Championship preview: Forest vs. Millwall

MILLWALL boss Neil Harris feels the mental tests his side passed last season will benefit them as they attempt to make an impact on their return to the Championship.

The Lions were involved in several pressure-cooker games in 2016-17: the clash with Charlton at The Den in December on the back of three defeats; the final day at Bristol Rovers when they had to win; and the play-off final against Bradford a year after losing to Barnsley at Wembley.

They came through them all to win promotion after two seasons in League One.

Asked this week if having that experience benefits the current squad, Harris said: “It does. We’ll need that this year. We need the group mentality. We’ll need to bounce back this year. We had some difficult spells last season, early on we got beaten 5-1 at Peterborough and bounced back to win the next game. A couple of times I think we lost three games in a row.

“I felt we had a game here against Charlton, I wouldn’t say make-or-break, but it was a big turning point in our season just before Christmas. Pretty much a sell-out crowd against our local rivals who hadn’t beaten us for a long, long time. There was pressure that night and we turned them over comfortably and convincingly.

“That set us on an unbeaten run for 17 games. We can handle things. This is going to be the same. We’re going to have difficult spells and be under the cosh.

“We’re going to have some difficult runs, fixtures-wise. Everything we have been through in the last couple of years will set us in good stead.”

Harris has re-shaped his squad again this summer, with eight players departing either permanently or on loan and seven players recruited.

Harris got all his first-choice targets in the transfer window, but still spent less on those seven players than Nottingham Forest did on striker Daryl Murphy.

Forest survived relegation on goal difference last season and lost top scorer Britt Assombalonga to Middlesbrough during the summer, replacing him with Murphy.

Forest boss Mark Warburton also used his Rangers connections to sign promising winger Barrie McKay.

Warburton is without Matty Cash and Jamie Ward on Friday night, while Stephen Henderson and Danny Fox have just returned to training.

Lions club captain Tony Craig and right-back Mahlon Romeo started for a Millwall XI side in a 4-1 win at Welling on Monday night, indicating new full-backs Conor McLaughlin and James Meredith will play against Forest.

Two of the other summer buys, Jed Wallace and George Saville, will also start.

Midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe is short of match fitness and will not be involved, while Tom Elliott and Jake Cooper should be on the bench.

Forest confirmed earlier this week they had sold over 25,000 tickets for the fixture. Millwall will take almost 2,000 fans to the City Ground.

Millwall record against Nottingham Forest

Played 65

Won 24 Drawn 20 Lost 21

Form guide (Last five games of last season)

Forest: LLWLW

Millwall: LWDWW

Probable teams

Forest: 4-2-3-1: Smith; Lichaj, Worrall, Mancienne, Traore; Bouchalakis, Cohen; McKay, Clough, Brereton; Murphy

Millwall: 4-4-2: Archer; McLaughlin, Webster, Hutchinson, Meredith; Wallace, Saville, Williams, O’Brien; Gregory, Morison.

Match odds

Forest 1/1 Draw 12/5 Millwall 14/5

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly