Forest listen too late to Megson

Nottingham Forest 1 - Millwall 2
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The Independent Online

Gary Megson is fond of abstract nouns. He went into his first game as manager of Nottingham Forest promising to instill "desire, determination, honesty", and came out saying he couldn't fault "the effort or the application, the enthusiasm, the drive" his side showed.

Gary Megson is fond of abstract nouns. He went into his first game as manager of Nottingham Forest promising to instill "desire, determination, honesty", and came out saying he couldn't fault "the effort or the application, the enthusiasm, the drive" his side showed.

The problem was, they did not show it until the second half, by which time they were already two down to a Millwall side that has now climbed into the play-off positions. At least he can be sure that his players respond to him "putting a few fleas in a few ears" as Ray Wilkins, Millwall's assistant manager, put it.

It would hardly have been an injustice had Forest gone in ahead at half-time, but David Johnson had a nightmare in front of goal and Jody Morris was in the right place to clear a Gareth Taylor header off the line. Allied to that was a critical lack of conviction to their defending, something which allowed Barry Hayles space to volley Millwall ahead with their first attack. Alan Dunne was then giventime to line up a floater into the top corner seven minutes before half-time.

Forest were booed off at the interval, but their second-half display was encouraging, even if Andy Reid, missing with a calf strain, leaves this week. Megson confirmed that the Republic of Ireland midfielder has been the subject of approaches from three Premiership clubs and a Spanish side.

In his absence, much of the creative burden will fall on Kris Commons, but the 21-year-old, drifting behind the front two, seemed up to the task on Saturday: "hugely impressive" was Wilkins' assessment. He had already been denied by Graham Stack when he headed a Marlon King cross into the top corner with three minutes remaining. Four minutes added on gave Forest hope, and only a back-pedalling tip-over from Stack prevented Commons snatching an equaliser with a measured lob-volley in injury-time.

In the end, their surge came too late; with Forest in the relegation zone and seven points adrift of safety, the fear must be that the pattern of Saturday's game will be projected on to the whole season. Late rallies may win admiration, but they do not necessarily bring points. As Megson teaches his players new words for industry, he may also care to strike sluggishness from their vocabulary.

Goals: Hayles (10) 0-1; Dunne (38) 0-2; Commons (87) 1-2.

Nottingham Forest (4-3-1-2): Gerrard; Louis-Jean, Dawson, Taylor, Doig; Evans (Harris, 89), Derry, Robertson (Folly, 55); Commons; Johnson (Rogers, 65), King. Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), Nowland.

Millwall (4-3-3): Stack; Phillips, Ward, Lawrence, Muscat; Dunne, Morris (Elliott, 83), Livermore; Dobie (Serioux, 90), Dichio, Hayles. Substitutes not used: Masterson (gk), Weston, Simpson.

Referee: N S Miller (Co Durham).

Booked: Nottingham Forest Johnson, Harris, Derry, Dawson, Commons; Millwall Livermore, Dunne.

Man of the match: Commons.

Attendance: 25,949.

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