Three first-half goals condemned Nottingham Forest to defeat against Millwall at The City Ground.
Matt Smith struck a hat-trick as The Reds’ promotion bid took a blow on a disappointing night on Trentside.
Sabri Lamouchi made one change to the side which drew at Middlesbrough on Monday, with Joao Carvalho returning to the starting line-up in place of Ryan Yates, and the Portuguese midfielder made a bright start as he looked to create an opening for The Reds.
He had the game’s first effort on target as he drilled a low shot straight at Bartosz Bialkowski in the Millwall goal before Joe Lolley fizzed an effort over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
It was a lively opening quarter-of-an-hour with both sides showing plenty of intent going forward, but it was the visitors who made the most of it, taking the lead through Smith on 20 minutes. Some good work by Murray Wallace down the left led to him playing in a low cross which Smith stooped to head firmly past Samba and give the visitors the advantage.
The goal seemed to suck the life out of Forest and spur on Millwall and on 26 it was two as Jayson Molumby’s shot from 12 yards out deflected off the boot of Smith and into the back of the net.
The Lions’ confidence was soaring and just after the half-hour mark they added a third, Smith again causing the Forest defence problems as he rose highest at a corner to head home from close range and complete his hat-trick.
Forest came out for the second half in positive fashion, looking for an immediate response after the break. They probed for openings without creating anything clear-cut, Carvalho shooting over the bar and a number of crosses testing the Millwall defence which held firm.
John Bostock came off the bench and hit a stinging shot just after the hour-mark, forcing Bialkowski to parry clear and again on 78, this time from further out with Bialkowski producing an even better save.
The visitors defended resolutely, keeping Forest at arm’s length as The Reds found no way through on a disappointing night at The City Ground.
Forest: Samba, Cash, Figueiredo, Worrall, Ribeiro, Watson (c), Semedo (Bostock 46’), Lolley (Diakhaby 80’), Carvalho (Walker 72’), Ameobi, Grabban
Unused subs: Muric, Jenkinson, Dawson, Yates
Booking: Samba 80’
Millwall: Bialkowski, Romeo, Hutchinson (c), Cooper, M.Wallace, J.Wallace, Molumby, Woods, Ferguson (Bodvarsson 86’), Bennett (Bradshaw 61’), Smith (Pearce 80’)
Unused subs: Sandford, Williams, Mahoney, O’Brien
Goals: Smith 20’, 26’, 33’
Booking: Cooper 87’
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Attendance: 27,307 (936 away)