“You’ll never beat the Saddlers!” Forest left saddle sore again…

Nottingham Forest – 1
Walsall – 1

The chants from the away end were inevitable, it must be one of the few perks of being a Walsall fan that you can plan a trip to the City Ground with basically a carte blanche to get at least a point from the trip.  Today’s game was a frustrating one for us, largely due to the result – as there were plenty of positives on show from the Reds, but alas, given the timing, it was too little and too late yet again.

Forest began the game very brightly, lining up in something approximating 4-4-2 with a back four of Perch, Morgan, Wilson, Bennett, and a midfield of McGugan, Thornhill, Clingan and Cohen – with Tyson and Ormerod leading the line upfront, and – d’you know what? – it looked like it just might work for a while, too.  Cohen and McGugan were by no means out-and-out wingers, but did put in plenty of wide-time to give the midfield outlets.

Walsall had us change ends, meaning Forest attacked the Trent End in the first half unusually – and we came flying out the blocks.  Within four minutes Thornhill had twice been denied by Clayton Ince, the first chance smothered at source and the second a tremendous diving save conceding a corner with the young midfielder having shot from around 6 yards out.

Forest dominated in terms of possession, and a series of corners – there were few absolutely clear-cut chances in the following exchanges, but there was a feeling of optimism amongst the fans as well as the inevitable growing unease at the lack of direct opportunities as balls into the box just didn’t quite fall for us in the penalty area to get a clear shot fired off – we really needed it to.

Tyson looked sharp and fast, breaking at pace on numerous occasions, managing to get a ball across the face of goal just evading Ormerod on the back post.  Again, he was put clear by Cohen and – beating a defender when he really didn’t look odds on to, before hitting a powerful drive on the run from a tight angle, it was heading towards the top corner at the near post but struck the crossbar.

Moments before half time the referee almost conspired to give us a kick in the proverbials, he gave a throw-in to Forest, and as we prepared for it changed his mind giving Walsall a chance for a quick throw-in which eventually gave Sonko an opportunity to shoot on goal, which Smith saved before the clearance was made after a followup from Mooney was put clear.

We didn’t have long to wait in the second half to take the lead – Tyson was operating further left and was giving the rightback a torrid time, running at him and beating him seemingly at will.  Around four minutes into the second half, he did just that after good work from McGugan, drilling the ball across the box to find Ormerod arriving at the back post to put the ball into the net.

Perch was withdrawn for Chambers at this point, appearing to be ill rather than injured having been treated by the physio briefly after going down well away from the action – it’s a shame as he’d had a good game at rightback (despite what some of the inevitable groaners sitting around me might have said), although it was some comfort that – whilst I don’t consider Chambers a fullback – we had a ready replacement on the bench.

A carbon-copy opportunity that gave us the lead happened later – again Tyson left Roper in his wake and unleashed a very similar cross to Ormerod – this time on the near post – but sadly the loan man couldn’t find the target this time, from where I was sitting this looked the easier of the two chances too, of course at the time we were still leading so not too heartbroken.  The wonders of hindsight, eh?

Tyson was looking incredibly threatening down the left – again he burst past his marker to give himself a shooting chance from around 18 yards – and whilst it was well struck and on-target it wasn’t too difficult for Clayton Ince to deal with in the Walsall goal.  So we were feeling quite comfortable at this point, we were controlling the game and looking dangerous, whether this made the players feel too comfortable I’m not sure.

Because obviously Walsall are about due their equaliser about now – and it came from absolutely nowhere.  Sonko received the ball on the right who crossed to the back post where Mooney was lurking, with no route to goal at all, unless of course he headed the ball into Wilson’s midriff and got a lucky ricochet, which is exactly what the wily frontman did – the delay in celebrations from players and fans alike indicate how unlikely it seemed!

Walsall never exactly dominated, but did wake up and realise they could get more than the point they clearly came for – they broke quickly and looked dangerous on the break.  Clingan had to be onhand to clear a header off the line after an excellent flicked header from Mark Bradley looked goalbound all the way – so today could’ve been a lot worse.

Walsall defended in numbers and doggedly, and for their part Forest struggled to make any meaningful inroads.  Tyson, who had looked so dangerous on the left, was playing more centrally, and despite Smoulds chucking Agogo on for Cohen, and eventually Holt on for Thornhill, there were never any further clearcut chances for the Reds – indeed, it were Walsall again that caused home hearts to flutter with a header onto the bar from Mark Bradley again.

So 2 points from our last two must-win games offers no optimism to overcome my previous comments writing off our chances of automatic promotion – there were loud cries for the manager’s head from the mainstand in particular, a sentiment I’m sympathetic with.  Whilst today’s game was unlucky, and not really his fault nor the players, what has gone before means that we don’t even have the luxury of being able to write games off as bad luck.

A tough trip to Smoulds’ former club on friday – a trip Swansea made today and got a sound beating – offers us another big challenge, and to stand even the vaguest chance of getting that essential 2nd placed finish, we basically have ten must-win games remaining us.  I can’t see that happening, but the silver lining is that Tyson is looking fit and sharp, and the emergence of Matt Thornhill who looks set to be a real talent for the future.