Saturday, 18 January 2014

Nottingham Forest 4 - 1 Blackburn Rovers

This was one of the oddest matches I've ever been to. Although we ran out 4-1 winners we never looked comfortable. Indeed it wasn't until Andy Reid's last minute strike hit the back of the net that I was sure we'd actually claim the points.

We were awarded two penalties, which we actually scored, and, as usual, we managed to create a load of chances. We also managed to give away a number of chances. This was a match that could've easily ended in a defeat rather than a convincing victory. On such fine margins are matches and seasons decided.

Upon hearing the team news I certainly wasn't optimistic, as we were fielding the most makeshift of defences with all four of our first-choice back four missing, and, for that matter, the in-form Jamaal Lascelles as well. This meant a reshuffle throughout the team as acting centre-forward Greg Halford partnered Danny Collins at centre-half. David Vaughan and Jamie Mackie returned in midfield with Simon Cox taking Halford's place up front. Blackburn's star striker and rumoured Forest target (if only) Jordan Rhodes was on the bench as he hadn't fully recovered from a foot injury. This went some way to cheering me up.

After a scrappy few minutes Forest started to take control, pass the ball around nicely and create chances, with a Halford header and a Cox shot going wide and long-range efforts from Vaughan and Henri Lansbury being well saved by Rovers keeper Simon Eastwood. Then Andy Reid's long ball found Lansbury in the penalty area and the Forest midfielder was bundled over by Grant Hanley. From my distant seat in the Trent End it looked a penalty but the visiting fans weren't happy. In the absence of Djamal Abdoun to steal his thunder, designated penalty taker Lansbury hit his shot low to Eastwood's right, and the ball squirmed under the keeper's body to give Forest the lead.

Following the goal Forest seemed, inexplicably, to sit back and give Blackburn far too much space, though aside from a free kick which went over, they didn't really use it. Just after the half-hour mark Forest were awarded their second spot-kick of the match as Adam Henley brought down the slippery Jamie Paterson. Lansbury stepped up again and thumped this penalty hard down the middle to double Forest's advantage. And then, as before, the Reds retreated into their shell. So much so that it was no surprise that Rovers pulled one back. When Forest couldn't clear a corner properly the ball fell to ex-Leicester winger Ben Marshall who was allowed time and space to curl home an excellent long range effort. This was the last action of note in the first half and the score remained 2-1 at half time.

It very nearly changed in the visitors' favour just after the interval, when Karl Darlow was forced into an excellent save to deny Tommy Spurr an equaliser. Rovers were now firmly on top and it seemed only a matter of time before they drew level but gradually Forest came back into the match. Gonzalo Jara fizzed a well-struck shot wide and Cox missed another good chance, this time sending a header past the post. Rovers sent on Jordan Rhodes and I started to fear the worst again.

Salvation came in the slight form of Jamie Paterson. The young winger claimed his fifth goal in three games as he danced into the area and slid a shot into the bottom corner to restore Forest's two goal cushion. We were still giving Blackburn too much space and I still wasn't sure of the win though. At least not until the final minute of the five minutes stoppage time when Andy Reid, who'd been strangely out of sorts in my opinion, crashed home a fourth goal to wrap up the points. Another home win was in the bag - importantly so too as the other top teams all won as well.

So, how did the lads do? Collins and Halford were pretty good at centre-half. Harding was OK too though didn't get forward as well as Jara on the other flank. Cox and Mackie were their usual selves and Lansbury was once again excellent but the star of the show was undoubtedly Jamie Paterson. His direct running and trickery troubled the visitors all afternoon and, once again, he took his goal brilliantly. He thoroughly deserves his run in the side at the moment and is looking to be an inspired signing.

We're still nicely placed in the top five. If we can sign David Vaughan - either permanently or until the end of he season - ensure nobody is sold and maybe, just maybe, add a striker to our ranks; this January could prove to be a brilliant springboard to the rest of the season.

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