Ten-man Nottingham Forest extended their unbeaten run to ten matches with a 1-1 draw against Birmingham at The City Ground this evening.
Headers from Birmingham's Jon Toral and Forest's Matt Mills meant the scores were locked level when David Vaughan was red-carded for a high foot with 16 minutes to play.
The Blues were unable to capitalise on their man advantage, however, and Forest's unbeaten run continues.
The rotation policy that had served Dougie Freedman well over the Christmas period continued as Mills, Eric Lichaj, Bojan Jokic, Ryan Mendes, David Vaughan, Nelson Oliveira and Chris O’Grady came into the starting line-up.
Gary Gardner was handed a space on the bench along with Oliver Burke, while Chris Cohen was rested.
The first half-chance of the game fell to the visitors on ten minutes. Jaques Maghoma got the better of Lichaj down the left and cut the ball back for Clayton Donaldson. The forward couldn't adjust his feet in time to take control and the chance was gone.
A minute later, Ben Osborn rattled the woodwork after seizing on a misplaced pass just outside the 'D'. He shifted the ball on to his left foot and saw his low shot cannon back off the post. Forest kept the move alive, Vaughan crossing the ball back into the middle where O'Grady met it with an excellent header. The ball had a lot of distance to cover, however, and Blues keeper Tomasz Kuszczak made a comfortable save.
The game then hit a lull before Birmingham took a 24th-minute lead. Paul Caddis' excellent cross was matched by the movement of Toral, who slipped through Forest's back line to score with a diving header.
Controversy abounded minutes later as Forest appealed for a handball by Kuszczak following a mix-up in Birmingham's defence. O'Grady pounced on possession outside the area, where he was confronted by Kuszczak. He tried to nudge the ball past the stopper but its path was blocked. Referee Mark Brown decided the keeper didn't use his hand and waved play on.
Forest's frustrations were eased shortly afterwards however as they levelled through Mills. The goal came after Oliveira was fouled in a good crossing position, which Vaughan was all too happy to take advantage of. The midfielder's whipped delivery was met thunderously by Mills' header, leaving Kuszczak with no chance.
It was turning into a feisty affair and Oliveira, later to be followed by Mendes, entered the referee's notebook following an aerial clash with Blues defender Paul Robinson.
As the second half progressed The Reds were looking the more likely team to take the lead. For a moment it seemed Tesche would deliver in spectacular fashion, receiving the ball in a tight situation, flicking it up for himself and sending a dipping volley towards goal. Kuszczak was untroubled, however.
Freedman's men had one last chance to return to the dressing room ahead when Vaughan was tripped in a dangerous shooting position. Osborn took responsibility for the free-kick, opting to go low and seeing the ball's path blocked by the wall.
There were no changes for either side at half-time and it was Forest who created the first opening of the second half. Neat interplay between Oliveira and Vaughan presented the latter with a chance to shoot from 20 yards. With his weaker right foot, Vaughan could only fire the ball high and wide.
A scare for Forest followed as Oliveira was penalised after a coming-together with Caddis. The referee opted against showing the striker a second yellow card, lecturing him instead. One man who did the enter the book was Toral, however, punished for a foul on Osborn shortly afterwards.
The home side had their hearts in their mouths once again just after the hour when Toral's corner picked out Michael Morrison unmarked at the back post six yards out. The Birmingham skipper looked certain to score with his powerful header but de Vries was on hand to make a crucial save.
Forest's response came from O'Grady, who received the ball on the left and cut into the area on his right foot. He fired the ball low towards the bottom corner but Kuszczak had his near post covered.
But those Forest nerves were jangling yet again with 21 minutes to play. Toral picked the ball up in space 25 yards out and struck it towards goal. It took a wicked deflection off Mills and struck the outside of the post on its way behind for a corner.
Freedman's first substitution followed as Jamie Ward replaced Oliveira, but the manager was forced into another change moments later after seeing his side reduced to ten men.
Referee Brown deemed Vaughan's high foot on Donaldson as a straight-red offence and the midfielder was dismissed. Freedman acted straight away by sending Gardner on for Mendes.
Forest were holding firm despite their man disadvantage, restricting Birmingham's opportunities to snatch a winner. Maikel Kieftenbeld's speculative curled effort was easily held by de Vries with seven minutes of normal time remaining.
The Reds almost took the lead in an unlikely fashion shortly afterwards. Ward's cross from the right nearly caught Kuszczak off guard but the keeper was able to scamper along his line and pluck the ball away from his top corner.
Freedman sent Burke on for O'Grady in the dying moments and, shortly before five minutes of added time were indicated, The Reds won a free-kick in a good crossing position. Osborn's delivery caused panic in the middle but the referee spotted an infringement and blew for a free-kick to the visitors.
The home side were refusing to crumble and Burke nearly gave them a dramatic winner when his pace put Birmingham to the sword on the counter attack. His attempted through ball was blocked but it came back to him on his left foot. The winger struck it powerfully, but wide, and the match ended 1-1.
Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mills (c), Mancienne, Jokic, Mendes (Gardner, 76'), Vaughan, Tesche, Osborn, O'Grady (Burke, 89'), Oliveira (Ward, 71')
Subs not used: Evtimov, Wilson, Blackstock, Hobbs, O.Burke
Bookings: Oliveira 33', Mendes 38', de Vries 75', Gardner 85'
Sent off: Vaughan 74'
Goal: Mills 30'
: Kuszczak, Caddis, Morrison (c), Robinson, Grounds, Gleeson, Kieftenbeld, Davis (Birmingham
Solomon-Otabor, 84'), Maghoma, Toral (Vaughan 83'), Donaldson
Subs not used: Legzdins, Shinnie, Spector, Lowry, Brock-Madsen
Goal: Toral 24'
Bookings: Toral 56', Robinson 89'
Referee: Mark Brown
Attendance: 18,342 (1,376 away)
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