Five things we learned: Millwall 0-0 Nottingham Forest – News at Den
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Five things we learned: Millwall 0-0 Nottingham Forest

© Edmund Boyden
© Edmund Boyden

#1: Lions dream of a team of Jimmy Abdous

Jimmy Abdou has made over 200 appearances in six years as a Millwall player and yet he's still surprising us.

His display as a makeshift right back against Nottingham Forest was undoubtedly one of his best performances for the Lions. It surely must rank in the top three.

Abdou has played in defence before but not when up against someone of Michail Antonio's quality – and not for 85 minutes against the league leaders.

Few would deny Antonio is the most dangerous winger in the Championship and he had twice skipped past Carlos Edwards before the Trinidadian had to be stretchered off.

With Edwards badly hurt, boss Ian Holloway had an important decision to make.

Alan Dunne, a right back for the majority of his career, was overlooked. Holloway "needed legs" and Dunne has looked far more assured as a centre half in the past six months.

So Abdou was called upon to shackle Antonio and the Frenchman rose to the challenge in true Millwall fashion. In that respect, we shouldn't have expected anything different.

But the 30-year-old, a bundle of energy no matter what, showed incredible composure and awareness for someone playing in an unfamiliar position.

Abdou didn't just track Antonio's runs and deny him space, he pushed the winger back into his own half. Rather than do a spoiling job, Abdou got forward on the overlap.

And when he did need to make a tackle or commit himself, Abdou seemed to come away with the ball at his feet every time. He also made more interceptions than any other player.

With Holloway fearing the worst about Edwards' injury, the Lions boss surely won't hesitate to play Abdou at right back again – at least in the short term.

#2: Ed Upson offers Millwall something different

That was Ed Upson's best performance for Millwall – and with a bit of shooting practice, he could bring much-needed goals to the side.

Upson is a real all-rounder. He classes himself as an attacking player but, sitting alongside Shaun Williams, he showed that he can break up the play and win the ball back too.

In that sense he offers Holloway something different.

Williams can get forward but has made the midfield holding role his own this season. Scott McDonald will chase back but prefers to create in the final third.

Upson, however, is a bridge between the two.

On Saturday he scampered from box to box, kept possession ticking over when he needed to but also gambled with his runs forward and shots from the edge of the box.

He had four efforts on goal – unfortunately all of them off target – but the 24-year-old had a healthy scoring record for Yeovil Town so he knows where the back of the net is.

Upson complemented Williams and McDonald really well and the three of them out-passed Forest's midfield trio by 143 passes to 97.

He has a bit of everything and a run of starts is just what he needs after a hamstring injury. Fully-fit and in-form, Upson could be a key player and bring balance to the midfield.

#3: Beevers and Dunne get a Britt award

£5million-buy Britt Assombalonga has already scored eight goals this season.

And after watching clips of Millwall's defending against Reading, the striker will have been licking his lips ahead of Saturday's visit to The Den.

But Assombalonga – barring one half-chance that he shanked miles wide – was anonymous. Centre backs Alan Dunne and Mark Beevers did a real job on him.

Beevers was especially impressive, looking relaxed on the ball and commanding in the air.

Dunne and Beevers made 21 defensive clearances combined and cut-off off the supply to Assombalonga, who saw less of the ball than any other player that started the game.

Forest's star man managed just 20 touches and four passes in 90 minutes.

That was because Millwall made Assombalonga feel isolated on his own up front. Dunne tracked his runs on the deck while Beevers swallowed up everything in the air.

Having conceded five goals in their previous two games, Saturday's rearguard action was a welcome return to the defensive security that has been a bedrock of Holloway's reign.

#4: Malone rediscovering last season's form

Scott Malone made a quiet start to the season but the signs from his last two performances suggest he has rediscovered his attacking spark.

Malone made several of his trademark attacking runs against Reading in midweek, where he waits for a decoy runner to sprint past him before darting inside towards the penalty area.

One of those runs – which was followed by a pinpoint pass – led to Ricardo Fuller's first-half strike at the Madejski Stadium.

The 23-year-old got forward well against Forest on Saturday and nearly grabbed a dramatic late winner when he burst into the box only to underhit his shot.

While Malone's final ball let him down on this occasion, he looked much brighter as an attacking threat and adds an extra dimension to Millwall's forward play when he's on form.

Not only that, but the left back did a brilliant job of containing Forest winger Chris Burke, who has seemingly always caused Millwall problems in the past.

#5: Millwall will benefit from a settled side

Millwall don't have a £5m striker in their ranks or a guaranteed 20-goal-a-season man. But what they do have is plenty of midfield and forward options.

For all of their territorial dominance against Forest, the Lions didn't create the chances to match.

Mathias Ranegie's close-range toe-poke was instictively kept out by Karl Darlow, while the usually-reliable Martyn Woolford drilled wide from inside the six yard box.

But those two opportunities aside, Darlow was largely untroubled.

Holloway may add another wide player to his squad to cover for Lee Martin's injury, but otherwise the players the Lions have at their disposal now will be the same until January.

Forest can rely on Assombalonga to score a solo goal out of nothing but Millwall don't have that financial luxury.

Holloway, though, is skilled at building teams and systems. Injuries are threatening to throw a spanner in the works, but the Lions need continuinty in their team.

Fitness allowing, Millwall will benefit from playing a settled XI over the next few weeks. The combinations and partnerships in the final third aren't as slick as they could be.

The Lions don't have a prolific scorer to drag them through games so they need to become a well-oiled unit.

That will only come by picking the same personnel and breeding familiarity.

Alex Aldridge

(@accordingtoaldo)

15 thoughts on “Five things we learned: Millwall 0-0 Nottingham Forest

  • September 22, 2014 at 11:35
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    Agree with all of that apart from the bit that says plenty of forward options.
    We are getting there though and lots more positives than negatives for me.

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    • September 22, 2014 at 11:49
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      @wall2wall: I was very critical of ollys tactics of the 2 prior games.(so was he).he & the team got it spot on against forest..even when we lost carlos..

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      • September 22, 2014 at 12:04
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        @Jim28: agree holloway got it spot on with his team selection & all three subs made a impact. Well done wall.

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  • September 22, 2014 at 11:54
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    @Jim28
    Yeah, work in progress Jim and as you say spot on Saturday.
    I think Jimmy at right back and and Upson and Williams in midfield makes us a lot stronger.
    We're getting there in my opinion.

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  • September 22, 2014 at 12:19
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    My main gripe with Ollie is his continued chopping & changing of tactics, formation & players from one game to the next and he's in danger of copying Lomas in the number of players used. Point 5 on here is about benefitting from a settled side and, imo, that will be the key to our season. He needs to decide on his best 11 and the formation for home & away. Teams that are playing well & winning pick themselves and that where we should be now.

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  • September 22, 2014 at 17:18
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    Again I agree with everything said. This was the first time in a long time at home where millwall looked very good and entertaining. Upson and Williams looked like a very solid partnership and Jimmy was absolutely fantastic. Everyone is saying it again and again but it is true, we need a goalscorer whether that could be Gregory when fit. But keeping doing the same wall and results will surely come! COYL

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  • September 22, 2014 at 18:01
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    agree pretty much, ollie does like to change it round a bit but fair play he got it right sat. The football we are playing though it bit lacking in a killer touch up front is light years from the dross we were wathching this time last season. special praise for jimmy and dunney as lots of us were saying they were not good enough any more last year. credit to em they were fantastic sat.

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  • September 22, 2014 at 19:20
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    Agree with all the comments I think. Also can't help thinking points 1 and 2 in the five things are connected. When Upson came on, he and Williams together did a lot to cut off the supply to Antonio, which made Jimmy's job a bit easier. But Jimmy still did brilliantly. I'm not sure Jimmy is long term answer at right back, but think he can do a job in short term. Well, he might have to!

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  • September 22, 2014 at 20:48
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    1 forward required
    2 striker reqd
    3 attacker reqd
    4 goalscrorer reqd
    5 a winger that can feed the above!!!!

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    • September 23, 2014 at 09:43
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      @dpendet: you can put posts like that all day long, but we haven't got the money for a decent striker. This is why ollie is playing the tactics he does

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  • September 23, 2014 at 09:28
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    Beevers top scorer...says it all really.

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  • September 23, 2014 at 09:59
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    One other thing we learned was that bloke Terry who summarises on lions player obviously reads this forum because although he's still a pillock he has tried to learn a bit of summarisor speak. Unfortunately he focused very heavily on the term 'body shape' and used it about everything that went wrong which was quite a few times. Anybody know his full name.

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      • September 23, 2014 at 18:09
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        @dpendet: Well if it is Terry Hurlock it would explain a lot. Absolute legend and would love to have somebody like him again but perhaps not the most articulate. If you do read this Terry, give us a comment mate, I know you don't bear grudges!

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