As it was, we achieved the barest of minimums today by edging past arguably the poorest side to visit Trentside this season, though let’s not for one minute go away thinking everything is looking rosy once more. A better team would have punished us hard today. But where there’s life…
The Championship, Saturday 19th April 2014, Kick-off 1500hrs|
Nottingham Forest 1 – 0 Birmingham City
|Venue||The City Ground|
Bright and becoming increasingly sunny, though still cold in the shade
As expected, a 2000-strong travelling contingent who packed the Lower Bridgford and gave as good as they got with the more vocal Trickies around them.
I reckon this one goes down as the most punctual kick-off ever, right on the stroke of three o’clock. Minimal added time in either half given.
Needless to say the second half was a different story as Blues looked an entirely different proposition (Lee Clark must have given them a hell of an ear-bashing, that’s all I can say) and looked at least like a side recognising their precarious position in the table, even if that did include resorting to shirt-pulling on occasions. Chris Burke, so often a thorn in our side in the past, started sending in some dangerous crosses causing us to make mistakes – the most spectacular being when Darlow and Lascelles collided, which Collins eventually managed to clear – and our defending of corner kicks was questionable at times, illustrated by a Zigic free header saved by Darlow at point blank range. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though. Osborn was our main threat in the second half with some excellent runs, whilst Hendo narrowly missed the top corner with a looping shot right at the end. We’d held out, though yet again it would only have taken Blues to nick one to send the home fans into sullen silence for the fourteenth consecutive time this season. The fans were excellent today with a flurry of songs to really get behind the boys, stemming any feeling of this being a mundane end-of-season match, and they ultimately got their reward at the full time whistle.|
As well you might. It was a costly mistake by Jonathan Spector that had let us in in the first place and that was followed by a whole succession of errors by Blues (today sporting colours resembling our training kit instead of their traditional blue and white) as we poured forward with plenty of attacking football. But the welcome boost provided by the early goal soon gave way to that niggling feeling that if we didn’t put the game to bed we’d end up paying for it in a similar way we did at Ipswich three weeks ago. With Vaughan making a welcome return for the first time since early February we looked solid enough throughout the first half and Osborn, Fox and Derbyshire all went close, and Blues offered very little in response, with Zigic looking decidedly frustrated feeding on a diet of hoofball reminiscent of us on one of our off-days.
In stark contrast to conceding so early at Loftus Road last week the boot was firmly on the other foot today as Derbyshire beat the offside trap having been set up nicely by Pato wide on the right with a peach-perfect pass, and despite the advancing Blues’ keeper Darren Randolph narrowing the gap Derbyshire kept his head before sliding the ball calmly past to nestle inside the near post. TBNTM, a habitual late-comer was only just taking his seat as we all rose in celebration and anticipated at least an enjoyable afternoon taking a poor side apart.
|Highlights||Derbyshire’s well-taken early goal gave us the best possible boost, and the first half was an excellent display of attacking football; the welcome return of Vaughan to pull the strings in midfield; our first clean sheet in seven games; Ipswich losing at Watford narrowing the gap between us and 6th place to three points.|
Yet more injuries to ponder as we learned of Reidy being unlikely to feature again this season (on the pitch at least, despite reports of some stirring stuff to help keep players’ and fans’ spirits up – nice one, Reidy!), that on top of Lansbury and Wilson being side-lined once again, also Derbyshire and Fox both appeared to be struggling with knocks towards the end which may have implications for Monday’s visit to Elland Road.
Once again we failed to kill the game off and the same questions still remain as they did at Ipswich – we could have been two or three to the good by HT – so why weren’t we?
Osborn provided a shining example of how to make the most of your chance when injuries dictate selection dilemmas, and there were excellent performances by Pato, Vaughan and Derbyshire – epitomised by the standing ovations given to the latter pair when they were substituted.
We seemed to be playing with just ten men from the 82nd minute which must have coincided with Cox coming on for Mackie. Yet again I could see no hunger for the ball or positive contribution on Cox’s part when we still needed that second goal to kill the game.
|Referee||Mike Jones – Seemed a little picky and selective with some decisions, picking up more Forest fouls than Blues’ shirt-pulling antics, though overall did a reasonable job in this East/West Midlands derby.|
6/10 – Certainly another game of two halves in which Forest played considerably brighter football than seen in recent weeks. A pity their attacking football in the first half was not rewarded by more goals.
5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
|3 – Although overall results this weekend have so far been kind to us (those late-season jitters do affect others, so it seems), it still looks a big ask to pull back to 6th place with only three games remaining, two of which against teams still in the mix. Failure to win today and that would most certainly have been it; as it is we’re still in with a shout, albeit a distant one, though with injuries still mounting, I doubt there’s enough steam left to be able to mount a serious playoff challenge – though naturally I hope I’m wrong.|