Gary Brazil’s second game in the dugout saw Nottingham Forest put in a much-improved performance as they drew 1-1 with an in-form Ipswich Town. Tom Bentley offers a fan’s eye view from Portman Road…
It was the Suffolk sunshine for Forest this week and — as we are still being put through the turmoil of seeing every other manager distance himself from the top job at the City Ground, as well as a team completely bereft of confidence after failing to find the back of the net in the previous three games — you could be forgiven to think that a trip to in-form Ipswich was a daunting one.
The on-going soap opera was put aside and we were all keen to see Mr Brazil’s plans of: a) getting some confidence back in a side that needed a lift of any sort; b) score a goal, as the lacklustre Henderson and misfiring Cox were anything but firing on all cylinders; and c) trying to get a positive result in a game against one of our main play-off rivals, a game that was in threat of being a sideshow to recent events.
Forest had two debutants in the side, Ben Osborn, making his senior debut, and Lee Peltier, making his first start since his ‘will he, won’t he?’ loan move from faltering Leeds. Something of a baptism of fire for defender Peltier as he found himself playing right-midfield against the Tractor Boys. The main change was to see Paterson and Mackie playing in tandem up top.
The start could not have been better — Danny Collins grabbed an early goal with a towering header direct from a corner. It’s amazing to see how effective a corner can be when putting a proper ball into the box, something professional footballers seem to struggle with for some bizarre reason.
The rest of the first-half was brilliant to watch, instead of sitting back we used Mackie and Paterson to run at defenders, run in behind and to create chances that previously had been lacking in our winless streak. Osborn played with freedom and Peltier looked to fit in straight away. Mackie had a good chance that should have been converted but was well saved by the legs of keeper Gerken, Paterson also had an opportunity to double the lead but was deflected just wide.
Half-time came and Ipswich would have been grateful to go in only 1-0 down and the Forest fans went to the bar ready for a needed drink to settle the nerves. Well, either that or to drown the sorrows after paying the outrageous ticket prices at Portman Road. It would be quite good to hear from the Forest fans that chose to pay that extra £5 to sit in the ‘premium seats’; were they padded seats or was the company just a bit more upmarket?
The home manager, Mick McCarthy, made some key changes for the home side, who came out after the break looking much improved. I think it’s fair to say that the second-half we were second best. Karl Darlow probably had his game of the season, making a handful of excellent saves to thwart the efforts of the oncoming Ipswich traffic. Even during the onslaught on our penalty area it was still impressive to see the outlet that Mackie and Paterson gave us up front, they regularly stretched Town’s defenders but failed to create any real clearcut chances.
The home side equalised with quarter of an hour to go, a header from former Sunderland man Daryl Murphy, which reflected the balance of the two halves. There was still chances aplenty as Darlow continued to impress as he kept the scores level. Matt Derbyshire, who came on for Majewski as our only substitution of the match after 86 minutes, should have done better at the death with a header from a corner but that would have been too good to be true. So it ended one apiece, which on reflection was about right.
Overall, a performance like that shows we’re not ready to give up a place in the play-offs just yet. And with the news that Andy Reid might be back at our disposal soon, as well as Henri Lansbury hopefully fit again for Millwall next week, the confidence is back, sort of.
A quick word must also go for Jonathan Greening, who impressed once again in the middle of the park and may be our most consistent performer of the past couple of weeks. The 35-year-old, who I admittedly slated earlier in the season, has without a doubt earned the right to have in his name sung: ‘Jonathan Greening, he walks on the Trent’. That made me smile.
Whatever happens off the pitch in the next few days, weeks, or however long it’s going to take to appoint a new boss, we need to be patient, have a bit of trust and keep singing. It’s another rollercoaster of a season for the Reds and after 39 games we still don’t have a clue what’s going to happen. But after what I saw in East Anglia, I’m not going to book anything in for 24 May just yet.