|Forest went into this game needing one point to secure that all-important play-off place and after making hard work of it, that is exactly what they got.
This was always going to be a bit of a strange game with no away supporters in the ground. Yet despite this, the sell-out crowd of Forest fans managed to provide a good atmosphere for the most part. However, the silence when Millwall did score was bizarre to say the least.
With their nerves settled by the defeat of Burnley on Easter Monday, Forest started the game brightly, their first chance coming in the fourth minute as Andy Reid crossed from the left. David Johnson got in a great diving header just in front of goal but managed to direct the ball wide.
Less than five minutes late Reid fired in another cross, this time finding Marlon Harewood, but he could only fire his shot straight at Tony Warner in the Millwall goal.
The first goal finally arrived in the 19th minute when Eugen Bopp’s cross-cum-shot deflected off a defender and out to Eoin Jess on the edge of the area. Jess was in acres of space, and while the Millwall defence did passable impressions of statues, he pulled the trigger and fired in a low shot.
The second goal arrived only three minutes later as Johnson managed to shake off the attentions of Matt Lawrence before putting in a cross. The ball beat Jess before coming out to Bopp who smashed it back towards goal. The ball took a wicked deflection of an outstretched leg before looping into the far corner of the net.
It looked like the points were in the bag and the crowd started to celebrate their play-off place.
They were a little premature, of course, and Millwall produced an eerie silence in the City Ground 2 minutes later as Lawrence put a nice ball in for Tim Cahill, whose shot was blocked. The loose ball came out for Stuart Nethercott, who made no mistake as he blasted his ball into the top of the net.
The game continued at a pace, but as the half wore on Millwall looked the more likely to score. But a fine clearance from Bopp and some good goalkeeping from Ward made sure that Forest went in for the break with a one-goal lead.
The second half started with Forest looking a little more relaxed. Unfortunately, they were a little too relaxed and Millwall started to apply some pressure to them with efforts from Neil Harris and Paul Ifill testing Ward early in the half.
Millwall’s efforts deserved some reward and it arrived on 66 minutes when Cahill fired in a free kick from 25 yards out.
The equalizer seemed to wake Forest up and they started to pressure the Millwall defence. Six minutes after Millwall had equalized Forest were back in front thanks to a bizarre goal. John Thompson’s cross was only half-cleared and it fell to Jess who blasted in a shot. It was a hard shot, but I think Warner may well have had it covered. Unfortunately for Warner though, the ball hit Johnson on the backside and looped past him into the net – still they all count and I’m sure Johnson was happy to claim it.
A tired looking Johnson was substituted on 75 minutes and went off to a standing ovation from sell-out crowd and five minutes later Jess found himself going off to an ovation as the crowd started to celebrate.
Millwall had a never-say-die spirit about them though and they were not going to let Forest win this one without a fight. Then with just over three minutes to go Neil Harris scored the goal of the afternoon as he took on the Forest defence single handed before blasting in a neat turning-shot from the edge of the Forest area.
With the scores level at 3 – 3 the remaining three minutes and injury time were a little edgy for Forest. So the relief was tremendous when the final whistle went, and although the point was valuable, their job had been made easier by Ipswich losing 5-1 to Wimbledon.
The crowd had been on its best behaviour all afternoon and only one lone-idiot ran across the pitch. This meant Forest did not leave the crowd waiting too long before returning to do the traditional lap of honour. The loudest cheers of the afternoon seemed to be reserved for David Johnson, Marlon Harewood and Paul Hart – but every one of them deserved their ovation.
The play-off place may now be secure – but the hardest work is still to come. It could be a very exciting May for the Reds, fingers crossed.