Megson put through the mill on debut

Nottingham Forest 1 - Millwall 2
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The Independent Online

New manager, same old problems. Whatever optimism was generated by Gary Megson's arrival at Nottingham Forest was rapidly dissipating yesterday as Millwall inflicted a fifth home defeat of the season to leave them firmly in the Championship relegation zone and seven points from safety.

New manager, same old problems. Whatever optimism was generated by Gary Megson's arrival at Nottingham Forest was rapidly dissipating yesterday as Millwall inflicted a fifth home defeat of the season to leave them firmly in the Championship relegation zone and seven points from safety.

In the three training sessions he has taken since being appointed on Monday, Megson has been impressed by how comfortable his new side appear on the ball, but has questioned how effective they are out of possession. His mission, he said, is to instil "desire, determination, honesty and effort".

There were signs of those qualities as Forest raised a late flurry that culminated in Kris Commons steering Marlon King's cross into the top corner with three minutes remaining. Indeed, had it not been for a superb save from Graham Stack in injury-time, Commons would have stolen a point. As it was, Forest were left to rue their early lack of defensive conviction.

There was a palpable zest to them from the off, but after David Johnson had produced the first two of what would become a catalogue of misses, they fell behind after 11 minutes to Millwall's first sortie into their half. Gareth Taylor is a forward, and was only playing at the back because of the absence of three senior centre-backs, but even allowing for that, Barry Hayles turned away from him far too easily before thumping home his eighth goal of the season.

If that was a touch hard on Forest, life soon got even worse. Taylor had a header cleared off the line by Jody Morris and Johnson shanked laughably wide, but on 37 minutes the away side got the game's second goal. With Forest's back four seemingly bewildered by Millwall's 4-3-3 formation, Hayles found Alan Dunne in space on the right, and, under no pressure, he floated his shot beyond Paul Gerrard. A sublime finish, but Forest allowed him an eternity to execute it.

"I couldn't fault the effort or application, the enthusiasm, the drive, the desire," said Megson. "The things we could fault were technical. They scored the first with a simple ball thrown up to the centre-forward. We let Hayles turn and got caught on the wrong side. Hayles for second goal was going nowhere, but we let him turn inside and then we had big problems."

If Forest could draw encouragement from the second-half rally, it should not hide the deficiencies of the first half. Megson spoke of pride in his side's attitude, but they were booed off at half-time, the mood of the fans hardly helped by the increasing likelihood of the Republic of Ireland midfielder Andy Reid leaving the club. Strongly linked with Everton and Aston Villa, he missed the game with what the cynical will see as a suspiciously convenient calf strain, although Megson insisted it was genuine.

"There's a great deal of interest from three Premiership clubs and one in Spain," Megson said. "We would like to hang on to Andy if he's happy to be here, but if he's not, we'll come up with something that suits all parties."

Reid's verve and conviction would be a major asset in the relegation struggle ahead, but Commons's performance yesterday suggested he could fulfil a similar role. Certainly, it was his energy that was central to the second-half fightback. "I'd be pleased if we keep playing like we did in the second half for the rest of the season," said Megson. What must frustrate and concern him, though, is why it took so long for them to discover that level of performance.

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