Sunday, 24 November 2013

Nottingham Forest 1 - 1 Burnley

Another international break, another poor outcome for Nottingham Forest. This time not in terms of result, which was okay, or performance, which was very good; this time in terms of injuries to big players and the problems that may cause further down the line.

It was still days before the Burnley match when Andy Reid and David Vaughan returned to the club after picking up hamstring injuries - in training, annoyingly - for the Republic of Ireland and Wales respectively. Greg Halford also picked up a training knock and, in the match itself, the Reds lost Eric Lichaj and Chris Cohen. We wait nervously to find out for how long.

Luckily Jack Hobbs recovered from an illness in time to partner Jamaal Lascelles at centre half in time for the match. They'd need to be on their mettle to cope with the Championship's most prolific partnership of Burnley's Danny Ings and Sam Vokes. Or so we thought anyway. Elsewhere in the team, Gonzalo Jara moved into the holding midfield role alongside Henri Lansbury in a 4-2-3-1. The all-Jamie wing combination of Paterson and Mackie ran the flanks, with Radosław Majewski behind the lone striker Simon Cox.

A scrappy start gave way to some good Forest possession, though the hosts didn't create any clear cut chances I can recall. I'll explain why later. Then, against the run of play, the visitors were awarded a penalty when Jara handled a cross from the right. There were a lot of Forest complaints but I felt the referee had to give it. If it had happened at the other end I'd have been screaming for a spot-kick so I wasn't surprised it was given. Karl Darlow dived the right way but Vokes' shot was too well placed. 1-0 to the Clarets.

Whilst I sympathised with that decision, the referee quickly lost control afterwards, booking Lansbury and incurring the wrath of the home fans by seemingly giving us nothing. Even when he did book a Burnley player for a foul he still got it wrong, stopping play immediately instead of giving Forest the advantage for the offence.

Lansbury hit the bar with a great free kick and Forest didn't let their heads drop before, deservedly, they equalised late in the half. Jara's neat touch found Paterson who tricked his way to the byline before floating in a cross which Cox couldn't - and didn't - fail to put away for his second in two games. Just reward for another hard working performance. 1-1 it was at half time then.

The second half started with Nathaniel Chalobah replacing the injured Lichaj. Jara moved to right back with Chalobah taking his midfield berth, and the Chelsea loanee was immediately in action, producing a great block to deny a goalbound Burnley effort. The match ebbed and flowed but Forest looked the better team. I can only recall Darlow making one save while Forest went close with a header from Lascelles and a late scramble which stayed out somehow. I'm still not sure how. The aforementioned Ings and Vokes were both kept very quiet with Burnley's defence far the busier. They were impressive though, hurling themselves in front of a number of Forest efforts. The late introductions of Djamel Abdoun and Darius Henderson couldn't wheedle out a winner and the match finished as a entertaining draw.

For Forest, Jack Hobbs was his usual solid self alongside Lascelles who had, in my opinion, his best game yet for the club. He won everything in the air and helped snuff out the league's top scorer impressively. The sponsors gave him man of the match but I'd have plumped for Jara. The Chilean was solid in midfield before moving to right back at half time and doing equally well. He even had a stint at left back to replace the injured Cohen late on and didn't look out of place there. I really hope he stays with the club longer than his current one year contract.

Further forward Cox and Mackie worked hard again and I was delighted that the former notched another goal. If only Mackie was a touch faster he'd be a real handful. He takes up great positions and never stops running. Raddy had an off day but Paterson looked decent and set the goal up nicely. Chalobah looked awful at first, giving the ball away sloppily a couple of times. He improved though and showed at least some hint of why Chelsea rate him so highly. All in all it was a pleasing performance and a win certainly wouldn't have flattered us.

The reason for my first half lack of concentration was that, instead of being in my usual seat in the Trent End I was enjoying the comfort of the Directors' Box thanks to a fantastic birthday present from my wife. And sitting no more than about four rows in front of us was the Owner and Chairman himself, Fawaz al Hasawi.

I found myself watching his reactions to the game with fascination. He really did kick every ball with the team. I've supported Forest for years but he was out of his seat more than I was! Whatever Forest fans may think of his decisions and certain aspects of the running of the club, nobody can question his passion.

So the day ended with a result which was probably not as good as the performance deserved. Hopefully the cost to the team in terms of injuries won't be too high and they'll be able to build on a strong showing with a positive result against Reading next time out.





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