Uncharacteristically deadly Reds tame the Lions..

Reidy seals the game, and a man of the match performance, with our third..Nottingham Forest - 3

Nottingham Forest – 3
Millwall – 1

It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job – the Reds relied on a fair degree of luck with the visitors rattling the woodwork on a number of occasions and a reasonable looking shout for a penalty.  At the other end Forest were uncharacteristically deadly in front of goal, there weren’t all that many chances created – so the conversion rate of those we did make was most pleasing for the home fans.

Unlike midweek, the team that Steve Cotterill went for wasn’t far away from what many of us would select, I think – a conventional 4-4-2 with people playing in their proper positions.  True, Elokobi missing through injury isn’t ideal, and I’m sure like me many fans might consider whether or not Chambers’ recent performances in defence justify keeping out Lynch or even Wootton on the bench – but all in all, I was pretty pleased.

Gunter    Chambers    Higginbotham    Cunningham
McCleary    Moussi    Guedioura    Reid
Tudgay    Blackstock

Millwall won the toss and elected to make us swap ends, so the incongruous sight of Forest kicking towards the Trent End started the match for us.  It was the visitors who had the first decent chance, too – James Henry (remember him? he played for us for about ten minutes whilst on loan from Reading) struck a shot from in the area, hitting the upright before Lee Camp was able to claim the ricochet.

Another opportunity falling to the Lions left us fearing the worst, the ball coming off Henry to Keogh whose volley was just over.  Forest started to awaken a little and some good work from Adlene Guedioura saw him get the chance to cross from the right to Dexter Blackstock whose effort was dragged wide.  It did start to see us liven up a little though and take the game to Millwall a little.

Gunter and McCleary work really well together down the right hand side – it was the Welshman feeding the ball to the on-form winger whose snapshot was almost diverted into the goal by Andy Reid, the ball ending up just wide of the post having beaten the dive of Forde.  We didn’t have too long to wait until we did manage to break the deadlock, though.

Reid picked up the ball on the left, and with no pressure from Millwall took his time to pick out a lovely cross to the back post where it found Garath McCleary lurking.  The ball in was too high to volley comfortably, too low to head standing – Gaz opted to practically get onto his knees whilst heading the ball into the net at the far post to give Forest the lead with their first shot on target.  Nice!

Spurred on by a buoyant City Ground, the Reds carried on attacking – Guedioura took the ball down the left and played it across the pitch to Gunter on the right.  He put in a decent cross towards Dexter, but Paul Robinson was on hand to intercept and get the ball clear at the expense of a corner.  Naturally, it being a corner – and us being Forest – very little of note came of this!

A second goal was to come though.  A decent run forward from Greg Cunningham was cynically cut short by a Millwall foul.  Reid delivered an outswinging ball towards the back post where it was headed up in the air by Chambers, falling fortunately at the back post to Danny Higginbotham who kept his eye on the ball and struck a fantastic volley into the net from a ridiculously tight angle.

Millwall reminded us they were still a threat though – James Henry again was causing problems, unleashing a powerful dipping shot from around the twenty yard mark.  I thought Camp might’ve got a decisive touch on it that caused it to cannon off the underside of the crossbar, eventually the ball was put out of play thanks to a poor shot from visitors.  I do think Kenny Jackett had his side briefed to ‘shoot from anywhere’ against the Reds.

We closed out the first half with Millwall trying to mount the pressure on us with little success – at one point (and I can’t quite remember the placement of it, it might even have been at 1-0) Garath McCleary appeared to clip Scott Barron – the defender’s overly-dramatic swan-dive perhaps costing his side the decision from the referee who waved away protests.  It certainly looked like a penalty to me.  Still, how many should-have-been-penalties have we not been given?

Funnily enough with goals to talk about and results elsewhere to check (kudos to County for being 4-0 up down at Charlton at this point) I must confess I didn’t pay any attention whatsoever to the kicking-the-ball-through-Victor’s-hole competition – so I couldn’t tell you whether or not it was managed this time around.  That is something that always bodes well!

A lively start to the second half saw the visitors again getting the first chance – a break culminating in an effort from Keogh which Camp was able to save.  Some nice work again between McCleary and Gunter saw the former flick the ball through to the latter – Gunter then crossed brilliantly across the six yard line only for nobody quite being able to get on the end of it to apply the killer touch.

Millwall responded positively by attacking – and a nervy clearance by Cunningham in a crowded penalty area gave Alan Dunne the chance to hit a powerful shot that Gunter was able to deflect out of play.  At the other end McCleary had a go from long range which – whilst straight at him – was spilled by Forde but he was able to regather it before any danger was posed by other Reds players.

Our visitors were good value for a goal at least though – and it arrived after it looked like Josh Wright was to be the latest unlucky player for them to hit the woodwork.  His shot deflected off Higginbotham and looped up and over Camp to strike the post.  Agony turned to joy for the Lions in an instant though, the ball rebounded to Darius Henderson who had all the time in the world to pop the ball in the net to get the visitors back in the game.

I was feeling pretty nervous by this point – but to their credit the bulk of Reds fans kept positive and vocally behind the lads – Forest were spurred on and Gunter again was well forward and crossed in towards Moussi but Robinson was on hand to clear.  As the game threatened to fizzle out the ball fell to Reid deep in midfield.  With nobody closing him down he carried the ball forward a few yards before picking out a delicious shot from around thirty yards into the far top corner.

Millwall continued to battle – Robinson should’ve done a lot better with Bouazza’s cross but he conspired to head it over from close range.  Forest wound some time down by using the fairly limited options on the bench – first Wootton came on for Tudgay, the substitute lining up in midfield.  As the stoppage board went up revealing five minutes of time added on we made two more changes, Lynch replaced Reid who got a great ovation, and eventually Miller came on for Blackstock who hadn’t spotted it was his number up.

By this point Millwall had all but given up really trying by this point so it was a relatively stress-free close out to the game not least thanks to the two goal cushion afforded by Andy Reid’s strike.  It feels good to be celebrating a win, it feels very good to have a better points cushion from the drop-zone and puts me in a much more positive frame of mind for the trip to Derby on Tuesday.  That’s our game in hand on everyone but Doncaster.

Whilst we should always celebrate three points and acknowledge the good things – so let’s do that, well done Steve and the boys.  Reidy, Higginbotham and McCleary in particular (and not just for their goals) stood out.  However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement and a side less wasteful in finishing, and with a bit more luck with efforts off the woodwork or with refereeing decisions could’ve seen this result be different.

But it wasn’t, which would explain why I’ve had a few well deserved celebratory pints!  You Reds!