Peterborough United – 0
Nottingham Forest – 1
After the disappointment of Saturday’s result this was a welcome relief, a really welcome relief. What could well prove a crucial three points to give us a seven point cushion over Coventry, we are in a position now where the Sky Blues would need to get three wins or at least remain unbeaten ’til the end of the season, with us not picking up a point. Too soon to claim safety, for sure, but a bit more comfortable than we were.
Initial indications were that Steve Cotterill was sticking with the standard line-up, which makes sense really, result notwithstanding it’s been performing well and the system is working pretty well. However, an eleventh hour – I can only presume – injury to Guy Moussi saw a shuffle, with Lewis McGugan, not even a substitute in the original line-up, being called upon to take a starting berth in midfield.
Gunter Chambers Lynch Cunningham
McCleary Guedioura McGugan Reid
The Reds made their intentions clear from the outset too, veritably laying siege to the home goal. The first chance came from a Gunter cross, Reid headed it back across goal to Blackstock whose header was on target and brought a decent save from Paul Jones in the Peterborough goal. McGugan – looking lively rather than lazy – didn’t take long to impact either, a dribble forward and two players beaten, only the inside of the post denied him a goal.
Another opportunity this time for Majewski who struck his shot well, bringing a save from the Posh ‘keeper who parried it into play, just evading Reidy before finding Guedioura who put his effort over when really he should’ve been doing better. Forest continued to pile on the pressure – Zakuani did well to get the ball clear after it had been played in to Dexter Blackstock at the near post. It was a brief respite, Reidy played in McCleary whose shot was blocked.
A rare foray forward from the home side was broken up and Forest were back on the offensive, Blackstock laying the ball off for Majewski who struck the ball well with his left peg, but only got a corner rather than the goal we craved to show for it. Our sixth of the game so far. Another forward move from Peterborough saw Taylor do well to get away from McGugan and Cunningham and find Ball in the area, but Chambers was on hand to clear.
Finally the goal came for us – a cracking run by Garath McCleary down the inside right channel saw the winger play the ball in to Blackstock who, and I’ve watched the replay a few times now, I can’t work out how he managed to both control the ball and turn to face the goal and smash it high into the net giving the ‘keeper no chance at all. A really nifty bit of skill to finally break the Peterborough resistance and give the Reds a lead they certainly deserved.
Peterborough offered little going forward, on one occasion former Reds loanee George Boyd flopped unconvincingly in the penalty area but no spotkick was forthcoming from the referee. As the half wound to a close perhaps Dex should’ve doubled his and our haul for the half as he worked his way clean through but credit to Jones who was out of his goal quickly to make the block.
Just before the break a bit of calamity defending almost gave the home side the equaliser – Ball managed to make a monkey out of Luke Chambers, but fortunately both Gunter and Lynch were on hand to clean up with a sliding tackle and clearance respectively. All in all, an excellent half from the Reds, but similar to Saturday, not the reward in form of goals scored that perhaps the performance merited.
It was the start of the second half in which Lee Camp had his first save to make – Taylor got by Guedioura and struck the ball powerfully on target, Camp getting down quickly to palm the ball round the post for a corner to the home side. Forest were soon back on the offensive though, McGugan burst well down the left hand side and put a ball across the six yard box that looked to be heading to McCleary before it was cleared by a lunge from Rowe.
Majewski looked to profit from a dodgy defensive header into the Peterborough area but the goalkeeper managed to scramble across his goal to make the save. Unlike Saturday the gaffer went for early changes to defend the lead (little option given the defensive nature of the bench!), Elokobi came on for Reid and slotted into left back with Cunningham tasked with pushing further forward.
Then the controversy, I must admit, seen ‘live’ I was convinced the referee was a fool and it was the biggest piece of injustice I’ve ever seen – having seen the replay it was a reckless lunge by McCleary, in a not particularly dangerous position – it was foolish at best. Straight red card? Possibly not – but despite Steve Cotterill proclaiming we will be appealing the decision, I’m not about to hold my breath that the cowardly Football League will go against their official.
Hopefully they do though, it would be a real shame for McCleary to miss three games for a challenge that was probably a booking. Reckless though, and no need to have dived in – I guess he knows that better than anyone right now! Of course, McCann’s theatrical reaction didn’t help matters – but well, we’ve seen plenty of examples of our players doing the same so it’s difficult to be too critical of that.
Naturally enough, going down to ten men allowed the home side the opportunity to start to try to make strides in the game where they’d struggled to so far. Taylor had an effort from a tight angle but Camp was equal to it, making a comfortable save. The manager put Wootton – a former Peterborough loanee – on for McGugan, and shortly after took off the flagging Blackstock for Marcus Tudgay.
Despite the disparity in numbers the Reds looked broadly comfortable – obviously they weren’t pressing the home goal as they had been, but certainly weren’t looking massively under threat either – until, of course, the inevitable mix-up in defence occurred. This ended with the ball at the feet of George Boyd who completely mis-kicked the ball and gave Camp an easy job to gather the ball up.
With four minutes of stoppage time announced it was a tense finish, but ultimately Forest were of course able to hold their nerve and pick up the much-needed three points, and richly deserved too. There were a lot of really positive things about this afternoon, marred of course by the prospect of Garath McCleary being suspended. I hope that the appeal does bear fruit, but having seen the Football League uphold Chris Cohen’s sending off at Leeds – which wasn’t even a foul – I’m not holding my breath!
Both goal and sending-off are on the below video whilst it lasts on YouTube – for McCleary’s dismissal it would be helpful to see it from other angles I think, but well, I think it would be surprising to see the appeals panel do anything other than side with the referee on the subject of what is apparently his eleventh red card of the season. Never mind, that’s a cloud on our silver lining. One more win this season and we’re sorted, and even without it, we’ll probably be okay.