Nottingham Forest – 2
Preston North End – 2
Oof. Where do you start with that? A below-par (and that’s kind!) performance from the Reds, a niggling time-wasting diving performance from our desperate visitors, a serious contender for the most hapless official we’ve seen in some time (no mean feat!), a late 3 points game rapidly turned into a draw in the sixth minute of five minutes added on to the game. It was certainly eventful!
From having the kind of bench that had opposing managers looking wistfully at our options to bring on as a substitute, we seem to be alarmingly low on numbers – only six named on the bench after late injuries to Earnie and Tyson – and they included youngsters like Nialle Rodney making up the numbers. It’s difficult not to feel a bit grumpy, but as ever I have a fairly conflicted outlook after this evening’s game.
Billy’s line-up almost picked itself with the late withdrawals of Tys – with an ankle injury (expected to be out for two weeks) and Earnshaw (back injury – no timescale specified):
Gunter Morgan Chambers Konchesky
Cohen McKenna McGugan Anderson
The game was delayed due to the late arrivals of the fans taking advantage of the £10 ticket offer, causing both teams to come back out to extend their warm-ups – hardly ideal preparation, and perhaps a pitfall in an otherwise decent idea to boost the attendance for a midweek fixture during half-term. So it was 8:00pm that saw the game start rather than the scheduled 7:45.
It was a sluggish start but it was Forest making the early tentative running, with the visitors looking rather haphazard in positioning. Four minutes in McGoldrick did well to get past a couple of defenders and get a ball into the box which after a bit of a scramble Iain Turner in the Preston goal was able to claim. Later a lovely ball from Konchesky found Cohen whose shot wasn’t too far from finding the inside of the post but went wide.
The best chance in the first half for the Reds fell for former Preston skipper Paul McKenna though, and bloody hell he should’ve done better – a lovely ball across found him in the box in acres of space with the Preston defence at sixes and sevens, but he lacked composure and blazed it over into the visiting supporters. A real frustration – at this point it looked like a goal would see the Lillywhites collapse, but of course, things change quickly in football!
At the other end Keith ‘Bambi on Ice’ Treacy managed to stay on his feet for long enough to whip in an excellent cross from the left which found Barry Nicholson in the box, he duly despatched a well placed header inside the far post and silence the home crowd and give the small band of fans from Lancashire the chance to cheer.
This perked up Preston and Forest just didn’t compete – Billy Jones had a decent effort from 25 yards that Camp needed to dive to save. Meanwhile Forest seemed static and unable to string many passes together – the game descended into head-tennis which generally Preston won. The visitors also started time-wasting as early as thirty-five minutes, the referee setting an early precedent by doing bugger all about it.
Gradually the Reds did start to build some degree of progress – a decent ball in from Konchesky found Anderson who shaped to shoot from a tight angle but his connection played it back across the goal, Tudgay was lurking and got a slight touch on it, but couldn’t react quick enough to turn it goalward so instead it gave Turner the chance to take an age over a goal kick instead.
Forget the timing but Anderson got floored in their area at some point from a corner – reminiscent (admittedly without having seen a replay!) of Chambers being hauled to the deck by his neck in the Cardiff game, predictably the referee gave nothing, but gave a series of freekicks to the visitors whenever their players went to ground regardless of any contact with Forest players.
The final chance of the half came to us when Cohen put a delicious ball in to the six yard box from the left, Tudgay got a good header on it which brought an excellent save from Iain Turner. McGoldrick was lurking behind Tuds and might’ve had a better chance of scoring, but you can’t really blame a striker for having a go – and he brought a good save from the keeper of course.
The whistle from the referee was greeting by some booing – which, whilst the performance was below-par, is totally unacceptable. Whether this correlates with the influx of irregular visitors to the City Ground lured by the cheap tickets or not I wouldn’t care to speculate (but sort of just have), but frankly, it’s not necessary, it’s not helpful and it’s not welcome – support the lads, for fuck’s sake!
Half time was a glum affair – particularly as scores from around the rest of the league started filtering through, with most of our promotion rivals doing somewhat better than we were being a goal down. The promise of a Billy rocket at half time was our only solace as we contemplated what had been a disappointing performance from the Reds against a hard-battling Preston side scrapping for points.
As the game restarted it didn’t look like it was getting much better in a hurry – whilst there was more endeavour from the Reds the early exchanges were more of the same – with the referee increasingly baffling. I don’t really blame Preston’s players for time-wasting and hitting the deck every five seconds because they profited from it every time by a very fussy referee.
I was just starting to contemplate the words of ‘Can anyone smell bananas’ on my match preview when suddenly the ball was played through to McGoldrick who turned well and found Anderson, his shot was blocked but fell nicely for Konchesky who emphatically volleyed it into the Trent End goal. Not before time too, it really helped wake the crowd up and got Forest back into focus.
On the hour Billy replaced the increasingly ineffective Tudgay with Adebola from his depleted options on the bench, shortly after Konchesky (who was apparently limping – I hadn’t noticed!) was taken off for Lynch, naturally we assumed an injury and post-match it transpires he’s twinged a hamstring. Just what we need, isn’t it? Hopefully the Konch isn’t too seriously hurt – he was one of few players to come out of the first half with credit for us.
The Reds were on top now, though – McGoldrick should have made Turner work harder with a disappointingly tame effort from 25 yards out, however we were still open to threat from the visitors too, who whilst playing conservatively were foraying forward on occasion. Luckily for us though the couple of efforts they mustered were off-target.
Nialle Rodney was introduced for McGoldrick with a quarter of an hour remaining, creating the dream strikeforce of Del and Rodney! He probably should’ve scored a few minutes into his pitch-time. A great ball in from Cohen to the back post headed towards Rodney and Adebola was met by the youngster – but his header clipped the outside of the post and out for a goalkick. Gutting!
Forest were pressing now and Rodney looked lively and keen to profit from Adebola’s lay-offs, but it wasn’t quite happening for us. A cross by Dele found Anderson who put it back across goal which won us a corner. After this Rodney crossed towards his strike partner but Adebola couldn’t get much power on the header so it was a simple catch for Turner.
As five minutes of stoppage time was announced it looked like Preston’s time-wasting might end up biting them on the bum – a freekick was curled inswinging by Cohen. I didn’t see a touch from him, but Chambers appeared to claim it – I thought it was straight in by Cohen personally and that’s where most of the Reds team, nay, all of them went to offer their congratulations.
That over-celebrating of course always looks daft with what we know was to come, but it probably created extra minute of stoppage time in which Preston were able to equalise. Forest weren’t able to stave off pressure from the away side, we didn’t stop a cross into the box – Camp looked like he slipped as he came to claim what should’ve been a routine catch, leaving Jones to head over him into the waiting goal.
Very annoying because of the timing. Having said that, we probably didn’t merit much more than a draw if we’re being honest. I left the match spitting and ranting about Preston’s timewasting, diving and nonsense – but well, they’re fighting long odds against relegation and scrapping for anything they can get. It’s the referee who should be spotlighted for doing nothing about it and giving so many ridiculous freekicks.
I’ll be very interested to see the ‘fouls committed’ column for this game – because every time a Forest player so much as breathed near a Preston player, if they went to ground they got a freekick. Conversely, Preston had two pretty strong-looking claims for a handball in our area – which he didn’t give, so the visiting fans might well dislike the man with the whistle after today too.
It wasn’t until the linesmen seemed to take the law into their own hands that we seemed to get any decisions at all when our players were knocked around. But, we were also the architects of our downfall, we started slow, we didn’t compete (particularly in the first half) and whilst the comeback showed good spirit, the lapse at the back was frustrating.
On balance I’ve decided to not be too grumpy – listening to the radio on the way home it seems my fellow Reds feel similar. Some shit freekicks and over-fussy refereeing didn’t cost us the game – indeed, missing handballs in the area might’ve done us a favour really. Our own performance was below par but the unbeaten run is intact. It puts more pressure on forthcoming games against Millwall and Middlesbrough though, which isn’t ideal.
The real concern is how thin our squad is suddenly looking – Billy sounded oddly positive post-match despite this, not bemoaning lack of transfers and reiterating he will only bring in quality loan signings if available, and acknowledging that’s a tricky ask. I’m starting to worry that we will find ourselves once again limping over the finish line when some of our fellow promotion contenders have added depth to give them momentum.
Fingers crossed the quick withdrawal of Konchesky proves to be more precautionary than necessary. We welcome Majewski back from his suspension from Saturday which is something positive, and await more concrete news on the injuries to Tyson and Earnshaw, but it’s looking a bit of a worry that we are short on bodies at this crucial stage of the season.
As for Preston, I’ve made my peace with their shenanigans tonight – I hate time-wasting (including when we do it!) and diving, but the referee positively encouraged them with his absolutely shocking performance. I wish them well in their battle against the drop – certainly with Norwich, Leeds, Swansea and Cardiff still in the list of their teams to play they could yet do us a favour!
And if we’re going to cast our final strike pairing as Del Boy and Rodney, then there was only one person on the pitch who was going to play Trigger, and that was the referee!