All even at The City Ground: Nottingham Forest FC-2 Millwall FC-2

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forest v mill

Starting XI

Welcome to my latest post analysis, this week we take a look at Championship sides Nottingham Forest and Millwall FC. I was expecting a real treat and both sides didn’t let me down.

Aitor Karanka Forest failed to secure a win in front of the home crowd against midtable side Millwall FC. Making just 7 shots in the 90 minutes, they were evidently the better team against Neil Harris’ Millwall who has bounced back from a 2 goal deficit earn a solitary point on the road. On the other hand, Aitor Karanka worked under José Mourinho, which shows quite clearly in how he set up his team.


Forest. Aitor Karanka set up in his standard 4-2-3-1. Pontilimon was the goalkeeper protected by a back four of Jack Robinson, Danny Fox, Michael Hefele and Saidy Janko from left to right. The double 6 partnership of Jack Colback and Adlène Guedioura were flanked by Ben Osborn on the left, while Joe Lolley featured on the right.  Forest utilized a central organization in the attack, with João Carvalho playing just deeper of Lewis Grabban.

Millwall. Neil Harris’ men lined up in a formation, 4-4-2, which has seen little change this season. Ben Amos started as goalkeeper behind their standard back four of James Meredith (LB) and Mahlon Romeo (RB) on either side of the center back partnership with Jake Cooper and Murray Wallace. The two central midfielders were Ryan Leonard and Shaun Williams, supported strikers, Lee Gregory, and Tom Elliot. Shane Ferguson saw the majority of the ball on the left wing, while Jiří Skalák on the opposite.

Fight for control in the central area

In Forest’s possession, there was a developing partnership between Colback and Guedioura which was pressed against easily. The center lacked support by wide players, with both very wide in anticipation of playing through the touchlines, and when Lolley came inside as the first half progressed, he contributed very little and was caught out on a few occasions.

half white

Early on,  João Carvalho occasionally offered support he held positions in the 10 space somewhat like an Enganche.  When Lolley cut inside because this benefitted Forest’s possession game, he utilized his pressing resistance and combinations with Carvahlo and Osborn to counteract Millwall’s high-pressure system. Furthermore, Carvahlo and Osborn’s support, Millwall’s midfield partnership (Leonard and Williams) sat deeper in their ball-orientations on Forest because there was a threat of the 10 space being exploited behind.

Lolly Goal

Lolley Goal

Aitor Karanka seemingly noticed this, and you could immediately see Lolley rotate with Carvahlo, who more frequently dropped to support Colback and Guedioura, while Osborn drifted inside too. Besides, the positioning of the two central midfielders improved midway through the first half–this allowed Lolley to drift inside to make a magnificent strike to land on the score sheet. These small changes Forest’s made led to more control as the game progressed.

In the second half if the opposition switched to ball-orientation, therefore they pressed more aggressively in an attempt to restrict access to Lolley, Carvahlo, and Grabban who had a quiet first half. Increasingly in the second half, Robinson put more crosses in the box to connect with Grabban.

Even though Forest had more possession (58%), Millwall began to assert control of the game. However, it came at cost from Ryan Leonard’s foul on Carvahlo which resulted in a free-kick. awarded in dangerous territory which led to a goal.

Millwall’s Wing Focus

The visitors from London had good support from wide areas in the form of both wingers whilst Leonard and Williams supported as well. Defensively, they were stronger–Shaun Williams, in particular, had a great game 10 interceptions and a goal in the 70th minute.

In possession, Millwall has a significant focus on their left flank and this match was no different with just under half of the attacks channeled down this third. Ferguson and Meredith have a great partnership,  they threaten excellently in these situations. Their attack down the left side is down to the movement of the two wide players, but in particular with Ferguson.  Consistently, he used speed to get behind Forest’s Swiss right full-back, Janko, to send a whipping cross to Gregory and Elliott. Surprisingly Karanka didn’t play it cautious and instruct Janko to sit deep. Forest’s manager is not known for his tactical flexibility.

Millwall turned the table on the host.

The first sign momentum was shifting in favor of the visitors was Forest low-intensity and complacent press. Further, Pontilimon’s poor throw to left-back, Robinson, Millwall’s Robinson intercepted it, then crossed it to Shaun Williams who headed it home to make it 2-1.

Late in the match,  Forest was disorganized and confused in and out of possession. Karanka saw his side were in trouble so he made last a last-ditch effort to shut the door by bringing on Michael Dawson for Joao Carvalho. However, it proved a little too late because Harris brought on attackers, Steve Morison, and Tom Bradshaw.  Forest’s compounded disorganization and poor concentration led to Lee Gregory’s equalizer.


Harris’  Millwall fully deserved their point after a strong comeback over promotion contenders, Notting Forest.  Karanka’s men started strong but later in the match, they had no answers for the visitors.  Karanka needs to get his back four sorted as soon as possible because they’ve conceded 13 goals. From a neutral’s standpoint, it was a great game to watch. Currently, Forest is 5th in the Championship table if Karanka’s men sort the defensive issues they could contend for promotion to the top flight.

The Author

Football mad and obsessed depending on the day of the week. All jokes aside I am a husband, father, criminal justice researcher, and novice football analyst.

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