My matchday routine this weekend needed adapting to fit in with a family visit, therefore travel to Nottingham and beyond would be by train, requiring a start two hours earlier than normal in order to reach Nottingham at my usual time in order to proceed with pre-match build-up: all the usual stuff including the obligatory pre-match pint and burger whilst poring over the programme. Certainly a more leisurely way to travel, though considerably more expensive, not to mention time-consuming. I was hoping also that my decision to travel by train this time might coincide with a repeat of the scoreline the last time I did this: a 4-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday back in 2002.
Well, the game featured four goals all right, though not entirely in our favour: a timely reminder that we cannot expect to win every single week, great though that would be. All the same, tremendous character was needed to ensure we got the very least we deserved from the game.
FLC, Saturday 31 March 2013, Kick Off 1500hrs|
Nottingham Forest 2 – 2 Brighton & Hove Albion
|Venue||The City Ground|
Must rank as one of the coldest Easter weekends ever. At least it was dry.
|Away fans||Over 2000 and well up for it, though thought they would have made their presence felt a little more. Some of them made up for it later as I had company on my onward train journey south – raucous but good natured.|
Normal service resumed with start time two minutes late. Thank goodness for stoppage time, though!
Whoa, not so fast! It’s too bad we then dropped deep and allowed Brighton to come right back at us, and within two minutes they were back in front when Buckley was afforded too much space after the ball had been sent back across the face of goal. A succession of poor defensive moves and all that good work undone once again. Only Forest weren’t finished as we entered stoppage time and just as we were beginning to stare down the barrel of defeat a clever ball by Reid fed Jara who squared it to an onrushing Lansbury who fired low towards goal – straight to Ankergren who had had a superb afternoon. Cue a master class on how to ruin that in one split second by allowing the ball’s momentum to let it squirm underneath you, through your legs and carry on skidding towards the line. I don’t think any of us watching in the Trent End waited to see it hit the back of the net as the roof practically came off with the celebrations. We may not have pulled off that record seventh win today, but the salvaged point was the very least we deserved and there was still a distinct buzz as we filtered out onto the streets afterwards.|
Eventually the sustained pressure from Brighton took its toll. A block by Collins off the line kept them out following a free kick, but from the resultant corner a similar goalmouth scramble saw key marksman Ulloa pounce and Darlow, stranded was unable to deny him a second time. It had been coming, which was the worst thing about it, but at least Forest woke up, with BD throwing on Lewis for Radi to shake things up. It took until the 82nd minute to pay off, but after Reid had set up Lewis on the left we had a glorious goal to celebrate when Lewis’s shot from a tight angle just outside the six-yard box swept past Ankergren. He’d had to beat Hammond along the way and the shot may have taken a deflection, but we were too delirious to care. Suddenly we were on the front foot and could be looking for a winner having trailed for the last 25 minutes!
First half featured some of the most dazzling football by Forest all season with pace, movement and crisp passing in abundance. So it was a little disappointing to go in at HT with scores level (i.e. blank) and personnel level after LuaLua was spared a red card after a blatant shove on Cox. Perhaps feeling hard done by over that, the balance of play swung away from us and distinctly Brighton’s way following the restart as we struggled to capture the momentum we’d enjoyed earlier. We’d created plenty but it was the finishing touch which let us down, a few wild shots instead of being able to keep it on the deck – slightly reminiscent of the early days of BD’s previous seasons with us, though Brighton keeper Ankergren’s more than passable impression of Gordon Banks wasn’t making life easy for the frontmen.
|Highlights||First half was Forest at their most creative as they bossed most areas of the field; the never-say-die attitude of the players showed the character and progress of a team which last season never looked like coming back with over an hour left to play, never mind four minutes stoppage time. How about other results! With Hull being the only side in the top eight to win today our place in the top six looks increasingly likely to take our season into extra time, and in sharp contrast to Leicester who look like missing out altogether.|
Reid’s shooting seems to have deserted him as at least four attempts were wildly off target, though his involvement in both goals should not be overlooked. Injury to Guedioura may disrupt consistency in team selection on Monday after a nasty challenge on him midway through the second half. Sloppy defending and dropping deep straight after scoring served as a timely reminder of a team’s vulnerability right after scoring.
|Hero||Lewis will no doubt be aching for a starting berth after scoring in four successive games, but his supersub tag is paying dividends as we continue to climb the table. Another impressive display from Darlow who pulled off another string of saves.|
|Zero||The ref – see below.|
James Linington – Was this guy wearing a Brighton shirt when he bottled what ought to have been a straight red for LuaLua just before HT? We may have been fortunate with our injury time equaliser, though playing the second half against ten men may have put an entirely different complexion on the game. Decisions elsewhere in the game were consistently against Forest, most notably the free kick awarded against Cohen shortly before Ulloa’s opener.
|Entertainment Value||7.5/10 – Forest’s first half performance certainly deserved a couple of goals at least, though the manner in which the game swung back and forth made this a real spectacle.|
|Promotion Rating||2 – On a night when Boro and Brighton both drop points the gap between us and 6th place is down to two points. Even Leicester look vulnerable despite that game in hand. Good job we did win tonight though, with Bolton suddenly looking ominously close, thanks to their last-gasp winner.|