Sunday, 7 December 2014

Nottingham Forest 1 - 1 Charlton Athletic

Nottingham Forest's draw against Charlton Athletic was, as they say in the business, a contest of more than one but less than three equal portions of 50%. To be honest. Forest's performance in the first of these portions was poor; poor enough that the second half improvement wasn't, in my opinion, enough to say that Forest deserved to win. A draw was probably the fair result, but it still feels like a disappointing one. 

Following the controversial loss to Birmingham City, the Reds were forced into one change due to Britt Assombalonga's suspension. Thomas Ince was recalled to the starting lineup to replace him. Stuart Pearce also chose to make another alteration in the form of Chris Burke dropping to the bench, with Jamie Paterson stepping up.

Sluggish starts seem to have become an unwelcome recurring theme of Forest's season and, with less than ten minutes on the clock, so it proved again. A lovely crossfield ball picked out Jordan Cousins, who in turn found Callum Harriot. His long-range shot crept past Karl Darlow - apparently with the aid of a deflection - to give the Addicks the lead. 

Forest's response came in the form of missed chances from Michail Antonio and Paterson, the latter of which followed a wonderful piece of skill. Ben Osborn saw an effort deflected wide as Forest tried to crank up the pressure, but without ever troubling tangerine-attired visiting stopper Nick Pope. At the other end, the dangerous Igor Vetokele turned sharply and ran at the retreating Forest rearguard before finding Lawrie Wilson out wide. Wilson's cross was met firmly by Vetokele but parried away well by Darlow and the rebound blocked by Eric Lichaj. This save proved important. A two goal deficit may have proved insurmountable. 

Shortly before half time, a foul on Henri Lansbury saw him poleaxed and clutching his back. Though he carried on playing, he seemed to be troubled again after taking a weak shot at goal and it looked like his afternoon was over. This proved to be the case as he was replaced right after the interval by Robert Tesche. 

The new half saw new impetus from Forest as Antonio rampaged down the flank a couple of times and sent over dangerous crosses which narrowly evaded Matt Fryatt. Thomas Ince blazed a great opportunity over the bar and Paterson appeared to be pulled back in the penalty area. However, nothing was given and, unsurprisingly, there was no benevolent fourth official to be seen. The sense of injustice which hung in the air was soon dissipated though. 

A Paterson cross was half-cleared and fell to Tesche outside the penalty area. The German midfielder took a touch to control the ball and slammed an unstoppable shot past the despairing dive of Pope. The subsequent extravagant cartwheel celebration nearly matched the quality of the strike - it really was a corker. 

Unfortunately, before Forest could build up a head of steam, the visitors had a spell of possession which took the sting out of the home side's efforts. Indeed, Darlow was forced into another good stop to deny Harriot a second. Dexter Blackstock replaced Ince and won a great header to find Fryatt, who couldn't quite bring the ball under control. Then Blackstock himself aimed a header toward goal but Pope saved it easily. Tesche had another shot blocked and Fryatt looped another header over and that turned out to be that. 

The second half improvement was impressive and meant we deserved a point, but we need to be starting matches better. In fact I can't remember the last time we scored in the first half. As numerous people said on Twitter, Pearce needs to deliver his half time team talk before we kick off each contest. But, for all the inconsistency we're still just three points off the playoffs. If we can begin to start matches in the manner that we end them, we'll soon start turning these draws into wins. We certainly need to. 

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