A Simon Cox wonder goal saw Nottingham Forest fight back from 0-2 down against Birmingham City in a determined performance. James Bolton reports from the City Ground.
After a fortnight off during the international break, Forest returned to action against Birmingham City, with Sean O’Driscoll making one change, bringing in Billy Sharp in place of Simon Cox.
Forest started the game at a high intensity and created the early chances. Dexter Blackstock headed onto the roof of the net from an Andy Reid corner and Sharp curled into the arms of Jack Butland, as the England goalkeeper spilled a cross from Sam Hutchinson.
Butland was called upon again, this time flicking Lewis McGugan’s free-kick over the bar from wide on the left. No doubt the midfielder was trying to recreate his goal against Charlton Athletic last time out.
Danny Collins then had a tame effort blocked on the line, as he failed to make a clean connection on Greg Halford’s knocked-down header from an Andy Reid corner-kick.
Simon Gillett, who put in another dogged display in defensive midfield, then broke up play in his own half before launching a ball over the top to Sharp. With McGugan and Reid both providing options to his left, the trio exchanged three or four slightly wayward passes in and around the Birmingham box, but were unable to create a clear cut shooting chance as the Blue’s defenders smothered the Forest attack.
The visitors then created their first chance of the game, and it was by the far the best chance of the half. Leroy Lita, signed on loan from Swansea City held up the ball well before playing a reverse through ball to Marlon King, but one on one with Lee Camp, the Forest goalkeeper stayed big and blocked the shot away for a corner.
At around the half-hour mark, Forest’s intensity slipped as chances became harder to come by. Hayden Mullins and Jonathan Spector marshalled the area in front of their back four, which was effectively beginning to stifle our passing style. This in turn allowed Birmingham back into the game. King and Lita were a handful up front, with the latter wasting a good chance from a Chris Burke cross by heading straight at Camp.
Birmingham came more into the match in the second-half as their strategy forced Forest to start playing a bit more direct. Substitute Wade Elliot’s curling effort from outside the box was gathered by Camp at the second attempt.
Forest then made their first change with Cox, who was rumoured to be facing weeks on the sidelines after hobbling off for the Republic of Ireland in their friendly with Oman in midweek, replacing Dexter Blackstock, who put in a tough shift but wasn’t getting much from Steven Caldwell or Pablo Ibanez.
The visitors then took the lead on 69 minutes. Elliot teed up King, whose shot was well blocked by Hutchinson, but the rebound fell perfectly for Mullins, who emphatically volleyed into the roof of the net.
Lee Clark then brought on Nathan Redmond, and the pacey winger made an immediate impact when he skipped past Reid and Halford before picking out King on the edge of the box who slotted home past Camp. It was a delightfully worked goal and Birmingham had scored two in as many minutes.
But moments later, Forest pegged one back with a moment of sheer brilliance. Lewis McGugan’s lofted 40-yard pass over the defence was plucked out of the air by Cox, who then lobbed the onrushing Butland, without the ball touching the ground. It was a phenomenal finish that was worthy of any game in the world. It was one of those that if it had been scored by a Rooney, Tevez or Messi, you wouldn’t hear the end of it.
That wrestled the momentum back in Forest’s favour, and with four minutes of normal time to go, Halford surged into the Birmingham half and dinked a ball into the box. Ibanez’s poor attempted clearance fell to substitute Dan Harding at the back post, who side-footed back across goal and, to compound the Spaniard’s misery, his attempted block on the line diverted the ball into the net, with the equaliser going down as an own goal.
Forest, who had looked down and out, even had a glorious chance in stoppage time to steal all three points. A perfect Reid cross found Sharp eight yards out, but he could only head over the bar.
It was a tougher afternoon for Forest who were up against an opponent who set about stopping us play and for large amounts of the game, were successful. Despite a couple of silly mistakes costing us two goals, the character shown to get back into the game was admirable.
Contrast this to last season’s game at home to Birmingham just under a year ago. Complete capitulation in the final 10 minutes saw us lose 3-1, but this team seems to be made of sterner stuff.
James runs the View From The Mainstand blog and NFFC Stats on Twitter.