Another dominating performance, another defeat. Guest writer James Bolton reports from the City Ground.
Following a great performance against Brighton last weekend, Steve Cotterill named an unchanged XI for the visit of Crystal Palace. Having served a one match ban, Andy Reid was on the substitute bench and was joined again by Dexter Blackstock.
Forest started the stronger and when Marcus Tudgay chased down and reached a lost cause down the left channel, his cut back was poached away from Garath McCleary’s boot. Glenn Murray had Palace’s first chance when he let fly from 25 yards out, forcing a good diving save from Lee Camp.
Wes Morgan then fell awkwardly during a Palace corner and had to receive lengthy treatment on the pitch, on the side lines and in the dugout before succumbing to what looked like a knee injury. With no defenders on the bench, he was replaced by Reid and Guy Moussi slotted in at centre-back.
Forest then created three chances in quick succession. Paul Anderson pounced on a Palace defensive error and ran clean into the box, but he dwelled too long on the ball and Anthony Gardner got back to block the shot. The resulting corner was cleared to Moussi whose scuffed shot fell to Luke Chambers, who instinctively flicked the ball towards goal with his head only to be denied by acrobatics from Julian Speroni. McCleary then forced the Palace keeper into a good low save as his 30-yard effort was parried away.
Anderson then had to receive treatment after falling awkwardly on his shoulder, an injury he has suffered before.
Forest continued their dominance as Chambers spread a lovely ball to Chris Gunter. He then found McCleary who exchanged a neat one-two with Radi Majewski and forced another good save from Speroni, who was in inspired form.
The resulting corner lead to the first half’s major talking point. The ball was whipped into Chambers, but his jump was restricted by his marker; his shirt literally being torn from his back. Referee Phil Gibbs, who was around five yards away from the incident and looking right at it, waved away claims to what certainly looked like a stone wall penalty. Forest again not getting the rub of the green.
Palace grew in confidence in the final 15 minutes of the first half with Wilfred Zaha firing over from a tight angle and Murray forced a smart save from Camp after a smart free-kick routine from Sean Scannell.
Forest then broke from a Palace corner with Reid, who found McCleary. He attacked his full-back and cut it back to Majewski, who played in Gunter. The Welshman’s cross just evaded the head of Reid and Tudgay could only fire wide at the far post.
Forest were by far the better side in the first half and the standard of performance was certainly more reminiscent of the Brighton game, rather than the abysmal display against Leeds.
At the start of the second half Forest produced the best chance of the game. McCleary rounded one-time Forest target Jonathan Parr and drilled the ball into Tudgay, who laid off to Majewski. The Pole dug the ball out from beneath his feet and shot just over the bar with the outside of his right foot just 15 yards out. It was a terrific, clear cut chance that Forest would regret not taking.
After 56 minutes Zaha outmuscled Greg Cunningham and fed Murray, who drilled the ball low into the corner past Camp to give Palace an undeserved lead.
Speroni then saved a header from Tudgay at the far post and tipped over a looping cross-cum-shot from McCleary. The winger was putting in another good display following his return from injury and, again after cutting the ball back into the danger zone, the ball was cleared before Majewski could reach it.
In contrast, the referee’s day went from bad to worse when he booked Moussi for a perfectly clean, ball-winning tackle.
Cotterill then took off Anderson and Majewski and replaced them with Lewis McGugan and Blackstock to go in search of an equaliser. Blackstock was making his return following over a year on the sidelines due to a knee ligament injury and came on to a standing ovation.
Speroni was called into action again by McGugan, saving his low drive. Blackstock then had a chance to make a dream return when he hung in the air to meet Reid’s cross, but his header was right at the Argentine.
Palace hustled and harried Forest until the final whistle and showed the energy that helped them beat Manchester United at Old Trafford to reach the League Cup semi-final.
A crowd of 21,405 watched Forest suffer their fourth successive defeat, and their fourth successive game without a goal. It was almost a carbon copy of the Brighton game seven days earlier, where Forest dominate, create considerably more chances than their opponents, but can’t put the ball in the net. Palace scored from one of their two shots on target. Forest didn’t take their chances and if they had done, they’d have not only been the better side, they’d have been the winning side.
James runs the View From The Mainstand blog.