PEARCE: NOW WE KNOW WE CAN SCRAP FOR A POINT
Millwall close to shocking leaders
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
TURN OF PACE: Henri Lansbury attempts to escape from Ed Upson