The English Championship is underway. The Daily Mail:” The Championship may only be one day old but so good was the goal that decided this game it will be tough to better in the 295 days of competition to follow.
Barrie McKay certainly earned the plaudits even as Nottingham Forest were not even close to deserving victory over Millwall.
By any measure, the visitors should have won handsomely, and can be aggrieved for a disallowed goal 15 minutes from the end.
Steve Morison finished off Jed Wallace’s cross from a tight angle and ran to celebrate with the away fans for a good 30 seconds. But referee Peter Bankes had spotted an infringement that nobody else saw and eventually blew his whistle. It was a call that left Neil Harris justifiably baffled. For Mark Warburton, it was a fortunate start to what he hopes will be Forest’s reawakening.
Both these sides entered this new season having finished the last in frenetic fashion. Millwall won promotion from League One at Wembley, while Forest required a last-day victory to avoid relegation.
Optimism has since spread at the City Ground as the takeover by Evangelos Marinakis begins to create positive change behind the scenes after the damaging reign of Fawaz Al-Hasawi. On the pitch Warburton has shaped his team in his image during a promising pre-season.
But it was Millwall, well honed in Harris’s methods, who began much the sharper. George Saville clipped the outside of the post from close range and Millwall created six further clear cut chances in the opening half. But somehow the hosts went in ahead.
It was a special goal too, and it will be difficult to improve upon throughout these nine months ahead.
McKay became a regular at Rangers under Warburton and the Forest manager was determined to bring him south of the border this summer. At a cost of £500,000 due to his contract being a year from expiration, the winger already looks superb value for money.
Forest were struggling badly to find any fluency against a structured defence until McKay took responsibility four minutes before the interval. Collecting the ball on the left touchline, he cut inside, glided past two Millwall players and struck the sweetest of shots from 25 yards that flew in off the near post.
Warburton still left the field at half-time shaking his head in frustration at the manner of his team’s performance prior to that. Millwall had cut them open at will.
Morison struck the crossbar with a volley from a corner, Lee Gregory skied an effort when through, and Aiden O’Brien sent a header over when it really ought to have rippled the net.
Gregory also drew a brilliant save from Jordan Smith with a fierce shot on the turn, and O’Brien headed another chance over from Shaun Hutchinson’s free-kick.
Gregory was again through after a neat one-two with Saville but his shot was scuffed and Smith was down to stop.
If anything, Millwall’s profligacy grew after the break. Smith erred horribly by throwing the ball to Morison, who squared to Gregory but the striker got under his finish for an appalling miss.
Millwall were not done there. In the 65th minute a slick break involving Gregory and Morison saw Jed Wallace with only Smith to beat but the Forest goalkeeper was once again equal to the task.
When they did finally get the ball in the net, Bankes intervened and was on the receiving end from Harris after the final whistle.