After Tuesday’s loss against Doncaster, Forest redeemed themselves with a resounding victory over Millwall. James Bolton reports from the City Ground.
Steve Cotterill named a much more balanced side for the visit of Millwall in another key game at the bottom of the Championship. Danny Higginbotham and Marcus Tudgay returned from injury, Andy Reid started on the left and, as expected, Greg Cunningham replaced George Elokobi, who limped off in Tuesday’s defeat against Doncaster.
Forest were much quicker out of the blocks than on Tuesday, but the first chance of the game fell to the visitors. A poor Forest clearance fell to James Henry and he poked towards goal, only to see the ball hit the post, bounce back to Lee Camp and to safety.
Millwall were clearly not afraid to have an effort on goal and Andy Keogh, who had scored three goals in his last three games, volleyed towards goal from eight yards out, but he took it at a difficult height, and the ball skimmed the roof of the net.
The visitors were looking confident, but Forest were growing into the game as the first half progressed. After holding up the ball well in the box, Chris Gunter laid it off to Garath McCleary, whose shot was flicked towards goal by Reid but bobbled wide.
Then, after 25 minutes, a great bit of persistence from Reid down the left opened up a crossing opportunity and he didn’t disappoint. His beautifully, whipped-in ball found McCleary at the post, who stooped well to head into the far corner to give Forest the lead.
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A strong run from Cunningham into the opposition half brought a foul and earned Forest a free-kick 20 yards from goal and gave Reid chance to deliver again. The cross was headed out by Millwall but fell to Higginbotham, who brilliantly volleyed across the box into the far corner. It was a finish of real quality that doubled Forest’s lead.
But Millwall nearly reduced the deficit immediately as Henry hit the woodwork for a second time. The ball sat up perfectly for the winger, and his dipping right-foot shot hit the bar, and Camp’s delighted reaction indicated a brilliant fingertip save.
Despite hitting the woodwork twice and posing a threat in the first half, the visitors were trailing to a Forest side that had taken their chances very well.
Forest got off to a settled start after the break by keeping hold of possession and had the majority of the ball. They were inches away from killing off the game and making it 3-0 after a great reverse pass from McCleary played in Gunter, but Dexter Blackstock just couldn’t quite connect.
Millwall’s top scorer Darius Henderson then replaced Harry Kane, and he pulled a goal back for the Lions just after the hour mark. A deflected effort looped over Camp and hit the post, but the ricochet was not kind on this occasion for Forest, as the ball fell for Henderson to head home.
Forest had to endure a small barrage from Millwall, who were pumping in crosses from both flanks and David Forde’s huge goal kicks combined with Henderson’s physical presence were causing a few problems.
But with 10 minutes to go Reid controlled a high ball and, as the Millwall defence stood off him, was able to rifle in a tremendous strike from around 30 yards into the top corner. It was one of those that looked in as soon as he hit it and capped off an outstanding display.
Millwall winger Hamer Bouazza crossed into centre-half Paul Robinson, but he was unable to direct his header on target, after Camp failed to get anywhere near the cross. Keogh then headed wide from eight yards out despite being unmarked. They were two decent chances that could have made for a more nervy final 10 minutes.
It took till the 89th minute for Steve Cotterill to make his substitutions. Scott Wootton, Ishmael Miller and Joel Lynch replaced Tudgay, Blackstock and Reid, who received a roaring ovation as he left the field.
It was a great result that rectified the poor performance on Tuesday night against Doncaster Rovers. It just goes to show how beneficial simple things like putting players in their best position can actually be.
Gunter and McCleary is proving to be a strong partnership down the right, Higginbotham was extremely solid at the back and Reid was simply sublime all afternoon. His delivery is exquisite, his work rate is excellent and he manages to make time and space for himself where there appears to be none.
When asked by BBC Radio Nottingham’s Robin Chipperfield if he thought he’d done enough to get into the side for the Derby game on Tuesday, Reid replied with a smattering of laughter but a hint of deadly seriousness: “If I’m not in the side, I won’t be happy”. So will we Andy, because today, he was man of the match by an absolute mile.