Nottingham Forest conceded two second-half goals as they succumbed to a 2-1 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers. James Bolton offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
Any slim chance Forest had of reaching the play-offs were finally doused at a rainy City Ground, as Dougie Freedman suffered his first home defeat since taking charge.
Team news and new loan signing Chuba Akpom made his debut up front, with his former Arsenal teammate Benik Afobe leading the line for Wolves.
The first chance, if it could be called that, of the game came out of nothing, as Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme failed to control a back pass and his hurried clearance was charged down by Michail Antonio, but the ball deflected wide.
Akpom was proving something of a menace in the opening quarter of the game, and was brought down from behind by Danny Batth in the penalty area, but referee Andy D’Urso waved away the Forest appeals.
The deadlock was then close to being broken from an unlikely source as some nice work in the final third gave Michael Mancienne some space, but his 25-yard strike whacked off Ikeme’s left-hand post.
Wolves, however, were having their share of proceedings as well. Afobe probably should have done better after rising above his marker to meet James Henry’s cross, but he headed well wide. The conditions then played a part as Wolves were presented with the best chance of the game. A speculative chip forward from Kevin McDonald released Afobe after a slip from Kelvin Wilson. Karl Darlow smothered the striker’s shot well, only for the rebound to fall for Nouha Dicko, but he was denied by a spectacular goal-line clearance from Eric Lichaj.
After going in at the break goalless, and with the game fairly even, Forest started the second-half in the worst possible fashion. Afobe picked up the ball on halfway after some indecision from Mancienne, and ran at a retreating Lascelles and Wilson, to then calmly strike the ball beyond Darlow from the edge of the box. Certainly an avoidable goal, there is no way Afobe should have been allowed to run the 30 yards he did. I think ‘professional fouls’ exist for instances like that.
Just when Forest were threatening to lose a grip on the game, we responded well with a series of good opportunities. Chris Burke’s cut-back found Gary Gardner in space in the box, who has caught so many so sweetly during his short spell at the City Ground, scuffed his left-footed shot.
Richard Stearman then failed to deal with Henri Lansbury’s speculative ball into the channel, but an out-of-sorts Antonio drilled his effort into the side netting from a tight angle.
On 72 minutes, the visitors looked to have wrapped up a crucial win. Bakary Sako, who was causing plenty of problems down the left-wing, skipped beyond Mancienne, only to be ruthlessly chopped down by Lansbury on the edge of the area. Sako picked himself up and sent Darlow the wrong way to double Wolves’ lead from the spot. Again, another avoidable goal; Lansbury’s tackle was overzealous at best, and downright idiotic at worst. It was a flash of frustration from a man seemingly reformed since being given the armband.
In stoppage time, Forest pulled back what would be nothing more than a consolation goal, as Jamie Paterson’s deflected shot fell to Dexter Blackstock 12 yards out, who could barely miss as he lifted a right-foot shot over Ikeme.
It was a fairly even game, but as Freedman so succinctly summed up at half-time, it was a case of taking chances. Our late, but ultimately unlikely pursuit of a play-off spot now seems to be over, especially as sides above us are adamant on not dropping too many points. With six games to go my thoughts are similar to what they were when Freedman took charge; finish the season as strongly as possible.
With suggestions Freedman’s more long-term future may be addressed as early as the next few days, the usual rhetoric of planning for the future and implementing a clear direction for the club is rearing its head. I feel Freedman in his short, but successful, spell as Forest manager has demonstrated he should at least be given a chance to lay the foundations for what must be a more prudent and shrewd running of the club in the coming years.
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