Nottingham Forest showed their determined side as they beat Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 at the Amex Stadium, despite going down to 10 men. Seat Pitch offers a fan’s eye view…
The Amex is quite a stadium: purpose built, plentiful bars, hand dryers that work; that kind of thing. It’s a pain in the arse to get to, yet it’s kind of worth it compared to other Championship grounds — neither flatpack and soulless nor ageing and decrepit. And over 1,800 away fans ensured the atmosphere was one to remember.
The line-up, on paper, was arguably our strongest available. Danny Collins has looked a pretty assured presence since he replaced the injured Kelvin Wilson, and Radi Majewski is often the only player capable of keeping a link between midfield and the strikers; and ensuring we actually pass the ball.
Although to say it was a game of two halves would be incorrect. A game of three Forests is a little bit more accurate.
We had the anonymous Forest of Charlton the other night; we had the dominating, gung-ho Forest of early in the season (although not for long); and we had the backs-against-the-wall Forest who know how to finish a job.
Nathaniel Chalobah started on the right of the midfield diamond, having looked a bit rusty against Charlton, although it soon became apparent that Kazenga LuaLua would be something of a handful down that side — maybe this was more tactical than relieving the youthful Chelsea player of the demanding holding position?
Henri Lansbury took the base of the diamond and set his stall out early on; if anyone was up for this game, he was. And a succession of Tomasz Kuszczak saves proved that the visitors were here to play.
But as the game settled, Chalobah was booked after 19 minutes — theatrics from Brighton? — there was a suggestion things wouldn’t go our way today.
Despite our two strikers looking somewhat isolated against Brighton’s 4-2-3-1 (although not as lonely as the home side’s solo frontman), we started to look lively around the 20-minute mark with some intricate passing, a few shots on goal and a little more confidence than recent games.
But after 30 minutes Stephen Ward whipped the ball in from their left and Ashley Barnes’ shot back across goal saw Andrew Crofts’ diving header put Brighton one up.
It was sort of goal that sees heads drop and Eric Lichaj’s booking after 37 minutes left the right-side looking distinctly vulnerable.
After the goal, Brighton pressed, asserting themselves in midfield, forcing errors and highlighting Forest’s distinct lack of movement and imagination… Yet despite their apparent dominance, Brighton never really looked like threatening, missing the injured striker Leonardo Ulloa.
Billy Davies’ half-time talk was clearly a massive improvement on Tuesday’s — Lansbury scored almost immediately from a Reid corner. Instead of continuing to hand the home side the advantage we came galloping out of the starting blocks.
In a heady 20-minute period, Chalobah and Lansbury switched positions, Brighton hit the post and shot over the bar… And then things went crazy.
Henderson scored via Cox’s flick from a Cohen cross… And straight from the restart Cox was bundled over in the box. Despite the Irishman’s desire to take it, Lansbury showed us — after Henderson’s miss last week — how to take a penalty.
On 66 minutes, Chalobah tripped LuaLua on the edge of the box and that was two yellows — down to 10 men, Forest hung on quite comfortably. Brighton pressed but struggled to make the advantage count — a Roy Hodgson-style two banks of four defending stifled them. In the second-half, as the first, they never really offered much going forward.
And even with five minutes of injury time they didn’t threaten. With just 45% possession, and 364 passes (compared to Brighton’s 449), it’s clear it wasn’t a classic performance. But sometimes that’s enough.
And with the international break to come, maybe Davies can focus on bringing back the kind of performances we saw early in the season — and less of the Godfather-esque tweets.
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