Ruthless finishing sees Forest ease past Tranmere…

Tranmere Rovers – 0
Nottingham Forest – 2

In an unusually ruthless performance, Forest made Tranmere pay by converting their two chances on target this afternoon to grab a win that the home side would have felt was a harsh result.  Goals either side of half time from Nathan Tyson and Wes Morgan were enough to give Forest the win.  It doesn’t quite confirm our place in the playoffs, but it does make the cursed circus at the end of the season seem all the more likely.

Smoulds made five changes to the starting lineup, Bennett returned in place of Lockwood at left back, Breckin came in for injured Wilson, Perch replaced McGugan in midfield, Tyson replaced injured Agogo and McCleary started over Commons.  The team lined up in the familiar widthless 4-3-3 arrangement, with Perch sitting just infront of the defence.  Predictably this lead to the home side enjoying plenty of possession early in the game.

Forest did look occasionally threatening on the break though, McCleary did well to win the ball in midfield and play a quick ball into Ormerod whose turn was good, but shot was off-target.  Former Reds striker Ian Moore had the first chance for the home side, doing well to escape the attentions of Sammy Clingan before firing a fairly tame side-footed shot straight at Paul Smith from around six yards out – a real let off.

The next chance fell to Shane Sherriff who, despite attentions from Luke Chambers, managed to get a shot away, but it was across the face of goal and didn’t trouble Smithy.  The home crowd thought their pressure had rewarded them with the lead after 20 minutes when a cross found Chris Greenacre unmarked to slot the ball into the net with ease, but fortunately for us the linesman’s flag was already up to disallow the effort for offside.

Tranmere continued to press, and an excellent cross by Shuker was met by Moore – but his headed effort was easily caught and held by Smith.  Shuker continued to prove a threat down the right had side of the the Rovers attack, and crafted an opportunity to shoot himself shortly after this, with Perchy being in the right place at the right time to deflect the effort using his head to keep Forest’s goal unbreached.

Against the run of play Forest took the lead, and it was pretty much our first decent attempt of the game barring Ormerod’s earlier miss.  Chris Cohen played a tantalising long-ball over the top for Tyson to run on to, seemingly strolling past Kay before rounding the keeper and stroking the ball into an empty net from four yards out much to the delirium of the travelling Forest fans.

The home side should have levelled it straight after – Ian Goodison having time and space to head the ball goalward, but only managing to hit the sidenetting, and so Forest were able to reach the half-time break with a one-nil lead despite creating very little, and defending resolutely, giving them the crucial lead that, had other results gone our way, could have confirmed our place in the playoffs.

The second half set itself up to be more of the same, Tranmere pushed forward and Sherriff crossed well to find Shuker on the back post, but again it was met with a tame header that was pretty much straight at Smith in the Forest goal.  At the other end, a short corner actually worked (!), McCleary playing it to Cohen whose cross found Morgan at the back post to head strongly into the top corner of the net to give Forest a very unlikely 2-0 lead.

McCleary was withdrawn for Commons as Tranmere also made a couple of changes, and Forest started to look more comfortable in the game – albeit playing very defensively.  Tyson had another chance on the break, but elected to shoot from the angle – narrowly missing – rather than setting up Ormerod or Commons who were up and supporting his run.  Tyson is to be credited with not responding to the absolute battering he picked up from the elbows of Goodison throughout the game – which the referee deigned to ignore completely.

Rovers had one more real chance in the game, a diving header from Moore that went wide after a Greenacre cross, after which they struggled to create a great deal – and Forest didn’t really look like they were wanting to create much.  Matt Thornhill came on for the hardworking Ormerod and Forest finished the game in a 4-5-1 formation, content to sit on the lead they’d somehow gained over the course of the game.

So all in all, a lucky win on balance of play – Wes Morgan was brilliant in particular – but it’s one of those wins, at this stage of the season, that makes you think back to results against teams like Bournemouth, Luton, Millwall, Bristol Rovers or Walsall where had we picked up points there, we would still be in the running for automatic promotion instead of making do with finishing in the playoffs.  Of course, mathematically speaking automatic promotion is still possible – just very unlikely.

It’s good to see a ruthless performance in terms of taking chances as they come, two shots on target and two goals is as good a return as you can hope for.  A very relaxed referee today too, who ignored countless elbows Tyson received from Goodison, then went and booked a Rovers player for taking a freekick too quickly!  It was good to see Tyson’s red mist was kept in check though, and he continued to work hard throughout the game despite unsavoury attentions from the centreback.

So we’re back up to fourth, agonisingly we’re just 3 points behind Doncaster and just 6 behind Carlisle (who lost today to a – shock horror – late Leeds winner), but with just three games remaining we’ve left any hope of catching those two far too late.  With the day approaching when Leeds should find out whether or not they are to be re-awarded any of their points back, there could be a twist in the automatic promotion tale, but not for us, I fear.