Nottingham Forest’s Under 21s took a step closer to the title with a 1-1 draw against Huddersfield at the Nigel Doughty academy this afternoon.
The result maintains Forest’s gap over the second-placed Terriers at five points and means, barring Huddersfield winning their final two matches with a huge goal swing, The Reds only need a draw from their final game, away at Barnsley on Tuesday, to secure top spot.
It was nearly all wrapped up this afternoon as Forest, who had played much of the game with ten men after Jack Blake was red-carded, took a 1-0 lead into second-half stoppage time courtesy of James Thorne.
But Town’s pressure eventually told when Phillip Billing scored a sensational equaliser to keep his side’s title hopes alive.
Forest started the game strongly and had the lead after only five minutes when Thorne capitalised on a poor backpass to poke the ball past Lloyd Allinson in the Terriers’ net.
The visitors shifted straight on to the front foot and enjoyed some good spells of pressure, Reds keeper Tim Erlandsson having to make a strong one-handed save from Ben Holmes before he was called in to push Duane Holme’s shot wide.
And Huddersfield’s hopes of getting back into the match were given a significant boost when Blake collected his second booking in as many minutes, for a foul on Jacob Hansen, leaving his side a man light with only 28 minutes on the clock.
Town were now well in control and they nearly had an equaliser when Jack Senior bent the ball just wide of the post after Jack Boyle’s cross.
Boyle, who had replaced Hansen, almost sent his side into the break level in injury time but sent the ball just wide of the post from outside the area.
And the substitute was involved in the first major incident of the second half, providing the cross for Rekiel Pyke to nod the ball on to the post.
It was, understandably, one-way traffic at this stage as Huddersfield upped their attempts to take advantage of the extra man and rescue their title hopes. Boyle and Pyke linked up again on 52 minutes, the latter directing his effort straight at Erlandsson.
A Reds back four of Andreas Karo, Joe Worrall, Roger Riera and Alex Iacovitti were remaining resolute, but Forest’s hard work was almost undone when Thorne misjudged a pass to allow Pike through on goal. The striker’s initial shot was saved by the onrushing Erlandsson but the ball bounced favourably for him. Thankfully for Forest, Worrall was on hand to clear Pike’s second shot off the line.
In a twist of fate, Worrall was left to rue a goal-line clearance at the other end shortly afterwards. Jack Kelly, on for Petravicius, swung a corner to the back post where Worrall was on hand to guide the ball back across goal with an excellent header. It looked certain to cross the line but a Town defender slid in to make a vital intervention.
As the game neared its conclusion Billing and Jake Charles drew a brilliant double-save from Erlandsson as it looked increasingly likely that the Swede would claim another clean sheet to add to his impressive tally.
But, in the first of five minutes’ added time, the Terriers had a dramatic equaliser after they worked the ball to influential midfielder Billing on the edge of the area. He struck the ball sweetly off the underside of the bar and over the line to ensure his side still have a faint hope of beating Forest to first place.
Forest: Erlandsson, Karo, Worrall, Riera, Iacovitti, Thomas (Yates 60’), Cash, Crookes, Blake, Petravicius (Kelly 52’), Thorne (Todorov 56’)
Sent off: Blake