Forest won’t accept defeat..

Ole ole ole ole ole! Tudgay! Tudgay!

Nottingham Forest – 2
Portsmouth – 1

At half time I was already ruminating over a review featuring phrases like spineless, gutless, headless after a shambolic start.  Portsmouth have a small squad, but it contains players that belie their financial position – and an uncharacteristic slip culminated in Kanu strolling past Lee Camp and finishing well with three Reds players trying to block off his shot.

After getting their heads into gear after the goal more, Forest struggled to convert possession into chances until late – by which point Ashdown in the Pompey goal was equal to our efforts.  Until they succumbed to a late own-goal equaliser, and a stoppage time winner from Marcus Tudgay.  On balance, we deserved to win I think – but the timing makes it undoubtedly lucky!

Over on LTLF somebody finally won the ‘predict the starting eleven’ competition, so Billy’s selection was a little more predictable than recent games, clearly.  Only one person got it right though, so there’s still a fairly big margin for error in trying to second-guess the wee fella!

Gunter   Morgan    Chambers    Lynch
Anderson    Moussi    Majewski    Cohen
Earnshaw    Tudgay

Portsmouth won the toss and elected to swap ends giving themselves a bit of a helping hand from the wind which was mostly swirling in from the Trent End.  It wasn’t exactly a rip-roaring start, with both sides slack in possession and struggling to get any meaningful attacking moves off the ground.

It took a quarter of an hour for something of note to happen – and it was for us, Anderson burst down the right before feeding Chris Gunter to put a low ball into the area.  Portsmouth made a hash of clearing it initially before getting it away eventually.  Their first effort was a long-range effort from Hayden Mullins which was off-target.

Whilst we were lamenting our lack of attempts on target, there were some – not that they challenged Ashdown much.  The first was after 23 minutes when a poor clearance fell for Chris Cohen, he found Anderson who fired goalward from around 25 yards out, but it wasn’t a challenge for the Portsmouth ‘keeper to pluck the ball from the air.

Not entirely surprisingly it was literally a slip-up that gave us the opening goal of the game.  Gunter was looking to get forward but slipped in midfield with the ball breaking to David Nugent, who pounced on the opportunity to push forward into space before rolling it to Kanu in acres of space.

Kanu took the ball into the area, took it past Camp with ease – probably had a think about taking a tumble under Raddy’s challenge but ultimately calmly slotted the ball into the net with around three Reds defenders trying to get in the way of it.  It was a well-taken finish by the striker, but – even factoring in the unfortunate slip of Gunts – appalling defending from Forest.

It could have been worse too, Pompey had their tails up now and only a Moose foul stopped another goal-attempt, but ultimately facilitated another.  The resulting freekick was taken by the dangerous Liam Lawrence who looked to have put it in the top corner but for a fantastic stop by Lee Camp to tip it over for a corner.

Joel Lynch of all people found himself dancing through the Pompey penalty area at the end of the half, getting past around three defenders before ultimately being stopped in his tracks by Ward.  The resulting corner fell nicely for Tudgay but the striker lacked composure and put it over from close range.  Finally good work from Gunter saw the fullback cross in to Earnie who wriggled and turned before hitting a tame left-footed shot straight at Ashdown.

At half time it was consternation all round.  Whilst Forest hadn’t been exactly comprehensively outplayed, they’d offered very little against Pompey who had profited expertly from a moment of good fortune.  Of course, it would be a foolish Forest fan to write us off at half time only a goal down after the last few weeks, but some nerves were jangling.

And for a while it seemed like they were right to be – Portsmouth packed the midfield and tried to get either Kanu to hold up the ball or exploit the pace of Utaka (nearly doing so on more than one occasion) whilst Forest laboured to find a way through the middle of the park to try to bring our strikers into play.  Eventually we started to make some progress.

However, it wasn’t until Billy made changes that things really started to get moving for Forest – with around 57 minutes on the clock he introduced both Tyson and McGugan for Earnie and Raddy.  McGugan immediately took a corner but hadn’t got the measure of the wind so over-hit it completely.

Tys cut in from the right hand side well and had a pop from around 25 yards, it had the beating of Ashdown but didn’t dip quite enough so bounced off the top of the bar and into the Pompey fans.  It was a good statement of intent, though and started to wake the fans up a little.  Still Forest laboured to get the ball through the hard-working Portsmouth rearguard, though.

Adebola was the last change at the expense of Anderson to try to mix things up a little at the back.  Lewis struck an excellent freekick goalward (he’d earlier spannered one into the about-six-yards-away wall) which forced Ashdown into another decent save giving the Reds a corner.  Lewis had got the measure of the wind with a series of corners after, but whilst they caused some bedlam in the area, Pompey were able to clear or Ashdown was able to save.

At the other end Lawrence managed to get clear and – for reasons best known to themselves – the Reds defence opted not to close him down as he bore down on goal, his shot from long range was over fortunately.  He’ll be kicking himself he didn’t at least draw a save from Camp, obviously it would have had a big impact on the outcome of the game!

Another Reds attack saw Gunter cross well into the area to Tys, a tricky header for the striker went wide, though.  Just as I (oh ye of little faith!) was starting to wonder if there was a way through for Forest we were handed an equaliser courtesy of the otherwise excellent Sonko.  A pacey cross from Lewis saw the defender – under pressure from Dele – clip the ball into his own goal.

With a half-feeling of vindication of our dominance and feeling a bit lucky with snagging a late equaliser the home fans came to life and urged the team onward – Moussi put one just wide after another excellent McGugan cross, and then the ground did have the chance to erupt completely when the winning goal finally came in stoppage time.

McGugan again was involved, whipping the ball in to Marcus Tudgay who was able to put the ball over Ashdown and into the net from ten yards – it had been a tricky game for Tudgay, but he showed his worth by being in the right place to finish off this late late chance.  It’s great to see Forest in this kind of ‘never say die’ performance and pick up all three points.

Bizarrely we drop a place in the league thanks to Reading’s convincing win, but it’s still spectacularly close up there – particularly if you make some bold assumptions about our games in hand (something I generally avoid, I might add!).  In the meantime our next opponents, a certain Derby County, had another defeat this time at the hands of Watford.

This time Nigel Clough blamed the wrong choice of footwear for the Vicarage Road pitch…