Despite going two goals down against Watford, Nottingham Forest came back to win 4-2 after some inspired substitutions. Steve Battlemuch offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
It was with a sense of damp expectation that I set off for the City Ground — Forest had only lost once in 10 Championship games, and that was back in November, while Watford had only won once in 10. Thankfully, the spectre of a free-kick from a returning McGugan was off the agenda, due to injury, but the worrying loss of Lansbury and Vaughan would leave us light in midfield – could Moussi and Jara step up?
The stadium announcer did his best to big up the arrival of the three new players and the owner, but they didn’t walk out on cue and he had to do it all over again. Would this false start be an omen for the night? So with the mist and rain really rolling in, we sang in expectation of three points and keeping in touch for the ‘business end of the season’.
We started brightly enough with Harding seeing plenty of the ball in what may be his last game for a while. However my early thoughts were drawn to Jara, he looked assured in the Vaughan role, sprayed plenty of passes around and didn’t misplace a pass until 15 minutes in. With 86 of his attempted 101 passes completed all night he must have run Reid close for Man of the Match.
For the first 30 minutes we had the most possession but apart from Collins’ header onto the bar in the 10th minute from Reid’s free-kick, we lacked any real penetration. Flashes from Reid and Paterson looked our only options and Halford looked like a centre-back playing out of position.
Both sides had three corners in the first half-hour – all ours were short and wasted. All three of theirs were long and dangerous and they scored from the third with a flick from a defender (Angella) that most strikers would be happy to claim. A few minutes later Reid (again) dropped a free-kick onto Halford’s head only for him to put it over the bar by some distance. You sensed then that it was not the utility man’s night, headed goals is what he does and as he missed this clear chance I suspect Billy was lining up his other options. The rest of the half fizzled out with Watford if anything looking the stronger.
MORE FOREST STORIES
Half-time and Billy does what Billy does best – he fires them up and makes a clear statement by bringing on Cox. Playing for his shirt with a new striker in the stands was maybe just what he needed because his 45 minutes was one of his best this season.
In the first minute a strong run by Cox led to a decent shot by Reid which Almunia could only parry away but Watford cleared their lines and set off on a break which led to their second goal. A clumsy foul by Lichaj gave them a free-kick which was whipped in for a free header for Angella to double their lead. No Forest defender was within five yards of him when he scored and I’m sure the inquest will be held but Sky blamed Collins and I understand Billy blamed Lascelles – either way it was dreadful.
At this point you look for leaders, for heads not to drop. Reid stood up and tried to take the game to Watford almost single-handedly, assisted by Jara and Moussi who both had their best game for Forest for a while. Once Cox scored on 58 minutes, after a decent cross from Jara and excellent knock-down from Moussi, we all felt it was game on and a victory was possible. Thirteen minutes went by before the equaliser but all my notes are of Forest possession, corners and, of course, the inevitable Watford time-wasting.
Having brought Henderson on for Abdoun it was our turn to have someone score against their old club as Hendo nodded in a straightforward goal from a sublime cross from who else but Reid. Henderson chose not to celebrate or punch anyone so the game went on with all but the most pessimistic Reds knowing that victory was in our grasps.
On 79 minutes Mackie came off the bench for Paterson, who had drifted out of the game a bit, and made an immediate impact. Straight away he made a run and shot and within a minute had a goal (only his third all season) after another cross from captain marvel.
For the next 11 minutes, until the fourth went in, we suffered our usual issues. Sitting back too deep and Watford woke up a bit, threatening to come back into it. However, during this period Moussi and Jara made numerous tackles and blocks which cut out most attacks. Cox’s second on 90 minutes sealed the win and gave him chance to whip his shirt off to show a reference to playing the stock market and earn a yellow card for his trouble.
So we left the ground cold but happy. We’re still eight points off second place but let’s see what the rest of transfer window brings. Next up Yeovil, nothing ever goes wrong against them does it?
Follow Steve on Twitter: Follow @1962sb
Image: Courtesy of franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net