words: David Marples
High up in the roof of the North Stand that houses the away supporters at Millwall’s New Den is a bird’s nest, perched precariously above a public address speaker. It remained largely undisturbed and ignored for the duration of the game, not entirely unlike Jordan Archer in the Millwall goal.
After conceding a goal after 27 seconds for the first time since the Jurassic era, Forest were up against it as the home side looked to walk into the play-off party like an absolute boss rocking up just as those present are thinking about bedtime.
As it was, this ludicrously early setback didn’t seem to knock the away side out of their stride. Lee Tomlin prodded, probed, shimmied and shammied just behind the striker Apostolos Vellios while out wide Joe Lolley looked lively all afternoon in the scaturient rain. Yet while Aitor Karanka’s side looked comfortable in possession, few chances materialised. As for Neil Harris’ side, they focused on getting the ball up to striker Steve Morison with the minimum of fuss for him to expertly hold the ball up and bring others into play – simple yet highly effective.
The game really slid away from Forest when Lee Gregory fired home to double Millwall’s advantage. Forest continued to see more of the ball but created very few chances. The two presentable ones that they did craft fell to Vellios and Barrie McKay: two players who were recalled to first team action after spending the last few months sweeping the dressing room and making tea.
“I have learnt a lot about my team. This was a surprise. Since the Preston game, after the Burton game at least, I have been really pleased with them,” Karanka told the Nottingham Evening Post. “But when you have been working, as we have, over the past few weeks, it is a surprise. Millwall are not a team with a lot of different things. They are just about long balls, crosses and aggression.”
He probably learned that McKay’s confidence is currently somewhere over the rainbow and that Vellios lacks the mobility to work an opposition defence. Having said that, few players turned in a performance anywhere near their capability and were outfought by a hungry home side.
The preparation and building for next season is already well underway with a view to disturbing those in their lofty perch.
Issue Seven of the award nominated Bandy and Shinty fanzine is on sale now. Featuring a lengthy and exclusive interview with Forest legend Frank Clark, it's a 90s special so take our hands and join us for a trip down memory lane to when football shirts were baggier than a Happy Mondays groove and more lurid than wasp vomit. Re-live that memorable European sojourn: Paul McGregor's goal, Steve Chettle scoring in Munich and all that. You can buy a copy from MSR newsagents on Radcliffe Road or order one here.