Reds stroll to win against hapless Palace..

No goal for Lewis, but an assist and a chance to practice his routine for 'Strictly' with Palace defender Davis..

Nottingham Forest – 3
Crystal Palace – 0

I’d almost forgotten the pre-match routine it’s been so long, five weeks without a home match, three without a match at all.  Whether the game against hapless Palace would see us look a little short on match sharpness or rested and ready was the prematch question we were posing as we made our way to the City Ground, snowless – but bloody freezing!

One very heartening thing (and building on my match preview) was the reintroduction of Radi Majewski to the starting line-up in a midfield that was without Cohen for what seems like the first time in ages.  A debut for Tudgay – in the starting eleven partnering Earnie – and Ramsey having to be content to make his home debut from the bench as he did his first game.

Gunter   Morgan    Chambers    Bertrand
Anderson    Moussi    Majewski    McGugan
Tudgay    Earnshaw

First things first were a minute silence for former youth team and reserve goalkeeper Dale Roberts, who tragically passed away last week.  Both sides also donned black armbands as a sign of respect for him, which was a nice touch.  It was well observed but for a few people making their way in late unaware of what was occurring – frustrating, certainly but also perhaps forgiveable.

The first five minutes or so of the game proper were a pretty scrappy affair – the pre-match debate against raring-to-go versus ring-rusty was tending towards the latter, as the Reds struggled to retain much possession.  A snapshot from Lewis from far out on the left snapped us into life, though – Speroni was well placed but looked a little shellshocked as flapped the powerful drive away.

Tudgay was looking good with his positioning and awareness of his strike partner Earnshaw – the two combined well to see up the wee Welshman but his strike was over the bar.  Later McGugan again was the tormentor, this time from the right – released by Anderson – curling a dangerous cross in again which Speroni was able to get a hand to, eliminating the danger.

Moments later it almost looked like we’d score – a drive from Earnie deflected once to wrong-foot Speroni, then again off Tudgay (who was probably offside) to take the sting out of the shot to let the Palace keeper save it easily.  Almost straight after we had the ball in the net – but it was rightly disallowed as Tudgay was wrestling with Speroni as the ball trickled over the line.

We didn’t have to wait much longer though – a corner from infront of A Block was driven powerfully into the box by McGugan, a real departure from our usual hapless setpieces, with Chambers meeting it to plant a bullet header into the net.  That’s how I recall it (I’ve yet to see a replay), the official site seems to suggest ricochets and things before the header, odd!  I guess I’ll find out when The Football League Show is on later!

Earnie is probably still kicking himself that he couldn’t notch just before half time – a cracking ball from Majewski who, despite the lack of mentions in the report so far, was having a cracking game – put the diminutive striker through one-on-one – credit to Speroni, though, the angle was closed quickly and he didn’t commit too soon to allow Earnie his trademark ‘dink’ – eventually blocking his shot.

The half ended with a Palace foray forward, Gunter did well to get the ball clear from a decent cross from Clyne.  At half time we discussed that it was a strangely dull game with some really good moments.  News from Pride Park was encouraging enough for us to refer to the programme to calculate the permutations for overtaking them in the league on this day.  A couple more goals would do it assuming they remained a goal down, which of course they did – and we did too!

The second half started with the sublime as much as the first had started with the ridiculous.  Moussi played what looked like an aimless ball that turned out to be genius, Tudgay pounced on the opportunity to get onto the ball and through on goal at range and – from 30 yards – spotted Speroni in no-man’s land before calmly lofting the ball over him and into the waiting goal.  A lovely finish.

Moments later we thought we’d got another – Earnie again had a shot deflected but still goalbound, Speroni frantically clawed it away before claiming to cries of over-the-line from much of the ground.  I’m reliably informed by somebody better placed than I that it wasn’t over the line – so a good shout by the officials.

Another McGugan corner almost gave us a replica of the first goal – Chambers meeting it with a towering header, this time Speroni was equal to it.  The ‘keeper was on hand again as Anderson burst through past two defenders and bore down on the goal from an angle, but the winger didn’t have the composure to do anything other than blast it at him, giving him another good save to claim.

Radi was withdrawn at this point – he’d had an excellent first half, but had a reduced amount of impact in the second, and he made way for Ramsey to make his first City Ground appearance in the Garibaldi.  He was immediately involved and he does look quality on the ball, Palace straight-away seemed to have three men on him – yet I don’t think he once gave away possession.

Shortly after this McGugan was briefly on the deck feeling his thigh – it certainly didn’t look too serious, but I guess when the game is comfortable there’s no point in risking anything, so he was taken off with Tyson taking his place.  Earnie had another chance after this, and he did very well to rocket a shot from inside the area towards the bottom corner but Speroni was there to deny him again with a fine save.

The last substitution for Forest will be obvious for anybody who has seen this list of goalscorers!  Garath McCleary replaced Paul Anderson with around eight minutes remaining, and he finished off a decent move culminating in Tyson playing the ball into the area to the winger who made no mistake in beating Speroni from 12 yards out.

In the death throes of the game it looked like a lack of concentration might gift Palace an ill-deserved consolation, but Chambers – who’d had an excellent game – made up a lot of ground to throw himself into a block to deny Wilfried Zaha putting a chance away from fairly close range.

A decent performance against a team whose performance understands their terrible run of away results and their league placing.  They tried to play football, and there is perhaps their problem.  Danns looked full of effort in the first half, Ambrose was quiet, Garvan looked okay – as for N’Diaye – he isn’t actually a footballer.  I think he’s someone they just picked up at a service station when the real player didn’t make it to the coach pick-up due to the snow.

Very pleased with a comfortable win though – no injuries, no bookings!  Actually – we don’t often do this, so we need to offer hearty congratulations to Mr Swarbrick and his officials – because aside from fairly mundane quibbles, I don’t think he got a lot wrong today – and normally referees leave me foaming at the mouth with rage by the end of games!

Ahead of Derby on goal difference, with two games in hand – now that sounds like a Merry Christmas to me!  May all of you have a fantastic Christmas and hope that we can perhaps do something about our still questionable away form for Boxing Day’s trip to Middlesbrough.  I imagine that you’ll hear from me before then, of course…