Let’s concentrate on the league!

Reds players celebrate McGoldrick giving us the lead..

West Ham United – 3
Nottingham Forest – 2

Hmm, 3-2 loss at the Boleyn Ground in the FA Cup, feeling slightly unlucky to have not finished with a draw or even sneaking a win.  Deja vu?  Much?  A little bit I guess!  The ‘reward’ for the victor is a home game against Burnley, for us the opportunity to redouble our focus on our league campaign which recommences as soon as Tuesday.

Whilst a defeat is never something I would want, you can’t – can you?  Not your own team… but certainly I can see benefits in avoiding playing a replay against the Hammers, and indeed, avoid an extra game.  A negative outlook perhaps, but made easier to stomach by a spirited and credible Forest performance that could on another day have got a positive result against the Premier League strugglers.

Billy fielded a strong team – but with some new entries as promised, opting for his tried-and-tested defence, but mixing things up in midfield and up front:

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Lynch
Cohen    McKenna    Majewski    McGugan
McGoldrick    Adebola

Early in the game it was the home side on the up and putting on pressure – Barrera crossed early to Piquionne who calmly got past Lynch before shooting, fortunately for us deflecting off Wes Morgan and wide.  It was only a brief respite though, the resultant corner lead to the first goal – Barrera taking it and finding Obinna to tap in his first goal of the afternoon.  Disappointing.

The Reds responded positively though, pushing forward and creating a number of opportunities.  A foul by Noble on Majewski gave Forest an opportunity through a freekick from 20 yards, which was struck by McGugan over the crossbar (c’mon Lewis, this goal drought has got to stop!!).

Eventually though the pressure did pay off on the eighteenth minute, David McGoldrick did well to get the ball to Dele Adebola in the area who poked the ball into the far corner of the net under pressure from a defender to give Forest a deserved equaliser.  Another chance from a freekick, this time taken by Majewski after Gabbidon fouled McGoldrick, but the kick this time struck the offending player.

Forest began to dominate the game, but West Ham looked dangerous on the break – Lee Camp had a tough task to claim the ball in the area, being bundled over by Piquionne in the process.  As we continued to put on the pressure eventually we were able to convert that to a lead.

A foul on Chris Gunter down the right yielded another freekick for the Reds, which was taken by Chris Cohen curling inward to the near post where West Ham player Kovac almost put it in his own goal but for the intervention of Robert Green, but he was only able divert the ball towards David McGoldrick who nodded over the line from close range.

The lead was to last only two minutes though – it looked relatively safe when Obinna had the ball around 25 yards out, and as he struck what most seemed convinced was a shot it infact went like an exocet missile over Lee Camp and into the net.  A lovely goal to look at, and a complete fluke!  Still, I suppose them’s the breaks sometimes!

2-2 at half time, pretty respectable and symptomatic of an open game with both sides showing willingness to attack.  Forest had probably shaded the balance of play in the first forty-five minutes, but whether or not they’d have the wherewithal to continue this in the second half remained to be seen.

Certainly the early signs weren’t good – after just 7 minutes Joel Lynch was hanging off Reid’s neck in the area and conceded a penalty.  This was converted by Obinna, who in so doing completed his hattrick – which was met with a rather audacious celebration involving about half a dozen back flips!  Beat that, Earnie!!

The home side had their tales up now, a great run from Barrera saw him get the ball into the area for Sears, an intervention from McKenna limited this move to just conceding a corner.  Camp too needed to be on his toes to deny Piquionne with a shot from just in the D.  Barrera again caused problems, with Camp forced into a diving save to concede a corner.

Billy opted for changes a little after the hour mark – withdrawing Adebola for Earnshaw and shortly after this putting Nathan Tyson on for Majewski to try to give a different dimension to Forest’s attacking play.  It didn’t really do much to stem the general tide which saw the home side continue to ask questions – Freddie Sears being given time and space to ping a shot goalward which was again saved well by Camp.

McCleary was the last Forest sub on around 80 minutes, replacing skipper Paul McKenna.  Forest did have a late flurry of chances – a McGugan corner was met by the head of McGoldrick but put wide, he almost made up for this moments later with a great ball to Gunter, but alas the Forest defender’s shot was pretty weak and an easy save for Green.

So it’s always disappointing to suffer defeat, even if the ‘reward’ is a home game against Burnley – however, perversely I’d rather it was decided either way today than us force a late draw and hence a replay.  I really believe that we need to focus our attentions on the league, and whilst I do sympathise with the ‘winning is a good habit’ type rhetoric, I’m also aware we have a relatively small squad!

Elsewhere in the FA Cup Notts County deserve congratulations – they took the lead at Meadow Lane against Manchester City and looked to be holding on quite well only to concede an equaliser.  To their credit they kept going at it, but a draw in the end gave them the prize of a replay at the City of Manchester Stadium, with the potential prize of a visit from Aston Villa should they manage to beat the big spenders.

Derby-beating heroes Crawley Town continued their exciting cup run and have been rewarded by a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, whilst Leyton Orient will no doubt be excited by the prospect of Arsenal visiting them.  As for us, we have a very important trip to Coventry to contemplate on Tuesday evening, with QPR and Norwich dropping points over the weekend there’s a real opportunity here..