Nottingham Forest head coach Sabri Lamouchi denied resting two-goal hero Lewis Grabban from his starting line-up after the former Millwall forward’s impressive cameo almost sealed a dramatic victory at The Den.
Grabban did not start the encounter, but was brought on just after the hour mark with Millwall a goal up thanks to a header from Shaun Williams.
However, the 31-year-old made an immediate off the bench, poking home Joe Worrall’s header across goal from virtually on the goalline, before clinically converting Sammy Ameobi’s inviting delivery from close range two minutes from time.
That looked set to hand Forest all three points, only for Aiden O’Brien to net a stoppage-time leveller to earn a 2-2 draw for the hosts.
Eyebrows were raised that both Grabban and Joe Lolley began the match on the bench, but Lamouchi said the decision to omit his top scorer from the starting XI was purely tactical.
“You could say [bringing him on], it’s great coaching,” the Frenchman laughed. “I trusted the other players and other systems. But, Grabban is Grabban. He made the difference when he came on. He’s a striker, a killer. He’s motivated to score. He scores after just two chances.”
Lamouchi was surprisingly circumspect despite thinking his team had the game won following Grabban’s second strike.
“Of course, when you are winning 2-1 with two minutes to go, we are frustrated, but the first half was completely wrong and the draw is logical,” he said.
“Millwall played much better than us in the first half. Possibly the new system was a little bit confusing for my players.
“They scored a very easy goal from the first or second corner, unbelievable. I can’t accept these kind of goals. We won the second half. The attitude was totally different. We had more quality, we created more and of course it was much better.”
O’Brien’s last-gasp equaliser means Millwall have now picked up nine points from their last six outings and are unbeaten in six at The Den.
Boss Gary Rowett, who took charge on October 21, had a mixed reaction to his side’s performance.
“I thought we were really, really good first half. I think they showed us a massive compliment by changing their shape and going quite physical to combat us,” he said.
“Leaving their best two players [Grabban and Lolley] on the bench, you knew they were going to try and keep it fairly tight and then try and change the game as it opened up late on.
“Sometimes we just lack that tiny bit of quality in the final third, which you can understand because we don’t have as many top-class players in those areas as some other teams, but nevertheless we were wasteful.
“If they open you up, open you up with great quality. Don’t concede from a set-piece. That was really disappointing [for the first goal]. That’s two weeks running.
“The second goal comes after we change shape and get Jed [Wallace] in the middle and he knows that he can’t overplay in that area and take risks, but I can put up with that because of his first-half display, which was absolutely brilliant. It was as good a 45 minutes as I’ve seen anyone in the Championship play. I don’t want to stifle his creativity.
“At 2-1, I sat down and thought it was over, but the players didn’t and kept fighting to the end. I thought they showed brilliant courage to get something out of the game.”