Steve Cooper’s first game in charge of Nottingham Forest ended in a 1-1 draw with Millwall at the City Ground.
The Welshman – who took over as the Reds’ new head coach this week – watched his side come from behind to earn a well-deserved point on Saturday afternoon.
With so much excitement surrounding the new man in the dugout, Forest reacted well to a boisterous home crowd and started this one on the front foot.
Djed Spence was allowed to stretch his legs on the right-hand side early on, with his driven cross finding Lewis Grabban at the near post. The striker – looking to score his second goal in as many games – saw his effort kept out at point-blank range by Bartosz Bialkowski.
Millwall looked to introduce Matt Smith’s aerial threat into the game on 20 minutes, with Tobias Figueiredo rising well to deny the striker from getting an effort in on goal. Daniel Ballard fired into the side-netting from the resulting corner.
Soon after, Cooper was forced into making his first change of the afternoon, with Grabban pulling up off the ball, and Lyle Taylor replacing the striker.
But on 32 minutes, it was the dangerous Smith who broke the deadlock.
Sheyi Ojo lifted a cross into the area from the right, and there was Smith to rise above Joe Worrall and nod into the bottom corner from six yards to give the visitors the lead.
Not the start to life Cooper would have been hoping for, then, as he watched his side have plenty of the ball without really playing with the same intensity and tempo they produced last weekend.
The half-time whistle blew to mark the end of a half where Forest accrued 61% of the ball, but failed to make their possession count and carve out any real openings.
The head coach would have been hoping for a quick response after the break, and they got it almost instantly.
Max Lowe’s cross from the left completely deceived Bialkowski, flying over the Polish goalkeeper and cannoning in off the post.
A slight bit of fortune about it, but no complaints from the home faithful, with Forest back on level terms five minutes into the second half.
The scene was set for an enthralling final half hour, with Forest looking to turn the game on its head. Tobias Figueiredo saw a goalbound effort blocked at the near post from a corner.
Millwall came close to retaking the lead, though, with Smith rattling the crossbar with a driven left-footed effort from the edge of the area.
Shortly after, the visitors came close through Smith once again shortly after. Despite the ball ricocheting off referee Jeremy Simpson, play was waved on after a slight hesitation, seeing Millwall break forward. Eventually, a cross found Smith’s head, but he could only fire harmlessly into Samba’s gloves.
Cooper looked to swing the pendulum back in his side’s favour, introducing Philip Zinckernagel for Lolley on 67 minutes.
As the game entered its dying embers, both sides continued to push for a late winner. A smart corner routine saw James Garner pulling the ball back for Taylor, who saw his effort blocked from the edge of the area.
Zinckernagel then showed excellent perseverance to ride a number of challenges – the Danish winger was even pulled to the ground, but got up immediately and advantage was given. Johnson eventually received out wide, firing a delicious across goal, with nobody on the end of it.
Zinckernagel then had a go himself from distance, but couldn’t hit the target as he dragged his shot wide.
But neither side could find a late winner amid few chances at either end late on, and the spoils were shared.