandedly, but appearances can be deceptive. He has found the net 16 times in just 23 appearances already this season, including three hat-tricks.
Henderson missed West Ham's visit to the Den earlier in the season – a stale 0-0 draw – and Millwall fans are hoping this is an omen. Millwall have never won a League match at Upton Park and if ever there was a time for a hero, this is it. Neil Andrews