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Posted Sat 18 Apr 15 at 16:50 PM

Blackburn 3-3 Forest

Michail Antonio scored a late equaliser as Forest drew 3-3 at Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park this afternoon.

The hosts took the lead three times through a hat-trick of Rudy Gestede headers but Forest refused to give the game up.

Antonio leveled the scores at 1-1 before Lansbury ensured his side headed into the break at 2-2.

The game looked lost when Gestede nodded his side in front with 82 minutes on the clock, but Antonio scored an excellent equaliser with two minutes of normal time remaining.

Dougie Freedman made six changes to the side that faced Watford on Wednesday night.

Lansbury returned to the starting line-up as captain while Jamaal Lascelles, Modou Barrow, Dexter Blackstock, David Vaughan and Danny Fox were also given the nod.

The suspended Kelvin Wilson missed out along with the bench-bound Michael Mancienne, Chris Burke, Chuba Akpom and Ben Osborn. Todd Kane was absent from the squad altogether.

Despite showing promise in the early exchanges, Forest found themselves a goal down on three minutes when Gestede beat Karl Darlow to a bouncing ball in the area to nod the home side in front.

But, four minutes later, Forest restored parity when Antonio used his considerable strength to hold off his marker and meet Barrow’s cross with his head. The ball had too much pace for Rovers keeper Simon Eastwood to deal with.

A flurry of opportunities followed, with Eastwood rushing out to make a good save from Lansbury before the keeper was called into action again a minute later to save Antonio’s shot following an excellent flowing move.

The home side then tested Darlow through Craig Conway, who received a square pass from Tom Cairney before striking the ball towards goal from 22 yards. The keeper got down to his left to make a comfortable save.

And Forest’s response almost saw them take the lead. Antonio bought himself space to cross the ball for Lansbury and the former Arsenal man controlled his first-time effort well. Unfortunately, he could only direct the ball a yard or so wide of the near post with his right foot.

The Reds were looking extremely threatening going forward and, seven minutes after Antonio and Barrow saw shots blocked in quick succession, the pair nearly combined to put their side 2-1 up.

Antonio did brilliantly to turn Adam Henley, who required treatment after the tussle, before racing into space. He poked the ball to Lansbury, who moved it across the edge of the area to Barrow with his first touch. The winger opened up his body and curled his shot just over the bar with his left foot.

Freedman’s men were well in the ascendancy but were left frustrated again on 33 minutes. Blackstock flicked the ball through for Antonio who showed brilliant pace, strength and balance to reach the byline and brush off his defender, before showing terrific awareness to roll the ball into space for the onrushing Gardner. It had just enough pace to reach the midfielder near the edge of the area, and the Villa loanee struck it low towards goal. Eastwood made an excellent save and was quick enough to scamper back to his goal line to prevent the ball crossing the line.

For all their pressure, however, The Reds found themselves 2-1 down on 35 minutes. Gestede’s aerial threat came to the fore once more as he rose to meet Conway’s cross from the right, powering the ball across Darlow and into the net.

But the openness of the match meant Rovers were unable to rest on their laurels - and quite rightly so considering Antonio’s menacing mood.

On the stroke of half-time, the winger breezed past his full back with consummate ease, entered the area and rolled the ball towards the penalty spot. Lansbury’s run was perfectly timed and the skipper passed it beyond the wrong-footed Eastwood to send his side into the break level.

The 13,000-strong crowd had to wait until the 62nd minute for the first real chance of the second half, Ben Marshall rattling Darlow’s crossbar with a close-range header from Conway’s cross.

By way of response, Forest created two chances for Antonio. The first saw him curl the ball straight at Eastwood after good work from Lichaj and Lansbury, before he went it alone a minute later, wriggling into the Blackburn box before blazing the ball over with his left foot.

The game was opening up again and Lansbury took advantage, carrying the ball into space in midfield before playing a one-two with Antonio. From eight yards and with the angle against him, Lansbury opted for precision in his attempt to beat Eastwood. But the keeper managed to get down just in time to make the save.

A minute later Eastwood was untroubled by Gardner’s free-kick, won by Antonio, which saw the ball fly harmlessly over the crossbar from the corner of the area.

Freedman made his first change on 71 minutes, sending on Mancienne in place of Fox. Lichaj shifted to left back with Mancienne slotting in at right back.

The Reds continued to press as the game entered its closing stages. Antonio did well to control Vaughan’s raking pass before offloading it to Barrow. The winger passed it low to Blackstock in the middle, who saw his right-footed effort deflect off a Blackburn defender and behind.

Two minutes later, Burke replaced Barrow in a like-for-like switch.

But there was nothing the Scotsman could do to prevent Gestede completing a headed hat-trick on 82 minutes. Conway was the provider again, crossing for the Benin international to head the ball home at the back post.

The drama was far from over, however, and it came as no surprise that Antonio was involved again. The winger capitalised on a poor clearance with two minutes of normal time remaining and lashed the ball into the bottom corner from 24 yards.

Akpom replaced Blackstock before five minutes of added time were indicated.

But, no doubt exhausted after a frantic affair, neither side were able to notch a late winner and the match ended 3-3.

Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Hobbs, Lascelles, Fox (Mancienne 71'), Antonio, Lansbury (c), Vaughan, Gardner, Barrow (C.Burke 78'), Blackstock (Akpom 88')

Subs not used: Evtimov, Paterson, Walker, Osborn

Goals: Antonio 7', 88', Lansbury 45'

Booking: Vaughan 62'

BlackburnEastwood, Henley, Spurr, Kilgallon (c), Olsson, Marshall (P. Taylor 90'), Cairney, Williamson, Conway, Rhodes, Gestede

Subs not used: Steele, Brown, O'Sullivan, Spearing, Lenihan, Evans

Goals: Gestede 3', 35', 82'

Booking: Williamson 90'

Referee: Andy Haines

Attendance: 13,876 (1,099 away)

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