Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton was delighted to see Alex Mighten come alive when it really mattered after the 18-year-old’s first senior goal earned a point in a 1-1 draw at Millwall.
The Reds will head into Christmas a point clear of the relegation zone in the Sky Bet Championship after they backed up their morale-boosting midweek win over Sheffield Wednesday with a dogged display on the road.
Given that the Lions and Forest have not won at home or on their travels, respectively, since October, it was perhaps inevitable that this contest at The Den would end all square.
It suddenly exploded into life after a drab first half, with Mighten’s smart finish quickly cancelling out Tom Bradshaw’s opener, with the two teams largely cancelling each other out otherwise.
Hughton said: “It’s brilliant for him. Up until then it had been a difficult game for him – he hadn’t really got into the spaces where he can show his qualities.
“He’s had one-v-ones and he was up against a good full-back that got tight on him, so probably up until the goal he’d had a quiet game.
“But when you’re a forward player, or a winger, it’s about the moments that you can change something or make it happen.
“I thought it was a super run – he didn’t have to make that run because Lewis Grabban had already made it, but credit to him for his great anticipation and finish.
“I think on the balance of play it was a fair result, but when you go 1-0 down in this type of game, which is going to be a tight game, playing against a very direct team, it’s probably more about battling qualities.”
The first half was almost devoid of action, not helped by some fussy officiating from referee Oliver Langford, who saw reason to book five players in the first 28 minutes.
Thankfully, it took just two minutes for things to liven up after the restart as Jon Dadi Bodvarsson went on a surging run down the left before cutting the ball back for Bradshaw to give Millwall the lead.
Forest quickly equalised, however, when Mighten got on the end of Loic Mbe Soh’s long ball before finishing well from an angle.
Jed Wallace missed a big opportunity to restore the Lions’ advantage, while Ryan Leonard had a half-volley from outside the box pushed over by goalkeeper Brice Samba in stoppage time.
Millwall boss Gary Rowett said: “I thought we performed pretty well, on the whole.
“I think in the first half we were very aggressive, we dominated territory but without maybe turning it into as many chances as we would have liked.
“They managed to break into one or two good areas, without anything coming of it.
“We started (the second half) really well – Jon Dadi has shown he’s growing in confidence with a fabulous run for the goal and you felt going 1-0 up so early in the second half was a massive moment in a tight game.
“You know Forest have then got to come out and lose their shape and that would give us other opportunities, but the one thing you don’t want to do is make a poor mistake quickly afterwards.
“It’s a poor goal for us to concede – one ball does our centre-halves and it’s a gift to Forest, in my opinion.”
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