Back in the day, the best weekend in sport used to come in early April. You remember, that one with the FA Cup semi-finals, the Grand National, and the Masters from Augusta in it. Bliss. But over the years, The Man's buggered around with the calendar, and those events no longer all fall in the same weekend any more. So we're on the hunt for another Best Weekend In Sport.
Well, will this one do? This weekend we've got Chelsea versus Manchester United in the Premier League, some good old-school Test humiliation in the cricket, Scottish Cup fitba, the start of the Six Nations, the Super Bowl from 2008, and last but not least this glorious stramash in the Championship.
West Ham United versus Millwall, then. It's a rare old affair at the best of times, but emotions are likely to be heightened thanks to the current position of the two sides:
Sam Allardyce's entertainers the Hammers are on top of the table, while Millwall hover one place above the relegation zone. This should be a home banker, with West Ham winning four of their last five at home, and Millwall losing four of their last five on the road. But this is football, et cetera, and so on, and so forth, and so you never know. Classic, please! Without any fisticuffs on or off the pitch, please!
Hope for Millwall: West Ham were skelped 5-1 at Ipswich during the week.
Danger for Millwall: West Ham were skelped 5-1 at Ipswich during the week.
Kick off: 12.30pm.
West Ham United: Green, Faye, Reid, Tomkins, McCartney, O'Brien, Noble, Collison, Faubert, Cole, Nolan.
Subs: Baldock, Maynard, Vaz Te, Taylor, O'Neil.
Millwall: Forde, Smith, Dunne, Ward, Barron, Feeney, Trotter, Abdou, Lowry, Henderson, Keogh.
Subs: Allsop, N'Guessan, Mason, Kane, Wright.
Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)
SAM ALLARDYCE WET DREAM DEPT. "Here's a bunch of players available for any club that missed out in the transfer window," writes Paul Taylor.
"Ever seen a group keep their shape better than these little fellas? Check out this 'tower structure' link to see how well they can move it upfield." Enjoy the crisp formations while you can, folks; the impending arrival of Ravel Morrison should turn this into an ersatz version of that Craig Charles programme.
The teams are out! West Ham in their famous claret and blue, Millwall in their not so famous one-time home strip of white. Former Hammers keeper Ernie Gregory has passed away aged 90, and there's a minute's applause. Then a burst of the 1975 FA Cup final song, with that bouncing bubbly bassline, and we'll soon be under way.
And we're off! Millwall are gifted a corner within the first 20 seconds, Green risibly spilling a 1mph dribbler by Henderson over the dead ball line. From the right, Barron fizzes a corner straight through the six-yard box, a lovely delivery, but nobody can get on the end of it.
3 min: A corner for West Ham now, a lovely open beginning to this game. Cole meets a corner from the right, looping a header over the bar from 12 yards. "Glad to see that Big Fat Sam has finally realised the soporific qualities of playing his usual 4-5-1 and instead gone for a rip-roaring, goal-scoring 4-2-4 for today's match against Millwall," writes Richard Neal. "Oh . . . er . . . hang on a minute . . . wake me up when it's done, mate."
4 min: A bit of head tennis in the Hammers box. The ball falls to Smith on the edge of the area; the Millwall midfield man drags a low shot well wide left. This is a lively start by both sides.
5 min: Head tennis down the other end now. A corner for West Ham, swung in from the left, and Tomkins and Faye cause no little bother in the area, eyebrowing it hither and yon. Eventually Faubert attempts to Mark Hughes it into the top left corner with a spectacular scissor kick, but can't get any purchase on the ball and it wafts away from danger. The dictionary definition of end-to-end, is this game so far. Keep it up, please, chaps.
8 min: It's Millwall's turn for a corner, of course. This one comes in from the right. Lowry tries a backheel at the near post, Trotter nearly gets a shot away, but Green steps in to gather.
9 min: RED CARD!!! West Ham captain Kevin Nolan is sent off for a two-footed studs-in lunge on Smith. It isn't the most aggressive tackle of all time, but he is flying through the air, out of control, and the studs on his right boot connect with the shin of the Millwall man. He can have no complaints whatsoever, especially in the current climate, also known as the Kompany Klimate. Nolan stomps off down the tunnel as his manager makes a big show of frowning and chewing gum.
12 min: A strangely subdued atmosphere at the Boleyn, given the teams involved and what's just happened. Cole zips down the right and tries to find Faubert at the near post, but Forde is quick to flop on the ball like a fire blanket. "Surely fitba's supremacy now is such that golf, cricket etc only suffer if they are up against its showpieces?" asks Ryan Dunne, putting his finger on why modern sport is broken. "That said, am personally old enough to remember when Madonna was attractive/produced good music, so am looking forward to the Superbowl. As for this game, are there any celebrity cockernees like Ray Winstone or Danny Pwoppa Nawty Dyer in the stands? They might come in handy if it all, as they say, kicks off. In contrast, the only celebrity Millwall fans I can think of are Rod Liddle and the great Danny Baker. Can't really picture them in a fight." Which is fair enough. But the implication being that you can picture Dyer in one?! Not the face! It's his living!
14 min: Millwall ping some pretty triangles down the inside-right channel. Eventually Henderson earns a bit of space down the right, and zips a low cross into the middle for Feeney. West Ham hack clear for a corner, which is easily cleared. "Dear old Scott, the best weekend in sport would be one in which there was no sport, leaving me free to sit and stew in my own juices (ingredients include: hair grease, sweat, and my children's tears of parental neglect)." Regular readers will already know that was Mac Millings.
16 min: Smith is getting pelters from the home crowd. No surprise there, but he really did nothing wrong. He didn't even do much in the way of writhing about. Nolan was sent packing as a result of his own rank stupidity.
20 min: Millwall are seeing the majority of the ball, as you'd imagine with their extra man. They're not doing a lot with it, though, as you'd imagine with their away record.
23 min: That red card has really jiggered this match. After a really bright end-to-end beginning, there's a whole load of nothing going on at the moment. Both sets of fans try to whip something up - the home support with a rendition of Bubbles, the away crowd with their No-One Likes Us number - but nothing catches on.
25 min: A high ball into the Millwall area from the left by Collison causes mild panic. Nobody in a white shirt can get their head to the ball, and after a fashion Cole tries to guide a header into the top left from ten yards, just to the right of goal. He can't get enough on the effort, though, and Forde collects without fuss or ceremony.
27 min: Finally, a shot in anger. Millwall ping it around just outside the West Ham area. Feeney, his back to goal, just outside the left-hand post, drops a shoulder, turns inside, and unleashes one from the edge of the box. Green is behind it all the way.
29 min: A lovely strong run down the middle by Abdou, who strokes the ball wide right to Keogh. Keogh clips a first-time pass back into the centre, with the hope of releasing Feeney into the box. He's this close to finding his man, but Green is off his line quickly to smother. A fine flowing break by Millwall.
30 min: O'Brien cuts inside from the right and whacks a rising shot goalwards. For a second, it looks like finding the top-right corner, and Forde is not certain to meet it, but the ball rises over the bar anyway.
32 min: West Ham enjoy a couple of minutes in the Millwall half, Noble orchestrating from the middle of the park. He strokes it this way and that, eventually releasing McCartney down the left. McCartney's low ball is eventually met by Collison, whose shot is blocked. After another phase, Noble is upended 30 yards from goal, allowing West Ham to make a proper show of themselves with the free kick. Isn't anyone practicing these things?
35 min: Another ball from the left by McCartney, who is in a determined mood, it seems. His low fizzer is met by Faubert, sliding in, but he doesn't connect well, only managing to help the ball on out of play on the right. But this is better from West Ham, who are beginning to apply some pressure despite their numerical disadvantage.
37 min: Henderson is causing a bit of bother in the West Ham area. A couple of minutes ago, he made a half-arsed claim for a penalty after only just failing to meet a high ball from the right. Now he wins a corner after causing some bedlam from another right-wing cross. The set piece causes a minor scramble in the home side's box, but eventually play is stopped for some minor infringement or other. "What about Daniel Day Lewis as a celebrity Millwall fan?" asks David Ashley. "A hard man. Apparently for role in Gangs of N York he used his experiences at the Den as inspiration."
39 min: Sam Allardyce is still chewing his gum. He goes through six packets per match. That can't be healthy. All that gastric acid.
40 min: Cole - who let's not forget would now be playing for Liverpool had Roy Hodgson not been sent skittering down Walton Breck Road on the bones of his breeches - tries to create something out of nothing on the edge of the Millwall area. He holds the ball up, turns, and drags a low shot wide right of the target.
42 min: Barron clips Faubert down the right wing. The crowd want a booking, but the referee makes do with a stern chat instead. His approach doesn't go down particularly well. The free kick's effectively a corner, which Noble wastes. Millwall head clear with the greatest of ease.
44 min: There's not much going on, so here's a bit more about the quadrators. "Check out the video of a guy controlling one with kinnect," writes Tomasz Rykala, who may or may not be eye-bleedingly bored with this game. "Controlling a swarm like this would effectively make you an X-Man. Controlling a team of football players, best manager ever."
45 min +2: GOAL!!! West Ham United 1-0 Millwall. Zzzzzzzzzzzsnort! Out of absolutely nothing, a goal just before the break! Noble swings a long free kick into the area from the left. Under pressure from Reid, the ball's headed straight up into the air by Ward, giving Cole the chance to head home the dropping ball from six yards. He did well to get some power into that effort, which went straight into the centre of the goal, through the despairing arms of Forde.
HALF TIME: West Ham United 1-0 Millwall. And, almost immediately after the restart, the referee blows up for the interval. Dramatic late goal aside, in terms of pure entertainment, that was worse than hellish.
HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT with Sam Allardyce:
Improvement, please! Got some paying customers in the house!
And we're off again! It's snowing in east London. Taylor replaces Collison. Sam Allardyce has reportedly accepted that Nolan's dismissal was fair enough. You don't get managers holding their hands up too often, so hats off to him for his honesty.
48 min: It's been a stop-start beginning to the half. Nothing doing yet. Now, we were speaking earlier of all things old-school, sort of, so here's Martin Stannard. "I would like to thank you for still using email," he writes. "I follow the football live on the Guardian and the BBC, and on the BBC website it says 'Get involved in the following ways', and the following ways are Twitter. Bloody Twitter." Yep, preach on, brother. Bloody Twitter. Anyone else who wishes to get involved in this debate can whip out the old Basildon Bond pad, and send a letter of support to STOP TWITTER CAMPAIGN, c/o Guardian Sport, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. (141 characters or more, green ink not a problem.)
49 min: Henderson is booked for sticking his forearm flat into O'Brien's face. "Re 40 mins," begins Ben Monk. "Liverpool fans must be pleased that they avoided signing a big England striker who hardly ever scores? Oh."
50 min: McCartney, who has been busy down the left, sends another lovely cross into the area from a deep position. He finds the head of Faubert, eight yards out. Faubert guides a delicious header up and over Forde and towards the top-right corner. Unluckily for the Hammers, Faubert's effort twangs off the crossbar, when the clever effort really deserved to drop in. Millwall escape.
52 min: Lowry is booked for a cynical trip on Faubert, who was steaming towards the Millwall box down the inside-right channel. That'll be a free kick to West Ham in a dangerous position, 25 yards out.
53 min: Taylor hoofs a witless effort straight into the wall, specifically Henderson's face.
55 min: It's been a good start to the second half by ten-man West Ham. Millwall have been abysmal.
57 min: A change for Millwall: Barron is replaced by Kane.
59 min: McCartney has been West Ham's star player today. Not a high bar, admittedly, but there it is. He strokes a delicious crossfield ball towards Faubert from the left wing, and would have released his man down the inside-right channel had Faubert not miscontrolled the pass. A shame, as that could have been a picture-book goal.
61 min: Feeney drops a shoulder down the right and loops a superlative cross to the far post, Green stumbling around like a teenager gaddered on Special Brew as he backtracks in a vain attempt to claim the ball. But the West Ham keeper gets away with his poor positioning, as there's no Millwall player on the back stick waiting to slot home. Such a great cross, and nobody there to convert. Dear me.
63 min: Keogh sashays down the right and whips a brilliant low cross through the West Ham area. Kane is standing level with the far post, waiting to control and smash home, but Tomkins slides in at the very last nanosecond to deflect the ball away from his path. Kane is left standing around in acres, looking like a confused clown, but he didn't miss the ball, it was magnificent defending. Millwall are finally putting a little bit of pressure on the home defence, though, even if they've not forced Green into warming his hands yet.
66 min: GOAL! West Ham United 1-1 Millwall. Faye... oh dear. He tries to usher the ball out for a goal kick down the inside-left channel. But he fannies around, and Henderson gets behind him to keep the ball in play and whip it back. It reaches the edge of the area, where Trotter is lurking. Trotter hits a first-time shot, looping a majestic effort over Green and into the top-right corner. A wonderful strike, but abject defending by Faye.
68 min: Ward is booked for a lumbering challenge on Cole.
69 min: GOAL! West Ham United 2-1 Millwall. A corner for West Ham on the right. Tomkins meets it with a header, which is heading for the right-hand side of the net, but Kane clears off the line. The cleared ball is looped straight back into the area, Forde and Faubert coming together as the keeper punches the ball clear. The keeper is clattered, and on the floor. Meanwhile, Reid latches onto the loose ball, and fires it home into the unguarded net from 25 yards. Millwall aren't happy, claiming Forde was clattered. A mere 13 seconds elapsed between the goalline clearance and the ball whistling into the net. Blimey, on several levels.
72 min: A rare old scramble in the West Ham box. Henderson nearly manages to get a shot away from 12 yards, but he's crowded out of it at the last by Faye, atoning for his earlier error a wee bit. This is high-octane entertainment, a complete contrast to that dismal first half.
74 min: Cole is this close to beating Forde to a ball bouncing straight down the middle of the pitch, but the keeper claims just before the striker can nick the ball round him and guide it into an empty net. "A couple of years back in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware," begins Justin Kavanagh, who has a more interesting life than you or me, "I stopped to buy some 'British fish'n'chips' at a window advertising the much-missed fare. The Cockney geezer at the window was dee-lighed to hear that I remembered the Millwall team of Eamon Dunphy and Gordon Hill and manager Benny Fenton. So he proceeded to lift his shirt and proudly show me the full gallery of his team tattoos, stretched across his sunburnt middle-aged body. It put me right off my chips."
76 min: Forde, still radged off at the award of West Ham's second goal, is booked for persistent effin' and jeffin'.
78 min: Dunne unleashes a violent swerver from 30 yards, just to the right of goal. He cuts across the ball, which wheechs millimetres wide left of the target, with Green not 100 percent sure of getting to it. What an effort!
80 min: Cole holds the ball up down the inside-right channel. Fantastic forward play. He draws the Millwall defence into the centre, then plays a reverse pass to release Faubert down the flank. Faubert blazes hopelessly over from a tight angle, having taken a heavy first touch.
81 min: That's Faubert's last act of the piece. He's replaced by O'Neil. Millwall make a change too, Feeney being replaced by Mason.
82 min: A dreadful goal kick by Green, who scuffs it straight to Henderson in the middle of the West Ham half. Henderson puts his head down and makes for the West Ham box, but he's upended cynically by Faye, who goes in the book for his trouble. Faye wants to give his keeper a good shoeing for that, although after his role in the Millwall goal, I suppose he's hardly occupying the moral high ground at the moment. Even so, Green is a total liability at times.
83 min: Anyway, the resulting free kick, by Kane, is a waste of everyone's time, dragged miles left of the target from 30 yards.
85 min: Mason, standing on the edge of the West Ham D, slides a ball to the right for Dunne, who is in acres. Dunne goes for a sidefoot towards the bottom-left corner, but Green is behind it all the way, and manages to palm the ball into the air, then claim at the second attempt.
86 min: Cole is booked for giving the referee some marf.
88 min: A couple of corners to Millwall, who are not giving this up by any means. O'Neil heads the first over his own crossbar. Green claims the second with ease. What a three-minute spell he's had. He's only a total liability some of the time.
89 min: Cole's afternoon won't run the duration. He's hooked, allowing new signing Vaz Te to make his debut.
90 min: Mason bombs down the right and curls a dangerous cross into the six-yard box. Tomkins clears just before the lurking Kane can meet it, albeit at the expense of a corner. From the set piece, Dunne hits a low shot that trundles towards Green at a speed of nearly 1mph.
90 min +1: Green managed to claim that 1mph shot, by the way, in case you were wondering. There will be five added minutes of play, of which this is the first.
90 min +2: Millwall can't get anything going, though they are seeing the majority of the ball. The home support have started rasping out a lusty version of Bubbles.
90 min +3: Vaz Te twists and turns. He feeds O'Neil, who is cutting in from the right. Not sure what O'Neil tries to do, but the ball ends up bouncing out of play to the left of the Millwall goal. This is good enough from the home side.
90 min +4: Millwall are pinned back in their own half. West Ham are about to go five clear at the top of the Championship.
FULL TIME: West Ham United 2-1 Millwall. And that's that. A wonderful second half after a turgid opening 45. And a brilliant result for West Ham, who played almost the entire match with ten men after Kevin Nolan's idiocy. They deserved the win, though Millwall will maintain their keeper was fouled in the build-up to the winning goal. West Ham are five points clear at the top of the table, at least for a while this afternoon. Sam Allardyce punches the air in wild celebration, while Millwall surround the ref to ping a few swearies into his face. That's derby football for you.