Monday, 16 March 2020

THE66POW 2019-20 SEASON. FIN.

Although a number of the elite clubs and influential governing bodies are still talking about the necessity for the currently paused football season to eventually be played out to some kind of a conclusion at the top end, it still remains to be seen whether or not their persistent and in several cases, self-serving) debate, arguments and dialogue actually bear any kind of fruition, or contain even the merest semblance of reality.
To coin a phrase 'the future is unwritten'. Well, you've all got a blank piece of paper and plenty of time on your hands. So what are you going to do about it?
At this moment in time, it is unclear amidst a tangled web of potential scenarios, which division a whole host of teams will actually be playing in next season, or even which leagues for that matter, given the state of flux that the abruptly halted current campaign was in, whence the game in all of its multifarious shapes, forms and sizes, comes to a grinding, yet completely unavoidable and understandable, standstill.
And as regards what happens next to football, there are infinitely more questions that answers. And as the great philosopher Steve Priest (he was also the bass player in Sweet) once said: "We just haven't got a clue what to do!"
The game is currently subject to a hyperbole sized wave of increasingly rife speculation, about hypothetical outcomes vis. awarding final placings for this 'on hiatus' campaign, and one can only assume that this will create a knock-on domino effect, once the first party to blink reveals their hand.
The grassroots league committee's and footballing powers that be, have apparently already concurred among themselves that the majority of the non-league game has already been declared as 'expunged' as regards any football that was played during the 2019-20 season.
Personally, I would've opted to use an average points per game equation to settle any outstanding matters, if the remaining games don't actually get played, but that's probably too sensible, practical, uncomplicated and straight-forward for the suits to implement... such is the nature of the beast that is association football, eh!?
Some will say that by taking such a 'drastic' measure as making the currently unfinished campaign completely null and void, is both unfair and uncalled for, and accuse the decision-makers of jumping the gun.
But, surely a bit of perspective is required to this end, even if, in the eyes of a great many people, the FA do appear to be going in feet first with their studs showing.
A large amount of people have put in a lot of time, effort and money into chasing their footballing dreams, but any disappointment at not receiving their 'just desserts' for the season, is barely comparable to the scale of illness and human suffering, that the entire population of the world is currently experiencing, when offset against or the very real threat surrounding our day to day existence.
Personally, I don't believe that there will be any more games played for a very long time at any given level in this country. And that the UK isn't alone in that respect.
Being realistic, it is highly unlikely that next season will be going ahead as scheduled... and much as that will go against the grain with some people, these are, to steal a frequently used buzzword in the current climate: 'unprecedented' times and nobody can accurately predict or even guesstimate when/if, football will resume, or a lot of other far more prioritous things for that matter.
A lot of lives are going to be lost, businesses destroyed and hardship incurred as COVID-19 takes hold. And sadly, it is inevitable that a number of football clubs won't make it through to the other side either.
And to be honest, as the death toll from the global pandemic rises daily, surely you'd have to ask yourself, in all seriousness, that in such a context: does it really matter where a few shiny trophies and the bragging rights end up this year... or for however long it takes for life to get back to normal? 
Whatever normal ever was, or ever will be again, in the days, weeks, months and maybe even years ahead.
Count your blessings, that if/when the non-league season is eventually declared as all having been for 'nowt, it benefits your team, and you avoid relegation as a consequence of these measures. 
But there is absolutely no point in the remainder of us getting all bitter and twisted about such things whatever transpires. The manner in which the spoils of sport are awarded and (allocated) aren't ever going to please everybody, nor were they ever always just and fair... but then, neither is life itself.
And I suspect that things are about to get a whole lot worse before they improve any.
I'm an unselfconscious* and unashamed state registered and clinically certified football addict and obsessive... and to that end, I've never even looked for an antidote or ever wanted to be cured, not for a single moment. 
Believe me, I'm missing my fix just as much as anybody else who is suffering from these very real withdrawal symptoms, but... it won't be forever, so hang on in there, stay safe and do your best to be a part of the solution to what we're all going through at the moment. 
The world outside our football bubble has more than enough problems to deal with, without me n' thee adding to this cuntastical* mess that we're all in together.
*Grammarly is/are trying to claim that unselfconscious and cuntastical aren't real words. 
It/they did the same to me with prioritous a couple of months ago too. 
But f*ck 'em! Because I have referenced the Oxford English Dictionary and can confirm that there isn't actually even such word as Grammarly. Just saying!

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Lincoln United 0 v Leek Town 2 - NPL South East Division

Saturday 14th March 2020
BetVictor Northern Premier League, South East Division
at the Sun Hat Villas Stadium, Ashby Avenue
Lincoln United (0) 0
Leek Town (2) 2
Rob Stevenson 3
Tim Grice 38
Attendance: 210
Point & hope picture gallery: Click HERE
Forty eight hours ago, Lincoln United announced that once this season finishes (assuming that it hasn't already done), they will be merging with Hykeham United, whence an amalgamation of both clubs will operate under the name of Lincoln United.
While the Whites have endured a season of woes and strife thus far, as they endeavour to claw themselves away from the relegation places at the foot of the North Premier League South East Division table, the mutually beneficial coming together of the two neighbouring clubs, seems to tick a lot of boxes as regards finding a solution to some of the off-field problems that have beset the Ashby Avenue based club.
So fingers crossed for them... they've always been a very friendly, accommodating and welcoming club whenever I've had the pleasure of visiting this corner of Lincoln.
Win a rare four-pack of Andrex... just one pound a ticket!
Hykeham themselves currently sit at the top of the Lincolnshire League and play their home games at the Priory City of Lincoln City Academy Sports Centre, which is just a short distance away from United's ground, along Skellingthorpe Road, towards Lincoln city centre, from the turning into Ashby Avenue.
Today Hykeham they beat Wyberton 6-1 at home, in a Supplementary Cup game that was watched by a crowd of 47 spectators,
That was one of just five games, coming under the umbrella of the 'Lincs. League' auspices, that went ahead this afternoon, though I note that the ruling body has since suspended any further games that come under their governance for the foreseeable future, via an announcement in red capitals on their FA Full-Time website... I would imagine that the vast majority, if not all, non-league competitions will grind to a similar halt, over the next day or so. 
Such drastic measures will decimate the remainder of the football season, but Que Sera...shit just got real. And regardless of what anybody, including Bill Shankly, may or may not ever have said, football is neither a matter of life and death nor anything even remotely like more important than either of those two things, obviously!
Granted, it's more than just a game, for many people, to whom it is a passion, a past time and lifestyle choice that some of us, follow with a near-obsessive dedication and fervour that borders on religious fanaticism, that definitely warrants being called an addiction... but there is far more at stake away from 'planet football' out there in that place called the 'real world'.
And besides: it's actually common knowledge that 'Shanks' was actually misquoted all along.
Anyway, in the current climate, it's maybe apt of me to provide a few health-related/social-distancing observations pertaining to the public gathering that I attended this afternoon, for your perusal and consideration: the average combined four-sided length of a football pitch perimeter, including a margin between the touchlines and the surrounding fence, is approximately 388 yards, or roughly 325 metres, and today's total attendance was 210.
So even if the main stand seats weren't set back quite so far from the pitch (as they are at Ashby Avenue) and everybody was stood as near to the pitch as the rules would allow, we'd still all have had around at least five feet of wriggle room and breathing space apiece in this open-air setting.
Which to my way of thinking doesn't exactly constitute a tight space environment, or a health risk. Granted, as further more stringent measure are introduced, it may well do and if that becomes the case, then I'mquite sure nobody in their right mind would want football to continue.
But I'm no expert on such matters (and neither are you, so shurrup and listen to the advice that is being given to you by people in the know). In actual fact, I don't even have a University of Facebook medical degree to back up my pontificating, so without further ado... today's football match.
My honest (cross my heart and hope to die) and genuine reason for choosing to watch Lincoln United v Leek Town today was that I had originally planned to visit the Riseholme Campus this morning, to take in the EFL Youth Alliance fixture between Lincoln City and Mansfield Town, before watching West Bromwich Albion v Birmingham City in Lincoln United's clubhouse on the telly (tickets for the game were as rare as hen's teeth, rocking horse shit, hand sanitiser and even bog rolls, so I didn't manage to get one, despite going to great lengths in an attempt to find a spare) and then watch this Northern Premier League South East Division game as a grand finale to a whole day of football, football and more football, before driving home.
When the first two games were both announced as having been postponed a couple of days ago, I thought: "Y'know what...bugger it! I haven't been to Lincoln United in ages so why not!?"
You see, it's like this: currently, there's a very interesting chain of events unfolding for the struggling Whites, which began when the club parted company with their manager Steve Housham and his assistant Nathan Jarman (both fairly big-hitters on the local circuit) and inevitably, as is the way in non-league circles, a lot of footballers follow their manager out of the door rather than swearing allegiance to any given club, which of course led to a player exodus of sorts, that left United a bit short-handed.
However, in the meantime, Sam Wilkinson and Stuart Reddington, have returned to the fold, re-acquainting themselves with their former club and taking on the difficult task of leading/dragging* United away from the drop zone.
As things stand, Lincoln finished the afternoon in eighteenth place in what is a twenty team division. The two sides below them played against each other today and a fifteen-minute Andre James hat-trick in the first half, along with an own goal, helped Market Drayton Town to a much needed away win at Wisbech Town, which moved them to two points and one league position above their hosts, and means they're now only seven points adrift of the Whites, who will be aware of the fact that they themselves have only won eight out of twenty-nine of their own games so far this season, as they check nervously in their rear-view mirror, to see if Market Drayton are gaining any ground on them.
In the 'Chairman's Chat' column, featured in today's match programme; Ian Beaumont mentioned that the club would be limited to how many new signings they would be able to make and stated that there would probably be a few of the Whites Under 18 players stepping up to the first team. That's another fairly commonplace practice at this time of the season, at all manner of clubs outwith the confines of the professional game, where there are no contractual obligations to safeguard clubs from experiencing any kind of en masse walk-out, so to speak.
Either way, the print deadline for his notes must have come and gone earlier this week, because, over the space of the last two days, Lincoln United have signed eight players on, the last time I looked. 'Sam and Reddo' aren't wasting any time and they obviously mean business. Good luck to them.
Today was always going to be an acid test for the new-look home side, because Leek Town are currently at the top of the division, having only lost twice all season... and the gulf in class between the two sides was glaring at the outset of the game, even though United did get to grips with their visitors towards the end of the first half and it was actually a far more level-pegging affair after the break, as Lincoln looked to be growing steadily into the game and imposing themselves more. Although they were unable to salvage a point, at least after the restart they never looked likely to succumb to a repeat of last weekend's 0-5 home defeat at the hands of Frickley Athletic, who are currently managed by Dave Frecklington, who'd previously had a two-year spell in charge at Ashby Avenue between 2014 and 2016.
As the game got underway the indications looked ominous for the home side, as Leek went straight on the offensive looking for an early goal, with Rob Stevenson, in particular, proving to be a real handful as he terrorised the Lincoln defence from the flanks. 
Unconverted chances fell to both Jacob Twyford and Matthew Bell as the Blues (wearing their change strip of green and black today) looked to cash in on their high tempo start.
But Lincoln went behind inside the third minute when their captain Michael Jacklin headed the ball back towards Ross Woolley, but it escaped from the keepers grasp and Tim Grice was onto the loose ball in an instant... Jacklin tussled with the Leek number nine in an attempt to salvage the situation, but could only deflect an otherwise goal-bound knock into the path of Stevenson, who was presented with the simplest of tasks, as he rolled the ball into a wide open goal.
Stevenson was all over the Lincoln back-line like a rash and continued to terrorise them as he provided the service for Billy Reeves and Grice, but neither of them could quite find a finishing touch. 
Meanwhile, Louis Keenan drilled a shot from the edge of the area, that Woolley did well to reach at full stretch and push around the post.
The hosts had ridden their luck while they found their shape and some kind of rhythm, but effectively today marked this team's first outing together, so they were always going to need some time to gel.
As they regrouped and began to look more organised, it perhaps gave a few clues to the game plan that they'll need to adapt, to grind out a few results between now and the end of the campaign, but needs must and common sense rules apply. Points are United's priority right now... and against a lesser side than today's top drawer opposition, they would probably have held out for a draw.
That man Stevenson was still proving to be a damn pest for the Whites defence and once again he got forward and beat the last man in the thirty-eighth minute, but had his heels clipped from behind, however, he managed to stay upright and keep his run going, the match referee, one Jamie O'Connor, waved play on and sensibly applied the advantage rule, giving Stevenson free passage to deliver a cross towards the back post, where an attempted clearing header diverted the ball back across the face of the goal towards Grice, who shot on the turn and bulged the net to double the visitor's advantage.
It was quite amusing to overhear a Leek fan shout out: "Referee!! That's a bloody foul!", before changing his tune in an instant and suddenly heaping lavish praise on Mr O'Connor: "Great advantage, well-done referee!"
I heard a rumour (in fact I'll fess up, I started it) that Jamie only took up the whistle so that he'd have a cast-iron alibi for why he couldn't get across to the Proact Stadium to watch his crap local football team: Chesterfield, play every week.
Joking aside... it was good to see you again and have a catch-up Mr Referee. Take care mate.
As the teams went in at half-time, Leek had a two-goal cushion, while Stevenson probably already had his name engraved on the man of the match trophy... although it's only fair to point out that Louis Keenan had been covering a hell of a lot of ground filling the space behind the flying winger, that allowed him to operate with so much freedom.
HT: Whites 0 v Blues 2
Lincoln looked harder to break down after the interval, which bodes well for their remaining games... and clear cut chances were at more of a premium, which probably wouldn't have worried the visitors too much while-soever they were still sitting on a comfortable lead.
Woolley held onto the ball when Reeves shot from long range skidded through a sea of legs before Stevenson lofted the ball over the bar from a difficult angle.
Grice and Stevenson combined in the Whites area, but the latter sliced his shot wide of the target.
Having given their visitors the freedom of Ashby Avenue and a virtual right to roam in the opening half an hour or so, Lincoln well and truly had their half of the pitch under a lock-down situation from hereon-in.
Reeves was making a few in-roads deep into United territory on the right, but he'll probably have a few bumps and bruises to show for his efforts in the morning, as his progress was being 'monitored very closely' and occasionally thwarted by some no-nonsense, tried and tested, good old fashioned solid as a brick outhouse block-tackling.
Grice went close to grabbing his second of the afternoon, with what I was reliably informed would've been his 200th goal for this afternoon's visitors, but if they continue to play like they did in the first half today, I wouldn't imagine that it will be very long until that milestone is passed.
Of course, as clubs await Government and FA advice and possible sanctions, pertaining to the Coronavirus outbreak, he might have to wait until next season.
While the first-half wasn't quite all one-way traffic, the over-riding majority of it had been played out in the Lincoln half of the field, but the second period was a far more even kind of scrap, played out more across the middle of the park... and in the air, more often than not, if truth be told.
Even so, it still provided an intriguing tactical battle, even though the game was now bereft of anything like the amount of goalmouth action that we'd seen earlier on.
In fact, after the break, it became the kind of fare that had got nil-nil written all over it... and basically, that is exactly what happened, as Leek's first half prowess saw them over the finishing line, while Lincoln finished the game looking solid, compact, very well organised and extremely difficult to break down... all qualities that they're going to need in abundance, whenever football resumes (or carries on regardless in the NPL).
In the closing stages, Grice broke free on the left hand side of the Whites penalty area and shot across the face of the goal, but the ball flew narrowly past the far post, a fraction beyond the reach of Woolley.
On the subject of Woolley, I thought he did very well to put the mix-up early on to the back of his mind and stay focused for the remainder of the game and on the whole, he actually put in a decent shift all told.
FT: Lincoln United 0 v Leek Town 2

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Birmingham City 1 v Reading 3 - EFL Championship

Saturday 7th March 2020
SkyBet EFL Championship
at St. Andrew's Stadium
Birmingham City (1) 1
Scott Hogan 6
Reading (0) 3
Matt Miazga 51, Yakou Meite 56, Judison Gomes 87
Attendance: 19, 525 (inc. 1,277 away fans)
"We have ten games to go... you never know what can happen". So said that nice Mr Pep Clotet himself, in his pre-match press meet and greet get together.
But still, though he's hardly likely to say: "Hey you guys! We've got 'nowt to come now that we're out of the cup, but keep putting bums on seats and turning out in good numbers, while letting the mathematical possibilities run their course"... stranger things have happened.
So dispense with all of the ingrained pessimism, buckle up, brace yourselves, hold on tight and lets see where this white knuckle ride goes. Even though I strongly suspect that everybody already knows the answer to that conundrum.
But, after all is said and done, prior to losing narrowly against a Champions League standard side in Leicester City on Wednesday night, the increasingly popular Spaniard oversaw an unbeaten run of thirteen games in all competitions, so he must be getting something right.
Alas, today proved to be a rocky ride, which after running smoothly for forty five minutes, in spite of some profligacy in front of Reading's goal, came to an abrupt halt a little over five minutes into the second half and end with a resounding bump.
And as of 4.50PM this afternoon, Blues are now on a two game beaten run and have slipped to sixteenth place in the table, even though it's been bloomin' ages since they actually lost a game in the Championship. Mind you, eight teams in the bottom half of the table all moved down at least one place today... obviously, today's visitors weren't amongst them.
No handshakes today... COVID-19 rules apply.
However, Birmingham enjoyed an entirely different kind of win yesterday, when it was announced that an independent panel had ruled that there was to be no case to answer, as regards the EFL wanting to compound last season's nine point deduction with the added interest of another points-snatch... which with Blues sitting (a safe-ish under the circumstances) nine points above the highest placed team in the relegation berths, could've entailed a catastrophic end to the current campaign.
But, thankfully, though it means that there is still a very real need to get a few more points on board, as a belt and braces type of precautionary measure, today's game hadn't quite been granted a 'must win' status.
However, with several games appearing just over the horizon, against teams who will be battling desperately for points to salvage something out of their own seasons, it would pay for Blues to stay focused and not let the ante slip again, like it did after half-time today, not even by the slightest of percentages.
Although to be fair to Reading, they must have necked a whole crate of electrolyte infused isotonic drinks at half time, because they were buzzing their tits off when they came back out after the interval and went on a rampage.
I'm not quite sure what kind of mid-afternoon refreshment the match officials partake in at St. Andrew's though, but it would seemingly include some kind of hallucinogenic substances of the variety that cause psychoactive side effects and a paranoid aversion towards anybody wearing a royal blue shirt.
Yes folks, there was another comedy referee performing out on the St. Andrew's pitch today, but his jaded material must've been aiming for a niche market, because most of his audience didn't find him even in the slightest bit amusing.
Would Blues have won today, san any of Andy Davies' inconsistencies and curious decision making? Probably not actually, given the intensity of the Royals second half display, but... when Blues were denied a fairly obvious penalty as Jude Bellingham was pulled down in the area, while the score was still 1-2 and then John Swift merely had a finger wagged at him for a second yellow card offence, i.e. kicking the ball away to delay a free-kick being taken, the exact same transgression that Blues: Ivan Sunjic had been cautioned for just a few minutes earlier, then I think that I am justified in saying, that these, and numerous other examples of 'errors' by the referee and his assistants, were key moments that did have a bearing on the complexion of the game.
Granted, Blues ought to have struck while the iron was hot and made made more of several gilt-edged chances that they had created during the first half, to put the game out of Reading's reach.
But while there is no guarantee that the hosts would've successfully pulled level from the spot-kick that Mr Davies waved away, or that they would've made good of the extra space that the Royals having gone a man down would've afforded them, the disproportionate amount of these sort of things that have gone against Blues this term, has gone off the Richter Scale now.
When the teams were announced prior to kick off, the visitors captain: Michael Morrison, received a heartfelt cheer from the St. Andrew's faithful, in lieu of the five years service that he had given to Birmingham, after originally joining Blues as an emergency loan signing in 2014, before he left for Reading at the end of last season, after Garry Monk offered him a one-year contract extension when he wanted two.
Earlier this season, when Blues won 2-3 at Reading, Morrison had been on the score sheet, with an own goal! So don't you going believing that daft lot at the back of the visitors seating this afternoon, who were singing: "Michael Morrison, he said you were shit!"
'Morro' seemed to be enjoying the battering that he was getting from Lukas Jutkiewicz today (it was a two-way thing) and will no doubt have a few aches and pains to remember his afternoon by.
In Yakou Meite, the visitors had a big, awkward to play against, physical presence of their own... and though there were those present who didn't entirely approve of the way that he puts himself about, he was one of those type of players that you love to hate when they're playing in the oppositions colours, but would afford cult hero status to, if he was bashing people about for your own teams cause.
To be fair to Meite he kept his antics within the boundaries of: 'firm but borderline fair'... well, most of the time.
Blues started the game well and had by far the better of the first half... and it looked as though they were on their way to a routine home win, when Matt Miazga made of mess dealing with Marc Roberts long ball forward towards Scott Hogan and his attempted header back to Rafael Cabral dropped kindly for Blues prolific striker who lifted it over the exposed Royals keeper. 
George Puscas went close to levelling things up but he shot over the bar from an angle, before Blues picked up where they left off, as Hogan scooped the ball over at the other end, having stretched to get onto the end of Jutkiewicz's knock across the face of the visitors goal.
Jude Bellingham and Dan Crowley were chipping away at the visitors midriff, while Ivan Sunjic shot just past the right hand post and bulged the side netting.
Reading regrouped and Meite's hooked goal-bound shot was turned away by Lee Camp.
Hogan couldn't quite get the final touch onto Crowley's delivery to the back post, while Jutkiewicz and then Gary Gardner almost doubled Blues lead, but both headed the ball narrowly off target. Bellingham, weaved past two Reading challenges before forcing Cabral into a save, but still as half-time arrived, Blues were only the one solitary goal in front.
As the second half got underway, the home side continued to look for that elusive second goal, with Bellingham making himself some space on the left before crossing for Jutkiewicz who diverted his header beyond the reach of Cabral, but just off target.
Crash, bang, wallop!
Out of the blue, the shock troops from Reading arrived... and within the space of five minutes, they had drawn level, then taken the lead.
Andy Rinomhota squeezed a cross into Blues area from out on the right and Miazga moved towards the ball and connected with a sweet right foot volley to guide the ball inside the right hand upright.
Maybe this was the wake up call that Blues needed to up their game in the final third. Hmm... and maybe it wasn't too!
John Swift launched a long free kick forward, that Yakou Meite met on the edge of the six yard box and steered a header past Camp to give Reading the lead
Defending at set pieces and dealing with cumbersome opposition players would appear to be Monday morning's training drill priorities at Wast Hills.
Blues have a well earned reputation as being hard to beat... while several people have pointed out, quite rightly, that during their recent unbeaten run (ten in the league, thirteen in all competitions), they have become 'draw specialists', particularly at home, where they have only won once in the Championship, v. Nottingham Forest on February 1st, since they narrowly beat Luton Town 2-1, on a rain-soaked afternoon in October.
Carbal denied Gary Gardner who unleashed a twenty five yard pile-driver his way, before Bellingham was pulled down in the penalty area... an incident that was spotted quite clearly by at least 18,000 plus would be referee's but not the one carrying the whistle.
Amid a number of goalmouth scrambles, as Blues battled gamely for an equaliser and the Royals fought tooth and nail to repel them, the honours were about even in the pushing and shoving stakes, as the visitors made a string of last ditch challenges. And even when Jutkiewicz went to ground, it was as a result of a 'six and two-thirds' tussle with Miazga... so the referee can't be called out for that particular one.
But then, Mark Bowen's side broke free of the stranglehold that the home side appeared to have on them and with just three minutes remaining, Puscas ventured into Blues half and rolled the ball forward to Garath McCleary, who held it up until precisely the right moment, before threading a well weighted pass into the path of Judison Gomes, who motored forward through the left channel, before cutting inside before Roberts could close him down and curling a shot beyond the outstretched hand of Lee Camp, that nestled just inside the right hand post. Game over!
FT: Birmingham City 1 v Reading 0
Oh well, looks as though my 'Biscuitman Crumble" headline will have to wait until another time.
Blues are scheduled to travel to West Bromwich Albion next weekend, before entertaining Hull City at St. Andrew's on Wednesday 18th March, the latter game is one that the ticket prices have been slashed for: to £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
Reading are at home against Stoke City on Saturday before they travel to Derby County a week on Tuesday.
Even after all of this time, somebody still shouted out at the end of the game: "Get rid of Pep! We should've kept Garry Monk!". You'd be hard-pushed to find a Sheffield Wednesday fan who'd disagree with that sentiment, after Monk's Owls side were battered 5-0 at Brentford this afternoon.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Nottingham Forest 0 v Millwall 3 - EFL Championship

Friday 6th March 2020
SkyBet EFL Championship
at the City Ground
Nottingham Forest (0) 0
Millwall (3) 3
Matt Smith 20, 26, 33
Attendance: 27,307 (inc. 936 away fans)
The last time I saw Sabri Lamouchi's team in action, a month ago, they lost 2-1 against Birmingham City at St. Andrew's.
The following weekend they beat Leeds United 2-0 at the City Ground to move to within just one point of their second placed West Yorkshire visitors in the table and just two adrift of Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion.
Since then, Forest have won just one of their last six games, while also losing twice (including tonight) and drawing three times, which sees them firmly entrenched in the play-off berths, some eight points behind Leeds and nine behind the Baggies, who both have a game in hand over the Reds and play tomorrow.
You can seriously never predict anything in this division, but it's almost nailed on for Forest now, that any bid that they ultimately make to reach the Premier League for the first time since 1999, will now have to be via the end of season play-offs. Although if they get turned over like they did by Gary Rowett's Lions tonight anymore, it is by no means a mathematical certainty that they'll even be taking part in the May-time lottery involving the third, fourth, fifth and sixth placed sides in the table.
Quite often however, there is a team that makes a late push for contention in the play-offs... and if Millwall set the bar tonight for how they intend to finish the current campaign, then you never know, that accolade could even be theirs.
Walking down the stairs, as I headed towards the exit, from my panoramic perch, up in the 'Brian Clough Stand (formerly known as the Execuitive Stand), after the game had finished (yes, some people did actually wait until the full time whistle had sounded), I overheard Nottingham's answer to Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, philosophising and expounding poetically about the plight of Nottingham Forest FC:
Raising his arms aloft, he held court:
"I mean look at this lot... and there's a new stand going up over the other side soon. It's all geared to bigger and better things. We're a Premier League set up in everything but name.
"And then there's the history: nobody... and I mean absolutely no-bod-y, is ever going to repeat some of the stuff that we did, not ever! But this lot we've got now... all of these foreign managers we've had, and these overrated players, they just don't get it... they're bottlers!
"Forest now, we're still showy, we still look the part, but we don't deliver, no matter how much money us loyal fans chuck at it. I'll tell you what it's like, exactly what it's like! It's like getting seduced by a beautiful woman, spending a shed load of cash on her and then when you get her home, she hasn't even got a vagina... and you've been led up right up the path for nothing!"
Thankfully, the angst ridden gentleman was going in the opposite direction to me when we reached the car park... and I was unable to pick up any more pearls of wisdom from him.
If  I had a pound for every time that I'd heard someone say: "We can do it against Leeds, but not against teams like Millwall" tonight, I would've been quite comfortably off by the time that I got home.
Hmm... that there Millwall team, who many were dismissing as some kind of inferior beings, have actually only lost one of their last six games... and, for the record, they played very well tonight and thoroughly deserved the three points. In actual fact, if they had kept their first half tempo up after the break, then Forest might not have gotten away with a mere three goal drubbing.
By the way, no offence is intended to any of my mates who support tonight's host team... I'm just saying it as I saw it. Your lot were second best.
Gary Rowett's side did a job on Forest and made them look decidedly average, at best. I bet the Lions manager is still chuckling to himself about the: "Gary Rowett, your trainers are shit!" song that was aimed his way from A Block in the main stand (AKA the Peter Taylor stand), while the home crowd were still in full voice, even though their side had just gone two goals down.
Alas, Millwall's third goal, saw an exodus of home fans from various parts of the ground, as many Reds fans decided to call it a night, despite there still being almost a hour (plus stoppage time) left to play. I wonder if these sort of people have ever seen a film all the way through, or read the last page of a book? What a curious way to carry on.
Matt Smith has been credited with a hat-trick, for having got the final touch on all of the visitors goals tonight, which were all netted within a thirteen minute spell during the first half, when Millwall overran Lamouchi's side, while for their part, Forest got pulled all over the place by the rampant Lions, to the extent that they to only appeared be putting up a token resistance. 
The visitors absorbed some early pressure, before getting to grips with the game in the twentieth minute and passing their way through the Reds ranks, like a warm knife cutting a swathe through butter, when Jayson Molumby slipped the ball to Mason Bennett, who in turn found Murray Wallace, who burst forward into space on the right flank, before delivering a low cross that Smith stooped to head past Brice Samba.
Molumby was involved again with the Lions second goal, when his long range strike took a deflection off of Smith's foot, that wrong-footed Simba as the flight of the ball changed.
The goal that gave Millwall a three goal cushion, was simplicity itself in it's execution, as Smith towered above his marker Joe Worrall, to head the ball in under the crossbar, directly from Shane Ferguson's corner kick.
Sammy Ameobi had two chances to reduce the deficit before the break, but his first was saved by Bartosz Bialkowski... and his second opening was thwarted by a time tackle by Molumby, who was having a game and a half for his side tonight.
Forest looked livelier in the second half, but the visitors could by now sit back and let the Reds have more of the ball, while hitting them on the counter attack. As it turned out, Millwall looked just as adept in defence after the break, as they had done in attack before it.
Joao Carvalho, a crowd favourite at the City Ground, rewarded his fan base in the upper tier for their loyalty, by hoofing a couple of match balls up to them, while the visitors had closed their ranks, restricting the home side to resorting to speculative efforts from outside the area.
With seventy minutes on the clock, a Reds substitute: John Bostock tested Bartos Bialkowski with a thumping shot, that the Polish international keeper did well to deal with.
Carvalho went down in the Millwall penalty area under a challenge, but the referee: Geoff Eltringham was unimpressed by the Forest number ten's appeals... and the player was substituted a few minutes later too, making way for Tyler Walker, the son of the former Forest defender Des Walker. 
But in the main the game passed Walker by and he was unable to make any kind of impression. Meanwhile, Sam Hutchinson (the Millwall captain), Ryan Woods and Jake Cooper were towers of strength at the back for Rowett's side (on his birthday too) and of course: Molumby, who at only twenty years old appears to have a great future in the game ahead of him, was determined to ensure that there would be no way back for Forest tonight... and he more than played his part at both ends of the pitch tonight.
FT: Nottingham Forest 0 v Millwall 3