Birmingham City – 1
Nottingham Forest – 2
I’ve been guilty of re-using headlines before, hence the part two – because this isn’t the first time I’ve succumbed to this bad pun. If you read my preview for this, I held out little or no hope for us getting a win – so hats off to Steve Cotterill, his staff and the players for getting a deserved win against a team yet to taste defeat at home this season. Against a manager who hadn’t experienced defeat at all at home in The Championship.
With Coventry and Millwall picking up rare wins elsewhere and Bristol City losing it’s been most beneficial to snag three points – other relegation battlers Doncaster and Pompey only picked up a point elevating us to the lofty heights of 20th, leapfrogging Bristol City. We are still three points from the drop zone – Coventry now making a bid to get away from it. So whilst two straight wins have made me a bit giddy, it’s still all to do to maintain our position of safety.
Like many others my patience with Cotterill was all but run out – but to be fair to him he’s oft spoken of balance and I can see in his acquisitions that he’s striven to try to deliver that. I still think he could’ve fielded a team like this sooner, though:
Gunter Chambers Higginbotham Elokobi
McCleary Moussi Guedioura Reid
Four four two, left footers on the left, right footers on the right, a ball winner and a playmaker in the middle – on paper I’d question the partnership up front but Tuds and Dex are undoubtedly our hardest workers up front. With just shy of 1,500 Forest fans able to make a racket in a largely sombre St. Andrews, the stage was set for a potential upset – the unbeaten home record up against the, well, mostly awful away record!
It was the Blues who put the pressure on early doors – but for all their possession and territory they struggled to fashion any real opportunities and slowly by surely Forest started to find their feet and begin to dominate proceedings. The first chance for us came when Gunter – still getting forward eagerly despite being back in defence – crossed in to Tudgay who couldn’t get a decent connection. The clearance found McCleary who crossed in to Blackstock who also couldn’t convert into a goalscoring chance.
The Reds notched up the first chance on target too – Myhill needed to be on his toes to deal with Moussi’s effort from 25 yards, largely down to the deflection that threatened to wrong-foot him. Just as things were looking on the up we saw Danny Higginbotham take to the ground with what looked like a hamstring injury, fortunately we had Joel Lynch on the bench who took his place – fingers cross Danny’s injury isn’t serious, though.
Then a goal! A break from Tudgay saw the ball end up out on the right, one of those driven crosses you quite often see from McCleary came in from the right, but unusually a Forest striker was gambling at the near post (which we don’t normally see!) – Dex battled with the defender as the ball came in and got a toe on it to put it in high by the near post – his first goal since the day he was clobbered at Cardiff back in October 2010. What a moment!
Forest were clearly feeling more confident – and were playing some nice stuff too. Guedioura came so close to a 25 yarder but was just wide (I really hope he gets one of those before the end of the season, I just want to see his reaction to it!). There were no real wobbles right through ’til half time with the Reds in control and went in to the break with a deserved lead – the home side to boos from the sparsely populated home crowd.
It’s fair to say the spirit around the away end was rather more buoyant than we’ve experienced in a while. Not just a spirited performance but also with a degree of composure and skill to boot. It certainly made the half time pints and pies go down much more easily – the second half looked forward to and dreaded in equal measure as we’ve struggled in recent weeks to have two good halves in a game.
Early indications were good from us – Guedioura played the ball forward to Tuds who chested it rather heavily up into the air, so before he could work a way to cause some damage Jonathan Spector was able to get it clear. The home side started to put Forest under pressure finally. Former Reds striker “She said no” Marlon King getting an opportunity in the box but Camp was able to make the save at the expense of a corner.
The pressure did tell though – Jailbird Marlon did well in a battle with Elokobi who really ought to have seen the ball out for a goalkick, it was a good layback to Chris Burke but – again – defensively we should be closing down on the edge of the area quicker – a brilliant finish from the winger curling into the top corner giving Camp no chance. Decent goal, but preventable. I suppose any goal is preventable. It was a worrying time.
We didn’t really need to worry, as it turned out – it wasn’t long before the McCleary-Blackstock combination once again struck gold. A dangerous ball in from the winger wasn’t easy for Dex to control, but he hung a foot out to bring the ball down before swivelling and smashing it into the goal from around eight yards before of course celebrating wildly infront of the travelling Forest fans.
As you would expect, Birmingham did come back at us and it was a nervy finish – David Murphy should have done much better for the home side when he was completely unmarked at the far post, putting it over. Groper King did well to get past Chambers but couldn’t beat Camp who parried his effort away. Moments later he played it back to Redmond who missed the target from 25 yards, and again an effort from King brought Camp into action.
Relief came for the Reds when Tudgay broke down the left to win us a corner, as Forest tried to run the clock down Moussi looked to have secured the points from 25 yards but with Myhill beaten he’d only found the side-netting. The home side built up further pressure, whilst Forest tried to get the pressure off – Reid and Guedioura working well. Steve Cotterill wound down the clock further by introducing Anderson for McCleary and shortly after Wootton for Reid.
Birmingham’s pressure almost bore fruit – Keith Fahey curled a cracking effort off the crossbar – had the linesman been Russian then he might just have given a goal anyway, as it transpired it fell for Curtis Davies who looked to have beaten the despairing dive of Lee Camp, but put his effort just wide. Five minutes of stoppage time felt like an age, but we saw it out and snagged three absolutely vital points. What a relief!
There were some big celebrations at the away end and perhaps the opportunity for the players and fans to bond a little again after a tricky run. We were also treated to the terrifying sight of George ‘the Hulk’ Elokobi with his shirt off – the man is an absolute beast! A trip to bogey team Barnsley next week – could be a challenge, but certainly feeling cautiously more optimistic than before. Now I’m off to take my hangover for a carvery!