Another 2-2 draw for Nottingham Forest as it finished all square with Doncaster Rovers after Chris Cohen and Andy Reid brought the scores level. Rob Terrace offers a fan’s eye view from the Keepmoat Stadium…
The provincial South Yorkshire town has long paid host to those who travel north from the Midlands. With the Great North Road winding its way north to the west of the town.
I first saw Forest play there in 1997, seeing them win 8-0 in a League Cup fixture (10-1 on aggregate) against a Division Three side heading out of the Football League that season.
Since then, our visits have never failed to excite, with a 3-2 victory back in our League One days and a 1-0 victory courtesy of a rare Chris Gunter goal in 2011.
Forest arrived at the Keepmoat Stadium in good form, with a new loan signing in the form of Nathaniel Chalobah, who joined from Chelsea late on Thursday evening.
He slotted into midfield, replacing Radi Majewski. Darius Henderson and Greg Halford came in for Simon Cox and Kelvin Wilson, both players dropping out of the squad completely due to injury.
As has been the case recently with Forest, we came out of the blocks pretty quickly and, after an altercation between Chalobah and Richie Wellens, had the hosts on the back foot. Djamel Abdoun picked up from where he left off on Tuesday night, although the teasing crosses towards Henderson and Jamie Mackie were picked off easily by Ross Turnbull and the Doncaster centre-backs, there were signs that the pressure would tell. Andy Reid went close with a well-worked corner routine, his left-foot volley from an angle being turned away by Turnbull.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, and Rovers were keeping Forest honest with the three front men interchanging regularly, and it was from the movement of Theo Robinson that Rovers took the lead. The ex-Derby centre-forward exploited space from deep, and his angled run across the back four drew Jack Hobbs and Halford in. His excellent ball to Federico Macheda, making his full debut on loan from Manchester United, found the onrushing Italian in space to slip the ball under Karl Darlow to give the hosts the lead.
The Forest side of old would normally have folded, given the expectations of the 4,100 travelling fans, but we hit back within five minutes.
After a cross into the box was cleared to Reid inside the 18-yard box, he rolled the ball back towards Chris Cohen rushing in to the corner of the box. The Reds captain proceeded to hit a first-time shot across the goal and into the top corner, leaving the despairing Turnbull grasping at thin air.
That was the last real action of the half, and it ended 1-1.
The half-time talk between the fans was once again about pushing on to force the victory, but it was a sucker punch from Rovers that knocked Forest onto the back foot. Paul Keegan stole the ball from Chalobah, his ball to Robinson was immediately flicked forwards to Wellens. The veteran midfielder waited to draw the defence across, and his inch-perfect pass found Macheda rushing in at the back post to beat Darlow to make it 2-1.
As was to be expected, this spurred the hosts on, they seemed to be a yard quicker than Forest, and should have made it 3-1 with just over half an hour left. Robinson heading over from eight yards out, despite there being no Forest defender within five yards of him.
The first substitutions came, with Majewski and Jamie Paterson coming on to replace Abdoun, who had tired since half-time, and Chalobah, who was obviously short of match fitness.
This saw Forest up the pace of the game, with the midfield pushing further up the pitch to restrict the hosts’ space, with Paterson, Eric Lichaj and Reid hitting balls into the box with regularity; although the majority of them failed to beat the first man.
Matt Derbyshire was introduced with about 20 minutes left, creating a chance for himself with his first touch. Shortly after that controversy reigned, as first Andy Reid, then Derbyshire were fouled in the box, by ex-Forest loanee Jamie Coppinger and then Bongani Khumalo.
It was telling that in the post-match interviews, Billy Davies once again refused to comment on the decisions, but got sympathy from his opposite number, Paul Dickov, who said he felt the foul on Reid warranted a penalty.
Henderson, who had dropped into a more withdrawn role since the introduction of Derbyshire, hit a crossfield ball towards Paterson, whose cross was once again beaten away.
Henderson provided another excellent ball with just under 10 minutes left, hitting the ball first time into the path of Reid. The Irishman flicked the ball away from the Doncaster defence before hitting a shot from 25-yards out and, despite Ross Turnbull getting a hand to it, found the top corner of the net.
The galvanising effect that this provided was plain for all to see, as the men in grey shirts piled forward, and bombarded the home goal. Paterson wasted the best of all the chances, after the ball was forced through to his feet five yards out, and the youngster failed to get a telling touch, seeing the ball bobble through to a relieved Turnbull.
That was the last of the real action, as although Forest forced a couple of corners, nothing really came of them, and the full time whistle was blown after just over three minutes of added time.
Some would say that this was two points dropped, however, this was one point gained, as in previous seasons, Forest could very easily have capitulated once the first goal went in.
Chris Cohen was Man of the Match. Once again, the captain was at the heart of everything Forest did in the game, scoring an excellent goal and making several telling contributions going forward and defensively.
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