Sunday, 5 October 2014

Nottingham Forest 2 - 2 Ipswich Town

If I were asked to write a one word review of the 2-2 draw between Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town I would, after careful consideration, plump for 'RrrrraaaAGGGGHHHHRgggghhhhr.' Indeed, this inarticulate, primeval roar of unadulterated frustration sums up the match more eloquently than any words I'll end up writing below. It was howled several times by several people as passes went astray, runs weren't tracked and chances went begging. Even after Michail Antonio's late, late equaliser hit the back of the net, there was still a sense that the three points had been there for the taking.

Ipswich were well organised and, when they weren't angling long balls to their giant forwards, played some decent stuff; but they didn't undo Forest with outstanding attacking play. Both of their goals were eminently avoidable. They came with a plan in mind and it very nearly saw them escape with all three points, though a draw was probably fair at the end.

Matt Fryatt made a welcome return to the starting line-up in place of Ben Osborn, as the Reds switched back to a 4-4-2 formation to provide support to Britt Assombalonga in the only change from the team that played Wigan. The visitors seemed to be playing three up front as Daryl Murphy and Connor Sammon flanked ex-Forest forward David McGoldrick.

After a bright Ipswich start, Forest came close to ending their scoring drought as Michail Antonio's free kick was headed against the post by Assombalonga. A Henri Lansbury corner missed everyone in the area as the visitors, despite their back line of giants, seemed to struggle with crosses. It seemed only a matter of time before Forest's run of goalless matches would end, and it was, but not in the way the majority of the crowd wanted.

A long ball down the flank by Cole Skuse found Murphy, whose clever flick inside took Eric Lichaj out of the game. He then turned Kelvin Wilson before curling in a low shot which, from where I was sitting, Karl Darlow seemed to dive over. A well taken goal for Murphy, but one which didn't cover the Forest defence in glory. It nearly got worse after the impressive Jonny Williams intercepted a poor Lansbury back-pass and raced through on goal, only to be stopped by a wonderful challenge from Michael Mancienne.

Midway through the half Wilson had to be replaced by Jamaal Lascelles. I didn't see an impact injury so I'm not sure why, and hopefully he won't be missing for an ever-recurring period of three weeks again. Lascelles looked a bit rusty to be honest and Lichaj was struggling down the right, but neither side could muster any serious chances and the half-time score remained 0-1.

The Tractor Boys again started the half well before Forest started to get a grip of the game. Robert Tesche was moving the ball around really well and Lansbury started to take more time over his passes, but it looked like being one of those days. Shots were blocked, runs were stopped and passes were cut out, before a nice move down the right saw Jack Hunt find Antonio. His first-time shot was on target but visiting keeper Dean Gerken produced a tremendous save and the ball trickled wide. The resulting corner came to nothing, but a few minutes later another one did bear fruit as Lansbury's centre eluded everyone apart from Robert Tesche, who stooped to head home his first goal for the Reds.

From here it looked like Forest would push on for the win, but minutes later they were caught out again. Ipswich had a two-on-one down their left hand side and oversized full-back Tyrone Mings' cross was headed home by Murphy again to restore the visitors' lead. This was a real kick in the teeth for the Reds and it looked certain that the unbeaten start to the season was juddering to a halt; a feeling which was intensified when Antonio rounded Gerken but saw his shot cleared off the line, and Assombalonga's effort from the rebound was improbably turned over by the Ipswich keeper. Mings then flattened Antonio in the box but the referee gave nothing and the game seemed to be up.

Tesche went close to a second goal before, just into the five minutes of stoppage time, Dan Harding, a late substitute for Lichaj, won another corner down the left. Lansbury's deep delivery fell to Antonio who crashed home the equaliser. It was too late in the day for either side to claim a winner and, in fairness, neither team really deserved one.

I don't often single out visiting players' performances but Christophe Berra was outstanding for Ipswich. Whilst Luke Chambers seemed to spend the entire match trying to find out if 'Assombalonga' would fit onto the back of his shirt, Berra was imperious, winning everything in the air and the majority of balls on the ground too. Gerken also deserves a mention for a couple of amazing saves.

For Forest it was a real mixed bag. Lichaj had an off day and Lascelles looked like he'd not played in a while. Mancienne was his usual impressive self while Fryatt and Chris Burke both frustrated; following up impressive play by misplacing a pass or dribbling into trouble. Antonio was, well, Antonio and Assombalonga worked hard for little reward. The Reds man of the match was undoubtedly Robert Tesche. In a frantic game he always seemed to have time to pick the right pass and it was great to see him netting for the first time for Forest. The sooner we can get his contract extended, the better.

So we get to the second international break of the season with Forest still unbeaten and level on points with top spot. This traditionally tight division seems even closer than usual, with nobody able to string a series of wins together and team after team spurning the chance to go top. Four points from four games may seem like a poor return now, but who knows how valuable they'll be come the end of the season?

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