BY ALEX GRACE
It was this very fixture that last season propelled Millwall into play-off contention. The 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest left the Lions just two points outside of the Championship’s top six places before football and the whole of the world shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
So much has changed since then – we are all wearing masks, staying apart and football is taking place without any fans present.
But something else has changed at Millwall. The loss of fans has undoubtedly had an effect with just one win at The Den all season. Confidence is looking low.
Things have not been the same since that win at Forest and Saturday’s clash on the banks of the River Trent is one that Gary Rowett and his side will want to forget – and quickly.
I, and I’m sure many others, felt the Lions had turned a corner with last Tuesday’s performance at Bournemouth – a game where they were unlucky not to come away with all three points. The same could not be said about Saturday.
The Lions were second best all over the pitch and were lucky not to be out of the game by the interval. If you compared this to the performance at Bournemouth you would have been forgiven for thinking that it was too different teams, when actually it was the exact same 11 players that started the draw with the Cherries.
The hosts had Millwall at their disposal right from the very start. Cyrus Christie fired an early warning, driving an effort just over the bar in the opening exchanges. Lewis Grabban was played in behind the Lions’ defence and opted to shoot rather than play the ball across goal but his scuffed effort was comfortable for Bart Bialkowski.
Forest were in control and had another two opportunities, first through Sammy Ameobi who curled just wide of the far post before Ryan Yates headed wide from the active Cafu, whose deliveries were causing panic in the Millwall box. It was Ameobi who gave Forest the lead. Once again, Millwall failed to clear their lines and the ball came to the former Newcastle winger and his shot deflected off Alex Pearce and landed in the bottom corner, out of Bialkowski’s reach.
Rowett’s men did wake up but never really tested Brice Samba for the entire 90 minutes, although his rashness nearly cost his side their lead at half-time. Danny McNamara crossed the ball and the keeper launched himself out of his goal and missed the ball completely, but redeemed himself by keeping out Scott Malone’s shot.
Ameobi has been a thorn in Millwall’s side before and he got the second and most important goal of the game. A standard throw from Samba was picked up by Ameobi, who played a simple one-two with Alex Mighten before curling a beautiful effort past Bialkowski.
Forest never looked like losing after they took the lead and they put the final nail in the Millwall coffin five minutes from the end when Yates bundled in from a corner.
The positives that can come out of the game was a first goal of the campaign for Ben Thompson, who was introduced as a second-half substitute, and Danny McNamara, who was making just his third start for the club but is proving that he can play at this level.
Can Thompson force his way into the starting 11? There is debate amongst the fanbase about whether he should be given a chance over Ryan Woods.
Millwall can take heart from their opponents. Prior to Chris Hughton’s arrival Forest were in freefall and were looking more like a side destined for League One rather than the side that challenged in the top six last season.
All it takes is a few good results to get yourself back on track in this league. Momentum is a huge thing in any division. We know what Millwall can do when they get on one of those runs, all you have to do is look back at 2017-18 and the second half of last season. We all know it can be done and a few positive results is all that is required to get one of those runs going once again.
Millwall responded at Bristol City with a win after a poor performance at Middlesbrough the Saturday beforehand and the same reaction will be needed on Wednesday night at Huddersfield as one win in 15 matches in simply not good enough.
If this run does not end soon it will be an end of season battle to avoid the bottom three.
Sammy Ameobi – The former Newcastle United winger put Millwall to the sword with two very good finishes.
Ameobi’s finish for his second goal was top drawer, the set-up play with Alex Mighten was simple but effective, the finish was exquisite.
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