A win over Vale puts us top for Christmas!

Nottingham Forest – 2
Port Vale – 0

Thanks to Swansea and Carlisle having their game postponed, three points was enough to put the Reds top of the pile going into the festive period.  Perfect preparation for two tricky away games coming up, and whilst not a completely sparkling performance from the Reds, there were plenty of pleasing things on offer from the home side against the struggling Valiants.

The first half had shades of the Northampton game, with a great deal of dominance and possession from the Reds, but perhaps without the required ruthlessness infront of goal.  The first meaningful chance of the game fell to Agogo, after a tremendous throughball from Cohen, but the Ghanian striker wasn’t able to hit the target, putting it wide.

Vale had the next opportunity, arguably easier still – Willock played the ball across to Luke ‘offtarget’ Rodgers who put the ball wide from around six yards out.  McGugan needed lengthy treatment after a collision on the edge of the box with the Vale ‘keeper.  Despite hitting, and staying on, the deck he was able to continue.

Forest looked lively going forward, with Tyson in particular standing out for the running he was putting in – although three times he had chances but wasn’t able to convert them into decent efforts on goal.  Perhaps realising it wasn’t happening for him on the scoring stakes, Tyson was soon to turn provider for Forest’s opener.

A lovely turn beat his man inside the Forest half, leaving him free to hare down the right and bear down on the penalty area from wide, where he put the ball in to the onrushing Agogo who converted easily from close range to give the lead to the mighty Reds.  Cue nervousness from this spectator that we’d proceed to sit back!

Shortly after this Tyson was obviously in some discomfort, taking himself off the pitch in order to stretch out his hamstring.  D’Urso took an age to notice he was ready to come back on, but he only really had time to make one more burst down the left before Smoulds withdrew him for Grant Holt, who again was subject to a poor reception – presumably due to his ‘shop window’ comments.

It wasn’t to be so, shortly after this Commons put a great ball in to Cohen who headed goalward, only to be thwarted by a decent save from the Valiants ‘keeper.  Agogo almost doubled his tally, breaking from deep and keeping a number of defenders away from the ball before hitting a cracking shot that Anyon in the Vale goal managed to get a touch on to see the ball strike the post and go for a corner.

Vale had the last action of the first half, forcing Smith into a save with his legs.  So half time came with the Reds looking relatively comfortable – I’d say that we were less dangerous going forward than in the first half against Northampton, but it was quite a similar performance – although Vale did look capable of causing problems with their quick breaks forward.

It looked like game over early in the second half, a Commons corner was put in the net by Chambers but the ridiculously fussy Andy ‘I’ve not been sacked as a Premier league ref, but they choose not to pick me’ D’Urso, disallowed the goal for presumably a foul on the ‘keeper – it was difficult to see why from my seat.

Vale could count themselves very unlucky shortly after this, a cross was scrambled clear and dropped for Marc Laird who unleashed an absolute piledriver from the edge of the area which thankfully for us struck the nearpost, ricocheted right across the goal and out for a throw-in for the Reds – a real warning shot across the bows from Vale, who often broke in numbers but didn’t quite seem to find the killer pass.

To compound Vale’s misery it was shortly after this that we got our second, McGugan and Agogo played a delightful one-two between themselves – leaving McGugan right infront of goal, to show fantastic composure to feign a shot to the ‘keeper’s right, before hitting it in the opposite direction and into the net.  Very pleasing from the youngster.

It was nearly three too, Kris Commons – who started on the left wing before drifting to the right, then almost as a third striker, spotted Anyon off his line.  The goalie backpedalled but need not fear as Commons’ attempt was marginally over anyway, although I reckon he’d gotten back quick enough to have tipped the ball over had it been on target.

Former-Forest target McGoldrick showed why perhaps he wasn’t such a big loss, whilst he had plenty of running and a decent touch, he was a ball-greedy so and so.  At one point Vale achieved a five-on-three break, with Forest looking painfully outnumbered.  Fortunately for us, McGoldrick opted to attempt an unlikely shot from 20 odd yards rather than play a colleague in – and he didn’t even hit the target.

Rogers again missed the target when he really should have done better – somehow putting it wide from 8 yards with only Smith to beat infront of his own fans.  Unsurprisingly he was substituted shortly after this!  Holt had a near miss too, poking the ball goalwards after challenging the goalie, but he couldn’t get any power behind it so it was easily dealt with by a Vale defender.

All in all, a pleasing win – we did look exposed at the back though when Vale broke, and whilst they didn’t play badly, I feel a more accomplished or perhaps just confident side would have caused more problems.  So there’s work to do, and Tyson’s injury is potentially a huge blow given Junior’s imminent trip to Ghana for the African Nations.  But top at Christmas isn’t a bad place to be – although after last year, I’m not relishing the trip to Oldham on Boxing day…

But anyway, to be more cheerful, a great early Christmas present – and speaking of which, should I not get a chance or inclination to post anything between now and the festivities, then I’ll take the opportunity to wish everyone reading a very Merry Christmas – and I shall certainly be back in communication before the new year.