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A second late show shouldn't reprieve Forest's poor performance - Nottingham Forest 2-2 Leicester City

Saturday 20th August 2011
As they did against Notts County, Forest left it late to equalise against their local rivals. This time it was Leicester City, and as it often has over recent years, Leicester's visit to The City Ground, threw up a bit of drama.

 

Much of the pre-match focus was understandably pointing in the direction of the managers Steve McClaren and Sven-Goran Eriksson. The two of them worked together for the England national team at World Cups in 2002 and 2006 as well as the 2004 European Championships. But now, the two former colleagues would become opponents as their teams battled it out in the Championship.

 
 

The games got off to a bit of a slow start, with both sides failing to keep hold of possession for long enough to fashion a chance. Both teams were happy to play it out from the back, with the two keepers often rolling or passing it out to their centre halves. Brendan Moloney in particular was finding a lot of space on the right hand side early on, but nothing came of it.

 

The first chance of the game fell to Leicester, who of the two teams started the brighter. A flat corner from Neil Danns found the unmarked David Nugent, who could only direct his header at Lee Camp who parried away from point blank range. But the Leicester attack didn't finish there. David McGoldrick sliced his attempted clearance, and the ball fell to giant centre back Sol Bamba on the left, who tried to bend the ball into Lee Camps near post, but the Northern Ireland international, got down low to save.

 

With Forest looking lethargic yet again this season, Leicester capitalised on a terrible error from Jonathan Greening. The former Fulham man was under pressure from Gelson Fernandes and didn't get enough contact on his attempted pass out wide. The Swiss international, on loan from Saint-Etienne pounced and sprinted into the open space outside the Forest box, drawing Lee Camp to his near post, before teeing up David Nugent (who may have been offside) to knock home a simple finish into an empty net.

 

Forest were again responsible for Leicester's second goal just 3 minutes later. More silly passing at the back led to Luke Chambers giving the ball away, this time to the lively Danns. He skipped past George Boateng with ease and looked to have made it 2-0 when he side footed the ball round Lee Camp. The ball was cleared off the line well, but fell kindly to Gelson Fernandes, who passed the ball home. He probably won't score an easier goal in his career and Forest looked completely rattled. Forest are spectacular at contributing to their own downfall, and they really did shoot themselves in the foot. Under no pressure, they didn't clear their lines and were clinically punished by Leicester. The Forest defence that has looked so solid over the last couple of seasons, has looked a shadow of its former self so far this season.

 
 

Forest only managed to create one real chance in the first half, and it was a golden one. Chris Gunter, who again was playing at left back, produced a brilliant cross with his left foot to pick out the unmarked Matt Derbyshire, who didn't make full contact with his header and the ball trickled tamely wide of the goal. A horrendous first half came to an end, and without playing especially well, Leicester were 2 goals to the good, courtesy of two gifts from Forest. As you would expect, with many still unconvinced by McClaren, the boos rang out at half time.

 

McClaren made two substitutions at half time, bringing on Robbie Findley for the again rather quiet David McGoldrick as well as Ishmael Miller, who replaced Matt Derbyshire, who to be far, chased balls down, but didn't really stand a chance against 6 foot 3 inch Sol Bamba.

 

Forest had the first chance of the second half, as Greening was caught late by Richie Wellens on the edge of the box, but McGugan couldn't beat the wall. Danns then found space down the left flank, and ran around 40 yards to the by-line, before cutting inside and flashing a shot high across the face of goal. His work rate to fashion the chance deserved a better finish.

 

Forest began to improve as the half went on, but they were still very sloppy. Forest's first hour was summed up by Chris Cohen's free kick on the right hand side. He attempted to curl an in-swinger towards the men in the middle, only for it to float harmlessly over everyone, much to the fans and players frustration. It looked as though the tiny openings they were being given wouldn't lead to a fight back.

 

Steve McClaren made an attacking change, bringing on Radi Majewski for Brendan Moloney who again I felt had a steady game at right back, defending reasonably well and even ventured forward.

 

The classic ‘little and large' combination that Forest fans have been used to up front (in the shape of Dexter Blackstock and Robert Earnshaw, who together formed a strong striking pair), was working again. Ishmael Miller held off Matt Mills to flick on to Robbie Findley, whose dipping volley was very well saved by Kasper Schmeichel. The ball rebounded to Findley, but at a difficult height, so he could only fire over the bar. Then Ishmael Miller had an effort of his own, showing terrific power to hold off his man in the box, before a sharp turn onto his left foot, firing a strong effort at Kasper Schmeichel's near post. Forest were beginning to improve, and after some neat passing in the middle of the park, McGugan was held back by Richie Wellens, but a smart advantage was played by referee Jonathan Moss, which lead to Chris Gunter picking up the loose ball and crossing into the middle towards Robbie Findley. The American was blocked by Matt Mills and as both attempted to scramble to their feet, the ball unfortunately hit Mills' hand and, maybe rather harshly, a penalty was given. It certainly hit the defenders hand, but I don't believe it was intentional, but nonetheless, it sparked a Forest revival.

 

Leicester players were outraged by the decision, and Kasper Schmeichel got his name in the notebook for dissent. Lewis McGugan grabbed the ball ahead of Ishmael Miller, who was looking to mark his home debut with a goal. But McGugan showed why he is Forest's regular from 12 yards, as he drilled home a perfect penalty to give Forest a lifeline. But the drama didn't stop there. Schmeichel grabbed the ball and hurled it away into the stands. This was spotted by referee Moss and he got his second yellow in as many minutes, and the Dane was off down the tunnel.

 

Much to the annoyance of the Forest bench, Leicester took an age to bring on sub goalie Chris Weale, as Neil Danns was the man sacrificed. Danns looked around in confusion, despite seeing his number clearly displayed and then slowly walked the 40 yards off the pitch. 3 minutes later, Leicester were time wasting yet again, this time Andy King, who came off for Yuki Abe, took the best part of a minute to come off, despite being around 5 paces from the edge of the field.

 

Leicester then packed all 10 men behind the ball, as the Forest pressure mounted. It looked as though, despite being given a huge lifeline, that Forest at times still weren't urgent enough and didn't totally grab the game by the scruff of the neck, the way they should have. There was a nice one-two between Miller and Majewski, but Miller could only curl over.

 

But that old footballing cliché was relevant here. “There's always one more chance”, and there was. Chris Cohen picked up the ball on the left and whipped in a looping ball to the far post, but Weale (who was at fault in the corresponding fixture last season when he let a tame Paul McKenna volley squirm under him), was at fault again. He jumped but failed to get near the cross, leaving George Boateng to poke the ball in at the back post. Forest fans went wild, and in the 94th minute, Forest had get themselves out of what looked like a pretty huge hole.

 
 

Looking at the game, Leicester should be absolutely kicking themselves. They were gifted two goals and were coasting. With the poor manner in which Forest were playing, they should have smelt the blood, and gone for the kill. They should have won this game, and they could have done so at a canter. Other than their early efforts, they didn't work Lee Camp enough and failed to take full advantage of a helpless Forest side. Even if their plan wasn't to go and extend the lead, they should have shut up shop a lot better than they did. Granted, you could argue they were unlucky for the penalty, but Kasper Schmeichel's sending off what ridiculous, and probably cost Leicester the win.

 

More importantly for Forest, we must realise, we too were gifted two goals, one from the spot and one courtesy of a goal keeping error. Yes, it was a spirited comeback and you couldn't help but think if we'd started the game that way, we'd have really given Leicester a game, but Forest should never be making errors such as the ones they made today. They so very nearly cost them dearly. The passing game at the back is all well and good when you get it right, but get it wrong like Forest did today and it can be suicidal.

 

Steve McClaren, in my opinion, has dodged another bullet. Had Forest gone out of the cup against County and had they lost today, he would be under serious, serious pressure, especially from the 'Billy Lovers' that are still bitter about his sacking, even though the season is well under way. While he is in no way to blame for the first half performance of the players on the pitch (although you could argue the selection of the usually disappointing McGoldrick rather than Miller was a poor decision), the buck would have stopped with him. As it is, Forest must recognise they were poor today for 70 minutes. A come back like this shouldn't overshadow the cracks that appeared today. Luckily, we got a point, but we need to get better.

Written by James Bolton

Follow me on Twitter - @Bolton0301
James Bolton

Total articles: 29

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