Reds stand firm to beat dirty Blades..

Earnie - back in the team, back on the scoresheet!

Nottingham Forest – 1
Sheffield United – 0

Phew! That was more hard work than perhaps it ought to have been, but the Reds have recovered well from a couple of wibbles on their travels to notch a much sought-after win against the Blades this evening.  An early goal gave the Reds the advantage they needed, the fans gave Billy some much needed love from the stands and at times we started to knock the ball around well like we know we can!

Inevitably our opponents came back into it, although they looked low on confidence and it probably made sense to let them have a bit of possession as they seemed to inevitably end up just giving us the ball back anyway.  An early second half red card for Henderson for something nobody except the linesman saw (so fair play to him!) if anything gave the impetus to our niggly visitors whose brief became the more typical ‘kick them’ Sheffield United performance.

There was plenty of early mutual appreciation ‘twixt Billy and the fans, the manager reverting to the more familiar ‘home’ line-up, with Ando, Dex and Earnie restored to the starting line-up with Forest in the more balanced 4-4-2 formation – a welcome change from the weekend’s experiment-gone-wrong at Doncaster…

Gunter    Morgan    Wilson    Perch
Cohen    McKenna    Majewski    Anderson
Earnshaw    Blackstock

The Reds attacked from the off, and with some real positive backing from the stands it wasn’t long before Cohen had the first chance of the game, shooting just wide from the edge of the box.  With less than four minutes on the clock we had a corner which caused a degree of panic, the next corner – taken by Raddy, found Anderson who headed goalwards – with Earnie on hand to make sure it went in, and pinching the winger’s goal in the process!

Over the next twenty minutes Forest stroked the ball around well – at times demonstrating their ability to pass and move with ease that we’ve not seen for a while.  Despite this slick movement and dominance there wasn’t much in the way of chances – and I don’t recall anything Mark Bunn had to do until another dangerous corner from Raddy found Dex around the penalty spot (very reminiscent of his goal at West Brom), but his connection was poor leaving Bunn with a simple catch.

Another chance came for Anderson who missed the target under pressure after good work between Gunter and Cohen.  United were starting to wake up a tough, though – Perch should’ve got his head on a Nosworthy cross which left Camp scrambling to dive and save to his left with McKenna making the clearance.  It was a short respite for the visitors though, Cohen bursting forward down the right and crossing just over Earnie, with the defender making a good clearance at the expense of a corner to deny the onrushing Anderson.

The second half started with Henderson seeing his marching orders, and I’ve no idea now what for as I had followed the ball – it’s being reported as an elbowing on Anderson on the official site, other folks I’ve spoken to suggested stamping.  I wasn’t sorry to see him go as he’d looked a threat – not to mention a pretty shocking foul on Perch that went unpunished in the first half which I neglected to mention before.  Despite this, the visitors continued to threaten in that curious way sides reduced to ten men can do.

Yeates was just wide from the edge of the area, and it became a more end-to-end game, Yeates again shooting from range – this time straight at Camp.  The Reds tended to try to contain and started to struggle to replicate the crisp passing they’d managed at times in the first half – although a great burst from Cohen saw the midfielder unleash a decent effort that Bunn parried to Anderson, but he was on his left foot at an awkward angle and could only shoot wide.

Tyson was introduced for Anderson at this point, but it was still the visitors starting to make inroads – generally by very direct means (as you would expect), and increasingly physical (read: dirty).  The referee tonight was broadly pretty good, but he did seem quite lenient in smy (admittedly biased) view.  A decent cross from Cresswell was headed away by Perch at one point, but the Reds were able to get in a few attacks of their own.

Great work from Robbie Earnshaw tricking his way into the penalty area saw him release Tyson who shot firmly across Bunn who made the save, with Earnie looking like he was expecting the ball back from him despite having two or three Blades defenders in close attendance, which gave the Reds another corner.  McGoldrick was introduced for Earnshaw but still Forest struggled to stem the tide and the Blades continued to enjoy more possession if not actually much in the way of chances.

The final substitution saw Moussi come on for Raddy to help shore up midfield (although I thought Raddy was excellent tonight, as was McKenna – so much for my theory of him needing a rest!).  Still Forest struggled to hold on to possession to try to kill off the game, the last chance falling to the impressive Quinn and but for a fantastic last-ditch tackle from James Perch I’m convinced he would have equalised which would’ve been a real kick in the teeth.

All in all, very happy with the win – glad to see at least glimpses of the Reds starting to knock the ball around with confidence again in the first half and whilst there are always the inevitable chunterers, it was good that the fans were mostly positive – something Davies seemed keen to acknowledge.  Apparently he said something that laid down the gauntlet with regard to transfers in his post-match interview, but I didn’t get back to my car soon enough to hear it, so any commenters who did I’d be glad to hear what he said!

With Middlesbrough coming to the City Ground hot on the Blades’ heels, it is good to be back in winning ways – they’ve had a mixed time under Strachan, particularly on their travels, and lost 2-0 to Blackpool tonight at Bloomfield Road.  With eight home wins on the bounce in the league now the Reds should be feeling fairly confident, but as ever in The Championship it’s another tricky game against a side who will feel their league placing should be much better!

A run of eight consecutive league wins is something we’ve not seen at the City Ground for 30 years – indeed, given my age I’ve never seen it at all (and at least been conscious of it happening) which is an excellent achievement in a season full of many excellent achievements already.  So hat’s off to Billy and the boys for pulling that one off, and it puts us to within a couple of points of the automatic spots again – admittedly with West Brom and Newcastle enjoying games in hand over us.