SHAUN Williams’ superb goal from the halfway line wasn’t enough for Millwall as they lost 2-1 to Nottingham Forest in the second round of the League Cup on Tuesday night.
Substitute Williams beat Stephen Henderson from the centre circle to equalise after Jamie Paterson had given the away side a first-half lead.
Jimmy Abdou should have equalised just before the break but Henderson was quickly off his line to block.
Forest pressed for a second and looked more likely to get it before Williams' inspired strike.
But Dutch striker Lars Veldwijk found space in the box four minutes from time with Millwall pushing forward sensing a winner to beat debutant Tom King with a low drive.
The average age of the side Neil Harris named to take on Forest was under 23. King was making his debut after a number of loan moves and Jamie Philpot got his first competitive start for the club. Harris showed where his priorities lay ahead of the League One trip to Chesterfield next Saturday, King and Philpot one of seven changes to the side that defeated Sheffield United 2-1 last weekend.
Byron Webster was named captain and after speculation earlier in the day Sheffield United had made a bid for him he seemed determined to affirm his commitment to the club with a strong tackle on Veldwijk, one of nine Forest changes from their 4-3 win over Wigan on Saturday.
All of those changes meant inevitably meant the game lacked the real intensity of a league encounter.
Fred Onyedinma and Philpot were the first to threaten for Millwall, the former testing Henderson from 20 yards before Philpot headed narrowly wide.
Aiden O’Brien, who earlier seemed to indicate he was injured and needed to go off before a short consultation with Harris in the technical area obviously convinced him he was fine to continue, struck another effort from outside the area but again it didn’t overly trouble Henderson.
Gregg Wylde fired a volley over the bar after Henderson had punched Shane Ferguson’s free-kick to the edge of the box.
King didn’t have a save to make until the 35th minute when he kept out Veldwijk’s header at the back post, but he couldn’t get back across goal quickly enough to save Paterson’s follow-up.
Onyedinma went off injured in the 44th minute to be replaced with David Worrall before King came off his line for the ball in first-half injury time and there was a hint he handled outside the area under pressure from Ward.
A sparse crowd of 4,007 thought Abdou was set to equalise when Worrall’s cross and some slack concentration gave him a one-on-one chance with Henderson but the goalkeeper made the block. Wylde fired the loose ball towards goal but Matt Mills was there to clear off the line.
Millwall started the second half carrying more of a threat in the wide areas and from Ferguson’s cross Philpot couldn’t get enough power on his back-post header to beat Henderson.
Harris introduced Steve Morison after an hour in an effort to put Forest’s defence under more of an aerial threat.
But it was Forest who came close to extending their lead when Henri Lansbury’s shot from 35 yards got a touch off Ben Thompson and just cleared King’s crossbar.
King’s most nervous moments were following each other in quick succession, and after Veldwijk had touched the ball around him just inside the box the goalkeeper was relieved to see Webster covering to prevent the striker finishing to an empty net.
The same Forest player was through on goal again in the 73rd minute but Mahlon Romeo got back to produce a superb covering tackle in the box before the striker could shoot.
Williams – who had come on for Thompson – came up with his moment of genius in the 78th minute when he picked up the ball in the centre circle, spotted Henderson off his line, and perfectly judged his lob over the goalkeeper.
King sprung off his line to narrow the angle and save Ward’s effort soon after but he couldn’t keep out Veldwijk’s low drive from inside the box as Forest advanced.