Full Time After Extra Time This is a live match. Extra Time Half Time

Nottingham Forest vs Millwall. Sky Bet Championship.

The City GroundAttendance27,307.

Nottingham Forest 0

    Millwall 3

    • M Smith (20th minute, 26th minute, 33rd minute)

    Nottingham Forest 0-3 Millwall: Matt Smith scores hat-trick as Lions boost promotion hopes

    Report and highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash at the City Ground

    Dan Long

    Saturday 7 March 2020 08:06, UK

    preview image 1:58
    Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and Millwall.

    Millwall left a dent in Nottingham Forest's Championship play-offs hopes and boosted their own chances of reaching the top six as a first half hat-trick from Matt Smith earned them a 3-0 victory at the City Ground.

    The towering striker got the Lions up and running when he headed Murray Wallace's cross beyond Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba (20), before inadvertently doubling the lead when the slightest of touches took Jayson Molumby's shot over the line (26).

    Smith wrapped up the victory - and a 13-minute treble - four minutes later, when he guided Shane Ferguson's corner home (30), and although Joao Carvalho had two penalty appeals turned down, the hosts offered little in response.

    The surprisingly comprehensive win lifts Gary Rowett's men to seventh in the table - just two points behind sixth-placed Preston - while Forest stay fourth, with the distance between themselves and the top two now standing at eight points.

    How the City Ground was stunned into silence

    There was no denying Millwall still harboured hopes of a top six finish as the final 10 games of the season got underway, but without a goal from open play since the 2-0 win over Reading on January 18, their hopes against a side still gunning for automatic promotion appeared slim.

    After five minutes, Carvalho toe-poked a shot at Bartosz Bialkowski and almost immediately justified his selection ahead of Ryan Yates midfield but there was no hesitation from their opponents, who barely gave them a look-in from there.

    Millwall's Matt Smith (left) and Nottingham Forest's Ben Watson battle for the ball
    Image: Millwall's Matt Smith (left) and Nottingham Forest's Ben Watson battle for the ball

    Each time they attacked, they attacked with menace allowing Smith to strike a quick-fire double. He first impressively stooped to guide a Wallace cross over the line, before denying Brighton loanee Molumby a first senior goal with the unfortunate connection on the Irishman's low strike.

    More on this story

    The game was all but done and dusted with half-an-hour on the clock when Smith added his third with a close-range header, leading to boos ringing out from the stands as referee Geoff Eltringham brought the first half to its conclusion.

    When proceedings restarted Sabri Lamouchi's men dominated possession, but having posted 50 per cent possession or more in all but one of their Championship defeats this term, the writing was on the wall early on.

    Team news

    There was just one change from the Forest side that drew 2-2 with Middlesbrough last time out, as Ryan Yates was replaced by Joao Carvalho.

    Meanwhile, Connor Mahoney and Tom Bradshaw were replaced in the Millwall starting line-up by Shane Ferguson and Mason Bennett.

    Chances came at a premium after the break, particularly with Millwall - who later moved to a back five when Alex Pearce entered the fray - sitting deeper, but Forest knew their luck was out when Carvalho had two penalty appeals turned down.

    Replays showed his Jake Cooper got the ball after a coming-together between the pair after 49 minutes, but with 20 minutes to play, the Portuguese was denied once more when Shaun Hutchinson appeared to pull him back as he swung his leg to hit a bouncing ball.

    Man of the match - Matt Smith

    "He's probably the only one who gives me any hassle when he's not starting," said Gary Rowett after the full-time whistle, following the 30-year-old's fourth goal in just two games. When he came in to The Den, the Lions boss restricted Smith's playing time due to his change in approach.

    But Rowett has now found a role for the 6'6" frontman, who used his imposing presence to score two headers and was always in the right place at the right time. Smith has certainly given his boss food for thought ahead of the final nine games of the season.

    What the managers said...

    Nottingham Forest's Sabri Lamouchi: "The expectation was totally different before the game...but to be honest and realistic, we showed our limit and when you are not all at the top for the team, it's difficult. Tonight we gave them the possibility to kill us.

    "We are in the month of March and after eight months the players have done a lot of effort, probably they are a little bit tired and when you are tired, you need to play more compact, more secure, more simple. That's it."

    Millwall's Gary Rowett: "It [picking Matt Smith] is a risk in the sense that Matt's just naturally not going to be able to press up there and give you that bit of energy, but I thought he led the line superbly, got us out with his aerial presence and we just felt that was an area we could exploit Forest in those diagonals in their half.

    "I think we are in with a chance of the play-offs and that's all I said all along. They deserve to be in with a shout. We're a really honest, hard-working group with lots of energy."

    What's next?

    Both sides are next in action on Saturday, March 14th. Nottingham Forest travel to Hillsborough to face Sheffield Wednesday, while Millwall host Derby at The Den. Both fixtures get underway at 3pm.

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