Thursday, 20 February 2014

Nottingham Forest 2 - 2 Leicester City

If, at 19:45, I'd have been told the match would end up as a draw I probably would have been satisfied. At about 20:15 if I'd have been told it'd be a draw I'd have been delighted. But, as I write this at about 22:30, drawing that match against Leicester City feels like a massive kick in the nuts. Because, once again, Nottingham Forest had a team on the ropes and failed to kill them off. Worse still, we weren't undone by any amazing attacking play, but by two goals that were eminently avoidable.

With Jack Hobbs, Guy Moussi and practically everyone else still injured, Forest brought Karl Darlow back into goal and replaced Darius Henderson with Jamie Mackie. Leicester's line up looked full of pace and menace and it was clear this would be a difficult game. This was reinforced with the visitors making a strong start and forcing a number of corners. Forest had their moments too, with a brilliant Jamie Paterson run ending in a shot that stung Kasper Schmeichel's palms. The Forest back line looked shaky, with Darlow uncharacteristically flapping at a couple of crosses. This hesitance would prove disastrous.

A long hoof upfield was chased down by the Leicester attack and neither Jamaal Lascelles nor Darlow committed to it. Darlow's eventual punch wasn't strong enough and fell to Jamie Vardy - possibly the chavviest and ugliest visiting player to blight the City Ground this season. Or indeed any season. He rolled the ball into the empty net and celebrated in a manner that made one wish to impale his head on one of the corner flags.

It looked for all the world as if the Reds would trail at half time but a remarkable turnaround meant it was the visitors who went in behind. A Radosław Majewski shot was deflected over the bar and the resultant corner was headed goalward by Danny Collins, before being tipped over by Schmeichel. The second corner found its way to Paterson whose long-range header ended up in the corner.

Then, just a few minutes later, a defensive error by Leicester gave Mackie the ball through on goal. Former Red Wes Morgan hauled him down to concede a penalty, but was only given a yellow card. Up stepped Andy Reid to sweep home the spot kick and give Forest a lead which had looked unthinkable ten minutes previously.

The second half started with a Paterson cross nearly finding Cox at the far post. Forest were enjoying more possession and playing the ball around nicely until the moment that seemed to change the game.

Paul Konchesky hacked Mackie down crudely on the right touchline and was shown a straight red card. It looked less of a red than Morgan's foul to me, and the decision seemed to galvanise Leicester and throw Forest off their stride. Lloyd Dyer and Anthony Knockaert were replaced by Kevin Phillips and Riyad Mahrez and it was to be these two substitutes who would have the final say.

More defensive dalliance by the Reds ended up with Paterson bundling over Danny Drinkwater in the box and, having given so much Forest's way before, there was no way the referee wouldn't give the penalty. Darlow made amends by brilliantly saving Phillips' spot kick but Forest didn't clear their lines and Mahrez forced home the rebound. Some late Forest pressure couldn't bring a winner and the spoils were shared at 2-2.

At 2-1 up and with a man advantage, this was a game that Forest should've won and, on this occasion, I feel that Billy Davies got his substitutions wrong. I'm guessing that Danny Fox was taken off as he'd been booked, or he was injured. It certainly wasn't because of his performance as he'd had a good game. Darius Henderson replaced Cox but wasn't at his best. He looked short of pace and his touch was poor and I felt Rafik Djebbour, who did come on later, would've been a better replacement.

Majewksi had probably his best game of the season and it was close for my man of the match between him and Paterson, but the latter shaded it due to his excellent goal and impressive all round display. Darlow and Lascelles both looked shaky but one has to consider their age and experience, and it's a testament to how good they've both been this season that their relatively poor showings are so noteworthy.

Between the Leicester game and Burnley away on Saturday, I'd rather beat the Clarets than the Foxes; though, of course, I'd rather win both. A win on Saturday would mean a great four points if you look at the bigger picture. We just have to stay strong and positive and we can do it.

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