Behind Enemy Lines: Nottingham Forest

MILLWALL are on the road this Friday when they head to the City Ground to face promotion chasing Nottingham Forest.

The Lions have won just one of their last seven league games but are still in the mix for a place in the top six. Victory at Forest would see Gary Rowett's men cut the gap to sixth-placed Preston to two points ahead of the rest of the weekend's action.

Alex Grace spoke to Forest fan Christian Brown ahead of Friday's clash.

Name: Christian Brown

Twitter: @Chris78901

Why do you support Nottingham Forest?

My dad grew up in Nottingham as a kid and while he moved away, they've always been his team. As such, they subsequently became mine.

I do believe that you should either support local or support a team ingrained within your family, so I've been going since I was five even though I live miles away in Kent.

What's been your favourite season following the Tricky Trees?

It's hard to choose between 2002-03 (6th in the First Division), 2009-10 (3rd in the Championship), and 2010-11 (6th again in Championship).

The team we had for the 2002-03 season was outrageous – Andy Reid, Michael Dawson, Riccardo Scimeca and Marlon Harewood all went to the Premier League not long after, but between the last two, we went the whole calendar year of 2010 unbeaten at home.

That confidence of just turning up and knowing you won't be beaten hasn't been felt for a very, very long time – though this year has come the closest to recapturing that.

It's certainly a contender…let's hope I'm saying that it is in May.

And the worst?

2004-05, though some of the Fawaz Al-Hasawi years (2012-2017, namely the 2016-17 season) run it very, very close – but ultimately, getting relegated to League One was horrific.

No team has a divine right to be anywhere and you won't see me saying that we deserve to be a Premier League club purely because of what we've won – you have to earn that spot – but for a club with our history to be the second worst team in the Championship that season was sobering to say the least, as were the three years that followed.

Since beating Leeds, you have only managed to win once and as a result you have fallen eight points behind the Whites – what has happened in recent weeks?

We struggle, notably at home, to break teams down who just sit in and refuse to leave their half unless there's a blinding counter on hand, and that's exactly what's hampered us.

This isn't a criticism of the opposition's playing style – I'm certainly not going to be like Brentford fans, crying about how they deserved to win a game they lost because they had more possession and a better xG.

But it's just frustrating that we consistently haven't found a way through teams who do that.

It's on us to be more creative and to show our quality on the ball in dangerous areas and at times we haven't done that enough, especially against teams in the lower half.

Are the hopes of automatic promotion now over?

Part of me feels that we never really had any to begin with and that it was just optimism that was building as we were winning games, so I'm not too disheartened to say that at this moment in time, they probably are.

Obviously, it's a bit annoying to have been one point behind Leeds and then drop off like we have, but it's just up to us now to make sure we finish in the top six and try and get up that way.

Sabri Lamouchi arrived in the summer – how do you rate the job he has done?


He's the best manager the club has had since Billy Davies' first run and that ended in 2011. His attention to detail is extraordinary, his man-management is excellent and the fact he's adapted to the Championship so quickly is testament to how good a manager he actually is.

My worry is that the board didn't fully back him in January, but we'll see – on paper we left January marginally stronger than when we entered it, but in practice the truth may be different.

The play-off race has really tightened up in recent weeks with a number of teams still believing they can get to the top six – how do you assess it at the moment?

I know it may come across as a bit selfish or cliche and I don't mean for it to be, but I've mainly been focussing on what we do and ensuring that the gap between us and seventh stays at a healthy distance, so I've only kept a passing eye on what's going on elsewhere.

At a quick glance, though, it's very much there for the taking from about 11th upwards. It seems we're at the time of the year where none of the chasing pack fancy promotion and everyone beneath them does, which is just one of the reasons why the Championship is such an exciting league.

Who are they key men that Millwall have to look out for on Friday night?

Your old boy Lewis Grabban has just scored his first in six games to take him to 17 league goals for the season, so I suspect he'll be chomping at the bit to get in front of goal again.

Otherwise, Joe Lolley is one of the best wingers in the league and on the other flank, summer signing Sammy Ameobi is as awkward as he is effective. For a free transfer, seven assists and three goals is a fantastic return.

They have a habit of swapping wings at random points, so your full-backs will need to be on their toes.

How have you rated Millwall's season to date?

If we're going for school grades, I'd say A-. Considering you finished 21st and just four points above the drop last season, to be in the window for play-off contention as we head into the home stretch is remarkable.

At the start of the season, I bravely tried to predict the Championship table and had Millwall to finish 23rd, but the change in direction has clearly worked wonders and you seem light years away from a League One relegation battle now. You were 18th when Neil Harris left, so maybe I wasn't a million miles away in my start-of-the-year prediction!

What are your thoughts on Gary Rowett?

He wears awful, awful trainers! All jokes aside (that's something that comes from his time at Derby), he's clearly very adept at this level and has repeatedly shown that now.

I thought at the time that he and Millwall would be a perfect fit and so far that's proving to be the case.

Birmingham were wrong to sack him and he would've got play-offs had he stayed. He eventually took the sheep there – there's no reason why he can't do the same with you, even if his time at Stoke was a (very expensive) disaster.

If you could sign two Millwall players, who would they be and why?

I don't think we necessarily need a centre-back going by how strong Joe Worrall and Tobias Figueiredo have been and I'm not sure I'd have him in front of those two, but Shaun Hutchinson has been having the season of his life by the looks of things. He just seems to win everything in the air, which has shown at both ends of the pitch.

The other one would definitely be Jed Wallace. I know he didn't get a fair crack at the whip at Wolves, but you could see at Portsmouth that he had the ability to excel at a higher level and he's really showing that now. Had we signed someone of his ability instead of Adama Diakhaby in January, automatics could still well be a possibility.

Will you be at the game?

I won't be, unfortunately. Sky moving it to a Friday night was less than ideal logistically. I'll at least get to see it, but of course that's no match for being there.

What is your predicted Forest starting XI and formation?

Some of this depends on people coming back from injury, but I think we'll line up in a 4-2-3-1: Samba; Cash, Worrall, Figueiredo, Ribiero; Watson, Sow; Lolley, Carvalho, Ameobi; Grabban.

After the way Carvalho played against Boro, I'll be furious if he isn't starting on Friday.

If Sow isn't fit, I'd like to see John Bostock start after his very impressive cameo against Boro, but it's more likely to be Ryan Yates or Alfa Semedo who takes the place next to Ben Watson.

Finally, a score prediction?

Hmm. I'd like to say 2-0 Forest, but I feel that's a bit optimistic. But for a rare keeper error from Samba at The Den at the death, we leave with three points.

But part of me thinks that Rowett will tell his team to just sit in and give us the ball, which is where we struggle.

We've both been drawing a lot, so I suspect that's a more likely outcome.

Graphic: @ShedCreative