At almost the very point Boris Johnson was announcing his latest U-turn live on national TV, Nottingham Forest were having their own moment in south London.
Having conceded just minutes into the second-half, the Reds had Alex Mighten to thank as he immediately took it upon himself to score his first goal in a Forest shirt. The score remained 1-1 but again the performance was much improved as Chris Hughton’s side begin to turn things around.
With the rain lashing down, Millwall had the best of a scrappy start as both sides struggled to get a hold on things. Forest were fortunate not to give away a penalty after just five minutes, although the handball claim against Loic Mbe Soh was harsh to say the least.
Two minutes later, Sammy Ameobi and Lewis Grabban demonstrated the understanding the two have as some clever play down the right saw the latter cross into the box. Alas, it was beyond the reach of the arriving Mighten.
And while a foul was awarded, Mbe Soh hit the post with a header on 12 minutes. The first-half remained a scrappy affair, but as against Sheffield Wednesday our attacking intent was clear. We advanced in numbers, something ominously lacking last month, and with a confidence renewed — a belief they could score.
Of course, with Oliver Langford refereeing you can always expect… well, on this occasion yellow cards galore. Four for Forest, some quite unfathomable, and two for Millwall.
And just as Johnson was cancelling Christmas, the second-half leapt into life. With less than two minutes gone, Millwall took the lead through Tom Bradshaw. Attacking down the left, despite Forest having six men chasing back, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s cross managed to find Bradshaw unmarked in the box.
The two teenagers had other ideas though. Having both kept their place in the starting line-up from Tuesday, Mbe Soh’s long, searching punt upfield received the tiniest flick-on from Lewis Grabban and Mighten finished past the advancing Bartosz Bialkowski.
A first senior goal for the 18-year-old and the first of many we hope — his pace, skill, strength and confidence will continue to grow as the season goes on.
There was little to report from the rest of the game, but the Reds were still looking for a second goal for most of the last 10 minutes. And a last-minute save from Brice Samba meant a point for both sides.
Hughton concluded: “We had to work hard for that one. Probably the one thing I was delighted with the most was the reaction to conceding what was a poor goal from our point of view. The reaction from that was important and it was important that we got back into the game as quickly as we could and we were able to do that.
“It was a perfect response and for the morale, for lifting the players. The only thing that we didn’t have in the game, when you know it is a battle and you know it is a physical and direct team, you have to be able to cope with that and in these games, the game opens up a bit. You get those opportunities and we didn’t make the most of the periods when it opened or had good possession in midfield.”
Without a win at the Den in seven years, and given recent results, a draw was a decent result. And with a little luck for a change, it could’ve been three points.
Yet still, there are those who decry ‘why are we celebrating a draw at Millwall? Is this what we’ve become?’ Yes, this is what we’ve become. We don’t have the right to expect to win anywhere at the moment. We might be Nottingham Forest, but we haven’t exactly been pulling up trees (excuse the pun) for a few decades.
What we can hope for this season is to settle the players we have, let Hughton do his job, and establish an understanding and a way of playing. The likes of Scott McKenna, Will Swan, Mbe Soh and Mighten — as well as those out on loan — could become the bedrock of the side. But there needs to be sensible progress. And it’s going to be gradual. Beating Sheffield Wednesday was only a beginning. As ever, it will take time.