A point at Scunny’s enough to secure third..

Scunthorpe United – 2
Nottingham Forest – 2

On a pretty bad surface and on a day when neither team had masses to play for a football match occasionally threatened to break out.  Both teams will be delighted with their second goals in particular, and certainly both sides – Forest quite a make-shift line up as expected – appeared to be putting in an effort to get the three points that weren’t really needed, but wanted nonetheless!

Billy opted to mix things up quite a lot in favour of resting some key players and long servers, so a very unfamiliar looking line-up enabled him to rest players like Wes, Gunter and Cohen (rumoured to be suffering with an illness) and even Lee Camp was granted his only day off from league duties, with Paul Smith given a rare opportunity to start between the sticks (and seemed to see the funny side of the fans singing “England’s number two!” at him!).

Smith
Perch    Chambers    Wilson    Lynch
Anderson    Moussi    McGugan    Boyd
McGoldrick    Garner

The Iron were very much on top early doors, and Smithy needed to be alert to make ultimately fairly comfortable early saves from Hayes and Mirfin – the home side seemed to threaten with attacks but struggle with the final shot early doors.  Forest eased themselves into the game gradually, with McGugan firing our first shot on target after a decent ball from Boyd – which was saved by their ‘keeper.

Scunny were certainly up for it though, and pretty robust in their play – with the referee pretty lax compared to many on their physical play.  Hooper looked dangerous but Wils was on hand to put in a bit of a last gap challenge to get the ball back to Smith who was well positioned to get it cleared to safety.

The first goal came a bit after fifteen minutes gone, Joe Garner picked up the ball in the box after a decent pass from Boyd – my memory might be playing tricks (the beer doesn’t help either), but he seemed to have a bit of time to compose himself and pick his spot with a low shot to give their ‘keeper absolutely no chance at all of stopping it.  Good to see Joe getting a run out up front.

Moments later it perhaps should’ve been two – McGoldrick, having previously been caught offside a couple of times, did excellently to get past his man in the area but put a shot wide from inside the 6 yard box at a reasonably tight angle.  A pity, all in all I was impressed with him today but I’m sure the confidence boost of a goal would’ve done him the world of good.

The home side were still threatening though, a cross from Thompson was well placed to find Woolford who is probably still kicking himself at the poxy effort he managed which left Smith a simple stop to make.  It was a useful warning though, Scunny aren’t a bad side at knocking the ball around and aren’t shy about putting themselves about either.

However, it was us who were to draw next blood – and the makeshift Reds actually managed to put together one of those lovely passing moves we’ve not seen so much of lately – particularly away from the City Ground.  A string of nice passes – often one-touch moves – eventually got the ball to McGoldrick who moved it into the path of Boyd who hit it first time to beat Lillis with a neat finish.  Lovely goal.

Wastefulness or bad luck struck for us straight after – a cross from Lynch hit the bar finding McGoldrick who perhaps should’ve done more than shoot wide – but well, it’s not always easy to anticipate the ball ricocheting from the woodwork!  All in all, a tidy half in which perhaps 2-0 was marginally flattering to the Reds, but nice to enjoy nonetheless.

It gave the Reds fans – many of whom were in fancy dress – to check out other scores, with Cardiff losing at Derby it meant that third place was pretty much assured – and whilst Blackpool were losing at some points over the course of the day, Swansea never managed to get the result they needed to overtake the Tangerines – we realise now, of course, another trip to Blackpool awaits us next week.

The second half started the opposite to the first, with the Reds on the up – some good work from Boyd found McGoldrick who took the ball wide on the right, and crossed into the area finding Anderson.  The winger went for the spectacular volley but couldn’t connect and the subsequent follow-up wasn’t on target.  Pity, if he’d caught it, it would’ve been sweet!

Scunny though started to come into the game more quite soon – a Perch goal-line clearance from one corner was quickly followed up by another corner – eventually ending up with McCann shooting, Smith saving but rebound ultimately resulting in Canavan making no mistake from close range to notch a not undeserved goal for the home side.

They kept coming too, Chambo needed to be alert to block from Hooper and clear, and Hooper again provided the danger with a cheeky lobbed effort which just had the beating of Smith, and the goal as it went over.  Again they struggled with their final shots, and a chance for Cliff Byrne was easily saved by Smith.  Anderson was withdrawn at this point for McCleary.

A decent effort from Hayes brought a similarly decent save from Smith, before Joe Garner was withdrawn to be replaced with Dele Adebola for the last ten minutes or so.  Then came the equaliser for Scunthorpe, an it was the ridiculous to the sublime really – a sloppy piece of play from McCleary gave the ball away – and Thompson absolutely lashed it into the top corner from 25 yards.  A cracking finish!

The Reds started to look alive again and a late freekick from McGugan was just wide before he was replaced by Majewski who barely had any time to make an impact (aside from having the same trouble both Boyd and McGugan had with Scunthorpe’s shocking corner arcs comprising basically of sand.  We are generally poor at corners – but today’s were spectacularly bad, it has to be said!).

A fun trip nonetheless, of course disappointing to lose a two goal lead but ultimately of little consequence.  Blackpool are our next challenge, and as the only team (except Newcastle and Watford, I think) to have beaten us “on aggregate” over the course of a season, perhaps the challenge we didn’t really want.  Or didn’t we?  Personally I think we should respect everyone but fear no-one.  It should prove an interesting encounter.

Probably more on the play-offs to come when I’ve sobered up a bit and had a chance to ponder now we know the permutations that await us!