Another late goal from Darius Henderson rescued a point for Nottingham Forest as they drew 2-2 with Middlesbrough to maintain their unbeaten record at home. James Bolton offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
There was one change from the side that scored a late winner against Barnsley on Saturday, with Djamal Adboun, who impressed from the bench, replacing Guy Moussi. This left Henri Lansbury and Andy Reid as deep-lying central midfielders, with Jamie Mackie and Abdoun outside of them.
The opening to the game was scrappy with neither side able to grab hold of the initiative early on. The first real event of the game came after eight minutes, when Kelvin Wilson hobbled off with a back spasm and was replaced by Greg Halford. It was the first time in the last six league games, and almost eight hours of league football, that Forest’s settled back-line had been disrupted.
Forest felt they could have had a penalty on 26 minutes, when Jonathan Woodgate raised his hands to a Radi Majewski shot. Even Fawaz leapt from his seat in the director’s box with his hands on the back of his head, mystified at how a spot-kick wasn’t awarded.
Immediately after the ball was cleared, Boro raced away on the counter attack, with winger Albert Adomah breaking into the Forest box, to square the ball for Kei Kamara to bundle home from a few yards out.
Forest took a while to regroup from going behind, but an incisive attack down the left-hand side found Majewski in the box, who was hacked down by what seemed to be a two-footed tackle from Rhys Williams. A penalty was awarded but, despite the baying calls from the stands, Williams was only shown a yellow.
Andy Reid stepped up to take it, but his effort was well saved by Jason Steele diving low to his left. A chaotic few minutes was rounded off when referee Phil Dowd appeared to signal that he wanted the kick to be retaken. He was surrounded by a smaller group of players as a mini-melee broke out between the rest, but the end result was just a Forest corner and the home side trailing at the break.
Karl Darlow and Steele were forced into early saves in the second-half from Adomah and Simon Cox respectively, but Boro’s penetrative counter-attacking saw them double their lead. Without an out-and-out defensive midfielder, Boro were allowed too much space in the Forest half, leaving the defence exposed. George Friend latched onto a Grant Leadbitter lay-off to strike an incredible drive into Darlow’s top corner make it 2-0.
Billy Davies instantly readied Darius Henderson and Matt Derbyshire to replace Cox and Majewski, and once again Forest’s substitutes would have a huge impact.
On 69 minutes, a Forest corner fell to Reid in the box, whose delicate, dinked cross found Derbyshire, who stooped brilliantly to head the ball back across goal and in off the far post.
With the home faithful pushing the team on for an equaliser, Forest really began to put pressure on the visitors. A terrific counter-attack involving Lansbury and Derbyshire straight from a Boro corner lead to Henderson collecting the ball in the box. The striker rounded Boro keeper Steele but was grappled to the floor with the open goal gaping.
Dowd’s controversial night would continue as he seemed to point to the penalty spot but then somehow came to the bizarre conclusion that Henderson had dived, despite being just a few yards out, needing just one touch to bring the scores level.
But Henderson, no doubt feeling aggrieved at his earlier booking, was able to prod home the equaliser after anticipating the direction of Lansbury’s blocked shot.
With 10 minutes to go, Henderson and Chris Cohen had goal-bound efforts brilliantly blocked by Boro defenders, as Forest pushed on for the winner with the help of the roaring crowd.
Boro substitute Emmanuel Ladesma saw red in stoppage time after a late tackle from behind on Henri Lansbury. Despite Reid forcing Steele into a good save from the resulting free-kick, the winner, unlike on Saturday, remained elusive.
It was a frantic and strange game. Having found ourselves 2-0 down we could have easily lost the game, but at the same time, were unfortunate not to take the spoils having valiantly fought back. It also needs to be said that the performance from Dowd and his officials was one of the worst I’ve seen for a long time, from men who regularly officiate in England’s top division.
Nevertheless, under the circumstances a draw was a decent result. But questions have been thrown up as to Forest’s shape and personnel. Since Adlene Guedioura’s move to Crystal Palace, we’re still searching for right way to set up in his absence. I personally never thought Guedioura was a holding midfielder, and I wouldn’t say we are missing him, but we are missing a natural in that position.
Guy Moussi and Simon Gillett are the only two natural defensive midfielders in the first team squad. The latter is very much out of favour with Davies and I think the former lacks the pace and composure to play the role at the top end of the Championship.
This leaves Davies with a dilemma that has no particularly obvious, quick or ideal solution — without a loan addition — and could prove costly as the season progresses.
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