Story of the match
After contrasting fortunes in the F.A. Cup a week ago, Millwall and Nottingham Forest returned to league duty with both eyes fixed on the Championship play-off places.
Millwall welcomed the visitors with just one point separating them and seven behind Huddersfield Town in sixth.
Gary Rowett made three changes to the side defeated at home to Crystal Palace in the cup with Murray wallace and George Evans returning to the starting line-up alongside goalkeeper Bartosz Białkowski. There was no place for Jed Wallace’s in the match day squad as his future remains unresolved amidst interest from their opponents today.
After a ten minute delay to allow for medical staff to deal with an emergency, Millwall came out of the traps flying.
With fewer than 15 seconds on the clock, Scott Malone capitalised on a weak pass to fire a cross tantalisingly into the box but the Lions were unable to keep up with the English wing-back as the chance went to waste.
It was a sign of things to come as Malone continued to bypass Djed Spence on Forest’s right to overrun the visitors’ absent midfield.
Three minutes later and it was Malone’s turn again to test the Forest defence as the referee waved play on after a foul on Tom Bradshaw in the build-up. Malone, however, snatched at the chance from 12 yards as it sailed over the bar.
In the eleventh minute, Millwall went close once more with Bradshaw sending in a cross from the right. An out-stretched Malone desperately tried to get to the ball under pressure from two defenders but was unable to get anything on the ball as it flashed across the goal-line.
Nottingham Forest’s first chance eventually came in the 23rd minute as Keinan Davis tried his luck from the edge of the box but it was a tame effort that was indicative of the visitors performance up to this point.
After that, chances in the first half petered out for Millwall as their in-form striker, Bradshaw was forced off with a suspected knee injury in the 27th minute.
Forest, however, came alive in the final two minutes of the half.
In added time Spence and Davis had further chances for the visitors but the Millwall defence held strong until the half-time whistle.
Forest continued to dominate the early exchanges and possession in the second half but the first chance fell to Millwall.
Substitute Mason Bennett picked the Forest defence’s pocket but saw his cross deflected over for a corner in the 54th minute.
From the resulting corner, a scramble in the six yard box looked like it was going to fall to Wallace to tap-in from two yards but somehow the ball was scooped out for another corner but under Samba’s crossbar.
The next opening came in the 69th minute as Bennett got beyond the Forest defence and cut the ball back to fellow substitute, Ben Thompson on the penalty spot. Thompson could not, however, sort his feet out and scuffed the effort.
Forest created their first real chance two minutes later as Grabban tried to turn a drilled cross in with a Cruyff-like effort but the shot was straight at the Millwall goalkeeper.
The game came to life once more for a frantic final ten minutes.
Forest should have taken the lead in the 79th minute during a mad 20 second spell in the 79th minute where Yates twice saw efforts cleared off the line by Danny McNamara before Grabban drew an athletic save from Białkowski.
Four minutes later and Millwall went close to breaking the deadlock as Afobe’s effort was spilled by Samba but scrambled wide for a corner.
Millwall then went close again as Malone’s free-kick evaded everyone only for Afobe to fire over from six yards.
Fewer than sixty seconds later there were two chances for the visitors as Grabban went close before Yates tried an audacious overhead kick that went agonisingly over the bar.
In the final minute of normal time Afobe nearly snatched the win for the Lions as he volleyed a Bennett cross into the bottom corner but Samba did brilliantly to tip the effort wide. It proved to be a match-saver.
In the final minute of added time Nottingham Forest finally broke the deadlock.
Johnson got beyond the Millwall defence and chipped the ball over Białkowski. There was a small deflection on the effort but the ball fell into the path of Grabban who tapped in from five yards to send the raucous Forest following into raptures.
It proved to be the final action of the match leaving Forest jubilant and Millwall dismayed.
Takeaways from the match
All bark and no bite for the Lions
For the opening 30 minutes Millwall dominated possession and created plenty of chances but for just the fifth time this season the Lions were left goalless.
Millwall have, however, scored more goals after 24 games this season than they have since they returned to the Championship in 2017.
Today’s performance does expose their reliance on Tom Bradshaw who had scored in the previous five league games and after his injury in the first half Millwall lacked that goal-scoring edge that proved to be the difference.
Rowett and Millwall will be hoping the suspected knee injury doesn’t leave Bradshow sidelined for long.
In defeat, Millwall still have a lot to be impressed with.
As a defensive unit, Nottingham Forest struggled to break down Millwall and with the majority of the possession, Rowett will be wondering how they didn’t win the game.
Forest enjoyed more chances but looked frequently devoid of ideas until the goal that broke Millwall’s hearts.
With the joint highest amount of touches in the Millwall side, all that was good and creative from the home side came through the wing-back.
Malone proved threatening from set-pieces, was a nightmare for Spence and forced Forest on their heels throughout the game.
Unfortunately for Millwall and Malone, they could not find that final product and will be left ruing plenty of missed chances as find themselves now nine points of the play-off places and staring mid-table mediocrity in the face.