Behind Enemy Lines: Nottingham Forest

MILLWALL are back on their travels for the second of three away games in a week before they return to The Den next Saturday for the FA Cup fourth round against Bristol City.

This was Millwall’s last fixture before the first national lockdown in March. Gary Rowett’s side won 3-0 at The City Ground thanks to Matt Smith’s first-half hat-trick.

The sides have drawn 18 league games between them this season, including the fixture at The Den last month which ended 1-1, with Tom Bradshaw scoring for the Lions.

Alex Grace spoke to Forest fan Lee Clarke this week.

Twitter: @Clarkey_No1 or @SeatPitch

Why do you support Nottingham Forest?

When I was a kid my dad was following the club around the country. More out of curiosity I was keen to find out why he was never at home on Saturdays.

He took me and I was hooked.

What season did you first start following Forest?

Following was probably the 1993-94 campaign. I showed a small interest in the 1992-93, which was the first-ever Premier League season, but was a bit too young to remember a lot of the games.

The season after was the one when I became football mad.

What is the most memorable Forest game you’ve seen?

With nearly 20 years under my belt watching the club home and away, that is tough.

We’ve not had a great deal of success in that time so there are no finals or anything of note.

I enjoyed the FA Cup win at Manchester City. We beat them 3-0, they were doing well in the top flight, we were bottom of the Championship. Forest had 9000 fans at their place that day and it was amazing.

Were you happy with the appointment of Chris Hughton?

Absolutely. He’s the appointment we’ve craved for many years, in my opinion. He knows the division, is a respected figure and given time he should get it right.

It was a really slow start by Forest but recent results have been an improvement – are you optimistic for the rest of the season?

I think given the last six games there is cause for optimism. We’ve kept four clean sheets during the mini-unbeaten run and although we could be more creative, Hughton is getting rid of the soft underbelly, it would seem.

What are your aspirations for the season?

Stay up. That might sound really boring but that’s literally our remit for the remainder of the season.

If we can get into a safe position, I’d like to see Hughton let the shackles off some of the academy lads. Alex Mighten being one in particular who hasn’t featured anywhere near enough.

This will be the second time in four league matches the teams have faced each other – do you think that is a benefit for either side?

Erm, probably not. I think the preparation these days is so meticulous that it doesn’t really matter.

We always know when facing Millwall that the work rate will be sky high. The minimum requirement against the Lions is always to match the commitment of the opposition.

What are your thoughts on Lions boss Gary Rowett?

After he spent time at Derby as a player and a manager, you’re probably asking the wrong person.

He did flick a V towards our main stand during his time at Pride Park and his team thrashed us 3-0 on home soil last season.

What can I say? He’s a very decent Championship manager who does very well with limited resources.

There, I said it.

Lions boss Gary Rowett angered Forest fans

The January transfer window is here – where do Forest need to strengthen?

We desperately need a no. 8. Our biggest problem is that we have nobody to link defence with attack. Our wingers are often forced to leave their more advanced positions to get on the ball and as a result, we don’t create many chances.

If we can add a no. 8, I think we’ll be fine.

Are there any players that need to leave?

Loads. The issue we have is that a lot of the players deemed surplus are on big wages which makes them unattractive to clubs in the lower leagues.

We have 11 players out of contract during the summer and it can’t come soon enough.

If you could add two Millwall players to the Forest side, who would they be and why?

Jed Wallace without any shadow of a doubt – oozes class on the pitch and was one of few opposition players to give us credit when we were doing well last season.

After that, it’s either Ryan Woods or Mahlon Romeo. Can I have three?

Who are Forest’s danger men and why?

Anthony Knockaert has seen his loan extended and he gets a lot of unfair criticism from our supporters. But for some wayward finishing, he’d be sat on five or six assists during his time at Forest.

His left-foot is a wand and his work rate is never in doubt. Hopefully Samba Sow keeps his place in the team, too, I feel his physicality could be pivotal against Millwall.

Due to restrictions, fans are once again unable to attend games – will you be watching from home?

I will watch it, yes. It’s not the same, though, is it?

What’s your predicted Forest starting XI and formation?

I think we will go with a 4-2-3-1 again. I run one of these on our website and I’m rarely right!

I will go for: Brice Samba; Cyrus Christie, Joe Worrall, Scott McKenna, Yuri Ribeiro; Samba Sow, Ryan Yates; Anthony Knockaert, Cafu, Alex Mighten; Lewis Grabban

And finally, a score prediction?

For the first time in a while, I do feel confident. My heart says we’ll win 2-1, my head thinks it could be a 1-1 draw.

Graphic: @ShedCreative