"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses."
Standing in a hostile environment behind the flimsy metaphorical chicken wire that has shielded them from critique in recent weeks, Millwall’s Jake and Elwood Blues have stood on centre stage in the absence of Shaun Williams hoping to get the band back together and playing a well-rehearsed tune. Unfortunately for the visiting Nottingham Forest, both Ryan Tunnicliffe and Ryan Leonard put on a show that was a five-star partnership and led the home fans singing along with delight.
The game started at a high tempo and both sides were trying to find their rhythm and with the vocal support of both sets of fans in The Den, both Millwall and Nottingham Forest showed they needed you, you, you to get any kind of foot hold in the game. It was the home side who had the first half-chance of the game in the 4th minute when a long cross searched for Shane Ferguson on Pantilimon’s far post, but a Nottingham Forest body intercepted at the last minute and got the ball away.
A Jake Cooper header from a corner was cleared away in the 6th minute, before Ryan Tunnicliffe stepped up to the plate to find the back of the net with a beautiful bicycle kick in the 9th minute of the game. Another deep corner came in from the right-hand side and once again Jake Cooper nudged the ball into the path of the midfielder. Twisting and shaking his tail feather in a position to cause maximum damage to the opposition, Tunnicliffe’s boot flew in the air and he connected beautifully to put the ball into the Forest goal and put Millwall 1-0 up.
For the next ten minutes of the game, Forest were struggling to keep up with the fast-paced action of the Lions and with Tunnicliffe and Leonard covering every blade of grass and causing the visitors more and more issues, Millwall were not letting them play with the freedom they wanted.
Forest’s first real chance of the game was in the 24th minute when some nice interplay saw Joe Lolley’s effort from distance held well by Jordan Archer and three minutes later two great blocks by Ryan Tunnicliffe ensured that Lolley’s efforts lacked power and were easily pushed wide by Jordan Archer. The Lions were on a mission from God to secure Millwall’s second clean sheet in three days and Tunnicliffe especially was playing as if he had seen the light.
In the 33rd minute of the game Millwall unleashed a lovely piece of link up play between Lee Gregory and Jed Wallace that nearly led to the Lions’ second of the game. A delightful one-two between the two was intercepted by a last gasp deflection from the Forest back-line, but the interception was too heavy and the ball bounced back to Millwall’s number nine who’s effort was kept out by Pantilimon.
Millwall went in at half-time with the score at 1-0 and were rarely threatened by Aitor Karanka’s men who although had more of the possession, simply could not match the Lions for intensity and tempo. Playing against a side with the speed and control of a police chase in a shopping mall, the visitors would need to drastically change their style if they were to get anything from this game.
Trying to replicate the earlier effort from Ryan Tunnicliffe, Jack Colback thought he would try huis own bicycle kick in the 48th minute after a number of lovely one touch passes, but Colback’s effort was easily kept out by Archer who was impressing in the Millwall goal.
Matty Cash had a long-range effort kept out in the 51st minutes before Nottingham Forest began attacking the Millwall goal with a number of dangerous looking crosses, but Neil Harris’ defence were showing those in the home stands how they do it right.
In the 62nd minute, a deflected effort from Jed Wallace had Pantilimon beat, but unfortunately for Millwall’s midfield man, the ball looped agonisingly over the cross bar and nestled on the roof of the net for another Millwall corner.
In the 78th minute, Jed Wallace tried to repeat his Boxing Day heroics when Millwall were awarded a free-kick halfway into the Nottingham Forest half. Lining up and hitting a rocket towards the near post, the ball took a deflection off of the Forest wall and bounced away from danger.
With only one minute of normal time to go, substitute Aiden O’Brien picked up the ball on the left-hand side and after a gorgeous run put the ball on a plate for fellow substitute Steve Morison to stroke home from close range. The club captain calmly stroked the ball towards goal and as the Millwall fans in attendance were dancing all over the neighbourhood, the large CLUNK! of the goal post was heard around the stadium and the ball ricocheted from danger. The home supporters were stunned as the ball ran away and the score line remained at 1-0.
Five minutes were added and although Forest had a free-kick awarded in the dying moments, the ball sailed over Jordan Archer’s bar before the referee blew for full-time. The home fans were in jubilation as Neil Harris’ side secured their second consecutive 1-0 victory and saw the South London side move slightly further away from the relegation zone.
This turbulent love story of the 2018-19 season so far has seen Millwall mistreat us and we kinda get a little mad, but today was a game where both the fans and the squad stuck together and showed that everybody needs somebody.
Millwall: Archer, Meredith, Hutchinson, Cooper, J. Wallace (Karacan 90+1'), Gregory (O'Brien 57'), Ferguson, Romeo, Tunnicliffe, Elliott (Morison 71'), Leonard.
Subs not used: Amos, M. Wallace, Skalak, Brown.
Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon, Fox, Colback, Murphy, Carvalho (Grabban 65'), Cash (Janko 64'), Robinson, Lolley, Yacob (Guedioura 56'), Darikwa, Hefele.
Subs not used: Steele, Watson, Osborn, Appiah.