Despite chances at both ends, Forest face a replay against Leicester in the FA Cup after a goalless draw at the City Ground. James Bolton reports.
Steve Cotterill stuck to the 4-2-3-1 formation that had served Forest so well away at Ipswich for the 3rd round tie. There were two changes with George Boateng being replaced by Joel Lynch, which allowed Guy Moussi to move back into central midfield. The biggest surprise came at left-back, as an injured Greg Cunningham made way for 19-year-old Kieron Freeman, making his first Forest start.
It was another 19-year-old who was involved in the first event of the game. Leicester’s Jeffrey Schlupp went into a 50/50 challenge with Jonathan Greening and had to be stretchered off. He was replaced by Jermaine Beckford.
The first clear cut chance fell to Forest after a great passing move. Chris Gunter collected the ball in an advanced position and his cross deep into the box was met by Lewis McGugan, but his first time left-foot half-volley was saved by Kasper Schmeichel. The rebound fell to Andy Reid and his shot appeared to be blocked by a Leicester hand, but appeals were waved away by referee Geoff Eltringham.
Andy Reid then had probably Forest’s best chance of the game. He beat Matt Mills to the loose ball and poked it round the Leicester captain before closing in on Schmeichel’s goal. Reid’s low effort was just turned away by the Dane, and Forest could have easily been 2-0 up inside the first quarter of an hour.
The Leicester defence looked a bit rattled with Matt Mills and Paul Konchesky both making errors. But the Foxes, being backed by around 8,000 travelling fans, had a chance to get themselves ahead in the game when McGugan’s sloppy pass forced Moussi into a rash challenge. Paul Gallagher whipped in the free kick, but David Nugent could only flick his free header onto the top fo the bar.
After a solid start with some exciting forward runs, Freeman had a bit of a scare after a scramble in the Forest box. His header back to Lee Camp was too strong and forced the keeper to make a diving save to prevent an own goal.
Reid then nearly gave Schmeichel a moment to forget. The Irishman collected the ball around 30 yards out and spotted the Dane off his line and had him scrambling to divert the ball over the bar and away from the top corner.
Nugent was then presented with another golden opportunity. Luke Chambers under hit two attempted headers back to Camp, and Nugent’s lob over the on-rushing Camp landed yards wide and was the final effort of the first half. Forest had had the better of proceedings although the visitors had the better chances.
At the start of the second half Gallagher had a couple of strong long range efforts. The first whistling over the bar after a through ball from Yuki Abe and the second hitting the side netting from distance, which confused the Leicester fans as they began celebrating taking the lead.
Gallagher was then substituted along with Abe and were replaced by Lloyd Dyer and Ritchie Wellens with Forest beginning to look stretched.
There was then a flash back to the past as Marlon Harewood – who has signed on a short-term deal following a spell in China – came on to make his second Forest debut, some eight years after he left the club. His arrival was met with a standing ovation as he replaced Reid, who had another strong game in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
On his return to the City Ground, left-back Paul Konchesky had a rifled effort deflect wide and, from the resulting corner, Mills could only head straight at Camp.
Forest then countered at speed through Garath McCleary, but his cross through the six-yard box just evaded Harewood at the far post.
Beckford fired high and wide after nice work with Dyer down the left flank. Nugent then had another glorious chance. Neil Danns picked him out with a cross from the right hand side, but Nugent’s header was spectacularly saved by Camp. The rebound then fell to Dyer just six yards out, but he blazed over.
Beckford then had one more chance for the visitors but, as he met Lee Peltier’s cross, he could only scuff wide.
The game came to an end and what could have been a really thrilling cup tie hadn’t quite lived up to the billing, but still had a smattering of really good chances. Forest had the best of the first half (something that seems to be a recurring theme, especially at home) and Leicester dominated the second.
The visiting side’s wastefulness in front of goal, especially Nugent who on another day could have walked away with the match ball, means the two sides will have to meet in a replay on Wednesday 18th January.
For Forest that game isn’t really ideal; sandwiched between two tough league games at home to Southampton and away at West Ham United. Hopefully an exciting potential 4th round draw will inspire us in what is a rather inconvenient addition to the fixture list.