MILLWALL came from two goals down at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night – in a game of high drama that saw a floodlight failure and a Lions goal controversially ruled out.
The Lions were 2-0 behind with 20 minutes left, before Shaun Williams headed in the first and Lee Gregory scored an equaliser in the last minute.
Gregory had hit the woodwork with a header in the fifth minute and Shane Ferguson forced Costel Pantilimon into a low save to his left.
Millwall were the better side, and undeservedly fell behind in the 27th minute when Joe Lolley’s shot from 22 yards found the bottom corner.
There was drama in the 67th minute when the floodlights went out, Jon Moss ordering the players off the pitch before an announcement that there would be a delay while the electrician looked into the problem.
The players were back out after 15 minutes and the sides exchanged two goals within five minutes, Joao Carvalho putting Forest two goals up before Williams brought it back to one.
Millwall then had the ball in the net again from a corner, but Moss had blown for a foul.
The Lions finally got their point, Gregory tapping in at the far post.
First half – Millwall create numerous chances; Forest score from first shot on target
Neil Harris made four changes to his side, Ferguson starting in the league for the first time since January 30, with Jiri Skalak replacing Jed Wallace on the right of midfield. Murray Wallace returned at centre-back, for Byron Webster who was on the bench, and Tom Elliott started up front with Gregory.
Gregory almost gave Millwall an early lead when Ferguson crossed from the left and the striker got there first, but saw his header smack off the bar, with Williams’ follow-up shot blocked.
It was a confident and ambitious start from Millwall, and from Ferguson and Skalak, though the latter lifted a direct free-kick over the bar in the 17th minute.
The game had echoes of last season’s corresponding fixture when the Lions created over 20 goal chances but somehow didn’t score. After Elliott challenged Pantilimon for the ball, Ferguson fired in a low shot that the goalkeeper turned around the post, and from two successive corners he saved from Jake Cooper and then Williams.
But just like last season, Forest went ahead against the run of play, and again it was a shot from outside the box, Lolley brilliantly finding the bottom right corner, giving Ben Amos little chance.
Pantilimon kept that lead intact with another save in the 38th minute, this time spreading himself to block with his legs after Ferguson had challenged for a loose ball and Gregory swivelled to shoot low from inside the six-yard box. Moments later Gregory sprang onto a sloppy back-pass. He took the shot early, Pantilimon saving low to his right.
Forest looked threatening when they had spells on the ball, able to suck in Millwall’s defensive cover before finding space wide, and Mahlon Romeo produced a superb block to prevent Jack Robinson’s shot reaching Amos’ goal five minutes before the break.
Second half – Lions look down and out before dramatic finale
There were some appeals for a penalty among the home fans early in the second period when they felt Lewis Grabban had his shirt tugged in the box from Lolley’s cross, but referee Moss wasn’t influenced to give anything.
Lolley was Forest’s main threat, drawing in Lions players with his close control, before the ball could then be released into the spaces out wide, Robinson curving in one excellent cross but Wallace flicked the ball away from danger.
Forest were improved now, Carvalho more influential, and Robinson finding more freedom on the left. He crossed again for Lolley this time on the edge of the box, but it was a technically difficult shot, and the midfielder’s effort went over the bar.
The game was then stopped for that floodlight failure, eventually resuming with Aiden O’Brien coming on for Skalak.
But it was Forest who immediately were back in their rhythm, and Ryan Leonard gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box for a foul on Adlene Guedioura and was booked. Carvalho bent the free-kick over the wall and Amos made a good effort to save it, but the ball spun over the line off the woodwork.
The Lions responded admirably, and Ferguson, who had been very good, whipped in a cross from the right, and Williams nodded into an empty net with Pantilimon stranded.
Then came the controversy when substitute Tom Bradshaw headed home, but the referee’s whistle had gone. Harris immediately sought an explanation from the fourth official, but Millwall clearly didn’t accept it as Harris and his assistant Dave Livermore angrily gestured at the linesman. It was the second game in succession here Millwall saw a seemingly legitimate goal ruled out.
At least it didn’t cost them another defeat, substitute Steve Morison heading down to Leonard to cross for Gregory. It was no less than the Lions deserved.
On this day, 133 years ago, Millwall lost 5-0 to Fillebrook in the first-ever fixture following their formation.
Some fans feared a hiding here, but the Lions were very good before the break, and didn’t deserve to be behind.
There wasn’t the same number of clear-cut chances, but Millwall were making it uncomfortable for their opponents, who then scored with their first effort on goal.
Forest eventually gained the upper hand, and Amos almost produced a strong enough hand to prevent them going 2-0 up, before Williams made it 2-1.
Then that familiar, sinking feeling when Millwall appeared again to be on the wrong end of a decision. There was a group of bodies in the box, but Moss saw something and Forest escaped.
Millwall showed real character to rebound again from that blow, and Gregory was the supreme poacher to rescue a point.
Image: Millwall FC