For the second time in a week, Nottingham Forest were again celebrating a late Lewis McGugan penalty, but a frustrating afternoon yielded only a draw against Blackpool. James Bolton offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground.
Billy Davies reversed the majority of changes he made for the Easter Monday trip to Burnley, which included the return of Adlene Guedioura who missed the game at Turf Moor with concussion.
Despite Forest seeing almost all of the possession early in the first-half, it was Blackpool who had the first attempt on goal. Striker Nathan Delfounso cut inside Greg Halford and bent in a terrific effort, only to see it strike Karl Darlow’s crossbar.
A combination of Forest’s slow build-up play and Blackpool’s disciplined defending, chances were hard to come by. Simon Cox went close with a dipping half-volley from distance, but there was little to get excited about in the opening half-hour.
The deadlock was broken when a punted Blackpool free-kick fell to Ludovic Sylvestre, who beautifully curled the ball round Darlow from 25 yards to give the visitors the lead.
What was patient passing from Forest was soon becoming predictable. With 10 players behind the ball, the Reds struggled to break Blackpool down. They’d grabbed their goal, and seemed reasonably content with sitting back in the hope of hanging onto it. Tom Ince offered an outlet for Blackpool on the counter-attack, but it was certainly a half to forget.
Although Forest’s intensity did improve early in the second half, Matt Gilks in the Blackpool goal didn’t have an awful lot to do. Paul Ince’s men suffered more head ‘injuries’ (note the inverted commas) than I can remember in a football match, as the time-wasting began to get ridiculous.
Blackpool were reduced to 10 men just before the hour when Isaiah Osbourne, a former Forest loanee, was shown a red card for a late, two-footed lunge. I was surprised at first to see a red card brandished, but having seen the replay, I think it was the right call.
Despite the one man advantage, and the fact the introductions of Dexter Blackstock and Billy Sharp meant Forest were playing with four recognised strikers, Forest’s tempo was still below par and passing was sloppy.
But it was another substitute who would yet again rescue a point. Lewis McGugan is going through a real purple patch at the moment, and he was given the chance to score his sixth goal in as many games when Simon Cox was hacked down inside the box. McGugan tucked away the spot-kick in typically calm fashion, giving Forest 10 minutes to find a winner.
A series of niggling fouls kept the ball in the Forest half, who were struggling to work any kind of opening with the long ball game. A second goal eluded Forest, extending Billy Davies’ unbeaten run to 10 games, but the last three of which have been draws.
Today was an incredibly frustrating afternoon. Blackpool looked a poor side who, had we been in full flow, we’d have probably beaten comfortably. A lot of fans will have gripes about their time wasting, and rightly so, but they were sturdy and disciplined at the back.
It felt like one of those days where were just weren’t going to grab a goal from opening play, no matter how hard we tried. There was no real guile or creativity for the majority of the game.
There has been a debate recently about our strikers’ lack of goals, and whether we should be worried or not if our midfielders are finding the net. I think we should be. It has been seven games without a goal for Billy Sharp, 15 for Blackstock and 21 for Cox. I know that not all of those appearances will have been starts, but it does give me cause for concern going into the run-in.
The hunt for a place in the play-offs is incredibly tight. Our performance levels and points haul since the international break probably hasn’t quite been up to scratch. I’m trying to avoid sounding negative, but I just hope three draws isn’t a sign of stagnation going into the final five games. Crucially though, it is still very much in our own hands as the season draws to a close.
You can follow James on Twitter: @Bolton0301
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