words: David Marples
The evening will be largely remembered for the event of a tall towering structure malfunctioning, plunging the City Ground into darkness; both literally and metaphorically.
When Costel Pantilimmon looked hither and thither, then dithered, before finally blathering the ball out to a Millwall player, the two-goal lead that Forest had painstakingly built eroded alarmingly.
The home team were unable to get out of their own half for the first five minutes. The opening five minutes turned into ten minutes, then evolved into twenty and lasted until the 26thminute. At that point Joe Lolley, for perhaps the first time in the game, was allowed a couple of seconds on the ball without being closed down quicker than an old fashioned pub. He turned and successfully took aim at the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
What Millwall did, they did exceedingly well. It wasn’t a case of aimless balls into the box; it was more a case of lofted balls to the back post towards two players for one of them to nod back across goal. And it worked every time. If Forest had stationed four floodlight pylons at centre back, one suspects it would have made little difference anyway, such was the efficiency of the Millwall game plan.
Despite having one of those evenings when nothing seemed to come off for him, João Carvalho kept on trying and rather than sulking, dropped deeper to link play and put his game back together. All the while, Neil Harris’ team attacked while Aitor Karanka’s team clunked.
And then the lights went out. Sat in the dark, thoughts turned to that Monday evening in November 1997 when Frank Lampard struck an equaliser for West Ham United against Crystal Palace, swiftly followed by floodlight failure and consequent abandonment. Surely the old Asian betting syndicate floodlight failure thing couldn’t happen here?
Like a slumbering lumbering giant, the Bridgford End floodlight slowly awoke from its stasis and languidly plodded back into life.
Two minutes later. Joao did Joao-type things and stuck the ball into the top corner direct from a free kick. Storm weathered. Game safe. Three points. Go home. Smile. Sleep.
If you want something from Millwall, you have to fight for it. On the rare occasion a promising attack was mustered by Forest, the visitors were somehow back into position with a full compliment of staff before the counter was beyond its infancy. On one such occasion, Carvalho was bundled to the floor and seven blue shirts were back behind the ball before you could get beyond the ‘R’ in ‘ref!’
By the end, Millwall out Stoked Stoke and utterly Warnocked Forest.
Issue Ten will be with you in early November.