BY OLIVER GODDEN
Matt Smith inspired Millwall to an emphatic 3-0 win with a 13-minute first-half hat-trick against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground to take them within touching distance of the Championship play-offs.
Gary Rowett kept the same four-man back line which earned his side a draw against Bristol City in a bid to change their recent run of just one win in eight league games, and the tactic paid dividends from the outset, the visitors looking stubborn in defence and a threat going forwards.
It took Smith only 20 minutes to open the scoring, the frontman turned in Murray Wallace’s right-footed cross with a diving header from close range after tidy work on the left flank.
He doubled the Lions’ lead six minutes later, this time Mason Bennett the architect down the left. The former Derby man drove to the byline and cut a cross to Jayson Molumby, who thought he had scored his first professional goal, only to find after celebrating that his side-footed shot had been deflected home by the heel of Smith.
The big frontman completed his first hat-trick in English league football with only 33 minutes on the clock. He rose high to nod Shane Ferguson’s deep corner into an empty net at the back post to also take his tally for the season to 11.
Millwall weathered a small storm in the second half, the home side were denied a penalty after they felt Joao Carvalho was impeded, and Bart Bialkowski was on hand to deal with promising Forest attacks, but the damage had already been done by the South Londoners who now sit two points outside the play-off spots.
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