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Match Reports

Smith treble sees Lions chop down Forest on Friday night

Three points at the City Ground...

6 March 2020

Matt Smith scored Millwall's first League hat-trick in four-and-a-half years on Friday night as The Lions secured a vital 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the Sky Bet Championship.

The striker found the net three times in an outstanding first-half to put Gary Rowett's side two points off the top six ahead of Saturday's matches.

On his birthday, Rowett made two changes to his Millwall starting XI, as Shane Ferguson and Mason Bennett came in for Connor Mahoney and Tom Bradshaw, who both dropped to the bench.

Shaun Williams, meanwhile, was named among the substitutes after returning from injury.

The Lions, lining up with Bennett behind Smith, made the early running with Ferguson delivering a duo of crosses into the box, but the Forest defence dealt with those and Mahlon Romeo's shot at goal after a Jed Wallace backheel.

The hosts got into the game from there and forced their own first shot at goal with four minutes played, but Bartosz Bialkowski was equal to Joao Carvalho's effort.

A delicious Ryan Woods pass then nearly found the onrushing Jed Wallace in a lively start, before a handball was ignored by referee Geoff Eltringham as Murray Wallace crossed. A Carvalho shot was then blocked by the head of Jake Cooper, before a Millwall breakaway almost fashioned the first goal of the evening; after Bennett fed Jed Wallace, however, his cross was just out of reach for Smith as the ball was cleared to safety.

The Lions were restricting their opponents to little in front of goal but The Tricky Trees almost took the lead with 15 minutes played - Joe Lolley's shot fizzed over the crossbar, however.

With 20 minutes played The Lions - deservedly - took the lead. A counter-attack saw Jayson Molumby feed Bennett, who in turn laid the ball off to Murray Wallace. The left-back beat his marker and sent a low cross in for Smith, who stooped to nod home the opening goal of the game.

Millwall attempted to come forward straight after and look for a potentially decisive second goal but could only muster Molumby's shot which trickled wide. The Irishman had the last laugh, though, as just six minutes after The Lions took the lead, Molumby superbly stroked home Bennett's cross to score his first goal in a Millwall shirt and double the advantage - although the final touch was being claimed by Smith.

Such was The Lions' dominance, it only took another seven minutes for a third to arrive - and once again Smith was at the heart of things, rising highest to nod home a Ferguson corner for 3-0 and his first hat-trick in a Millwall shirt.

Forest, shell-shocked, attempted to reduce the deficit in the minutes that remained before the half-time break and if not for a vital Cooper header could have scored through the head of Sammy Ameobi, before the attacker's vicious effort deflected just past Bialkowski's post as the first-half came to a close. Ameobi had one further chance in stoppage-time, but an outstanding challenge from Molumby prevented Bart from being troubled.

Inevitably, Nottingham Forest attacked as the second-half began, but a stoic Millwall defence was preventing Bialkowski from being troubled - a couple of Carvalho shots, which sailed way over the crossbar, the closest the home side came.

Substitute John Bostock's rasping drive made Bialkowski work with 68 minutes on the clock, before three sides of the City Ground were up in arms shortly after as Carvalho tumbled in the box - referee Eltringham was unmoved, however.

The Lions were having to a considerable amount of defensive work to protect their lead, with the blistering attacks of the opening 45 minutes rare - Shaun Hutchinson, Molumby and Ryan Woods all having to make vital blocks and clearances inside the last 20 minutes of the match.

Bostock's long-range attempt again forced Bialkowski into a save with 12 minutes remaining, with Millwall seeing out the final moments with ease to grab three points on the road.

Nottingham Forest: Samba, Riberio, Figueiredo, Worrall, Grabban, Watson, Carvalho (Walker 72'), Cash, Semedo (Bostock 46'), Ameobi, Lolley (Diakhaby 80'). Subs not used: Muric, Jenkinson, Dawson, Yates.

Booking: Samba

Millwall: Bialkowski, M. Wallace, Hutchinson, Cooper, J. Wallace, Smith (Pearce 79'), Ferguson (Bodvarsson 86'), Romeo, Molumby, Woods, Bennett (Bradshaw 61'). Subs not used: Sandford, Williams, Pearce, Mahoney, O'Brien.

Scorer: Smith 20' 26' 33'

Booking: Cooper

Referee: Geoff Eltringham

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