Football: Stone heads Palace upwards: Millwall are held

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The Independent Online
Millwall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Nottingham Forest. . . . . . . . . . . .2

WE NOW know who will fill one of the promotion places from the First Division - step up Crystal Palace. The other automatic prize looks even more likely to be destined for Nottingham Forest after a tempestuous game had set two of the leading lights at each others throats yesterday.

Millwall had to win to postpone the Palace party and give themselves genuine hopes of avoiding the play-off lottery. Holding a lead long into the second half and with Forest down to 10 men following Des Lyttle's dismissal, they were set fair before Steve Stone hurled himself at Ian Woan's cross with six minutes remaining to send a rival corner of south London into cork-popping celebration.

Considering the disappointment of losing their Premier League place on the season's last day and the departure of Steve Coppell as manager, the achievement of Alan Smith in resuscitating Palace so quickly should not be underestimated.

Forest struggled at first to hold on at the New Den as Millwall began with an intensity and passion that found its reward in the eighth minute. The ball swept across to David Mitchell, who returned it first time for Jamie Moralee to apply a neat finish with his head.

Palace were cursing then, since the goalscorer was someone they had deemed surplus to requirements last season. Ironically, Stan Collymore was also in that category. Back in the Forest side after suspension, he was the player his former club would have been looking to most.

After their early chasing Forest had taken charge of a game full of expansive, flowing football but the equaliser was a long time coming. It arrived immediately after Collymore and Keith Stevens had been booked for squabbling. From the corner the Forest man brought his team level with a swift turn for his 22nd goal in 29 games.

It set the temperature soaring even higher and in a 24-minute period, the referee flourished seven yellow cards including the two that despatched Lyttle for fouls.

It was crazy and chaotic and yet Dave Mitchell, for one, had shown the benefit of keeping a cool head when he found room to put Millwall in front for the second time on the hour.

Millwall (4-4-2): Keller; Cunningham, Stevens, Van Den Hauwe, Dawes; Roberts, Rae, Allen, Verveer; Moralee, Mitchell. Substitutes not used: Barber, Kerr, Carter (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Chettle, Tyler, Pearce; Stone, Phillips, Gemmill, Woan; Lee, Collymore. Substitutes not used: Bohinen, Black, Wright (gk).

Referee: A Smith (Rubery, Birmingham).