Mill­wall close to shock­ing lead­ers

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By George Jones

EV­ERY pro­mo­tion-chas­ing club needs to be able to scrap for points – and it is a char­ac­ter­is­tic that Not­ting­ham For­est have in re­serve, ac­cord­ing to boss Stu­art Pearce.

For­est had pro­pelled them­selves to the top of the Cham­pi­onship by bang­ing in 17 goals in their open­ing seven league matches of the cam­paign, but they had to show a dif­fer­ent side to their game at Mill­wall.

Top scorer Britt As­som­ba­longa was of­ten an iso­lated fig­ure at The Den with Mar­tyn Woolford and Mathias Ranegie com­ing clos­est to win­ning it for the Lions.

And Pearce, whose team have yet to be beaten un­der his stew­ard­ship, be­lieves his character-filled squad are still im­prov­ing.

“We started and fin­ished well and, in be­tween, we had to dig in, de­fend stoutly as a group and we did so,” he said.

“Mill­wall gen­er­ated a bit of mo­men­tum with the fans and we had to show a de­fen­sive dis­play and get blocks in. It was a rea­son­ably scrappy game.

“We didn’t have the cut­ting edge go­ing for­ward we wanted and, over­all, I have got to be happy with a point and a clean sheet on the road.

“As a group, we are get­ting bet­ter and our character is out­stand­ing.

“I have to quan­tify that the likes of

Britt, Michail An­to­nio and Jamie Pater­son are all young and haven’t played a great deal to­gether.

“This is a team in its in­fancy at the mo­ment and we are im­prov­ing. No team in world foot­ball can dom­i­nate things for 90 min­utes.

“You know you’ll drop out of a game for a cer­tain spell and, when you do, you’ve got to rely on the character of your team. I am blessed with a group that have a lot of it.”

Michail An­to­nio fired wide after just 55 seconds and, at the other end, Mill­wall striker Jer­maine Easter ap­peared to be bun­dled over inside the area by Michael Man­ci­enne. Mark Beev­ers cut out Jack Hunt’s dan­ger­ous cross mid­way through the first half and, on 25 min­utes, As­som­ba­longa could only head straight at David Forde.

Forde clawed An­to­nio’s whipped cross from un­der­neath his cross­bar on the half-hour and Woolford headed straight at Karl Dar­low for the im­prov­ing Lions.

Kelvin Wilson got his head in the way of Shaun Wil­liams’ rasp­ing strike seven min­utes after the break as Mill­wall started the sec­ond pe­riod on the front foot. Woolford fizzed just wide from a nar­row an­gle on 56 min­utes after Dar­low could only flick Ed Up­son’s cross par­tially clear.

The For­est goal­keeper then made a su­per stop on 64 min­utes by in­stinc­tively stick­ing out a leg to keep out Ranegie’s close-range vol­ley.

Late on, a rarely-in­volved As­som­ba­longa sent a soft header straight at Forde and then skied Jamie Pater­son’s cut­back well off tar­get.

The re­sult means Mill­wall are win­less in their last three Champi- on­ship games, but boss Ian Hol­loway is de­lighted with their re­cent per­for­mances.

He said: “I was very pleased, even though we have only got one point in a week.

“We have played bet­ter this week than we have in some of our other games.

“We made a cou­ple of mis­takes and, when you do that and don’t take a chance, then this di­vi­sion isn’t very nice.

“Some­times a lit­tle bit of wedge here and there – £5mil­lion on a cen­tre for­ward – can help you.

“For­est are buzzing and on a roll. Their man­ager went 4-4-2 late on, which proved to me that he wanted to win it.

“But he sat in and got well or­gan­ised to stop us, which also tells me we aren’t that bad.

“I was ex­pect­ing goals and I told ev­ery­one they’d be on the edge of their seats.

“We should’ve had a penalty and so should they. What with the save from Ranegie and Woolford’s chance, I could be sit­ting here smil­ing, hav­ing just beaten top of the league.”

SHOUL­DER TO SHOUL­DER: Mill­wall mid­fielder Nad­jim Ab­dou and Michail An­to­nio tussle

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

TURN OF PACE: Henri Lans­bury at­tempts to es­cape from Ed Up­son

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