Norwich City vs. Forest preview..

Whilst a win against Burnley has restored some faith and confidence, Norwich is probably high on the least preferable places for us to be on Friday night.  I’m not being mean about the place, of course – a lovely city, miles away and shunted from its’ more convenient weekend slot for the benefit of Sky TV cameras.  More that Norwich have had a fantastic season and they’ll be bloody tough for us to get anything out of!

A defeat at Swansea followed by a draw with Watford has seen the Canaries drop from the automatic promotion spot they were inhabiting at the expense of Cardiff City.  They’ll be very keen to halt this blip in form and renew their assault on the top two – or, could it be that like other sides that have ascended to beneath QPR this season they are on the beginning of a tricky run of results that might see their promotion bid wane?  We can but hope so, I suppose.

For us there needs to be more evidence from the team of any kind of revival, a not-exactly-easy win over Burnley who contested most of the game with ten men doesn’t exactly paper of the cracks of the previous nine games without a victory.  Our last three away games have all ended in defeat.  A win for Norwich would put them back second, at least for a day, a win for us would see us catch Leeds – again, for one day only potentially – a draw would put us ahead of the Yorkshire team thanks to our goal difference.

Former Forest striker (or right winger, in his latter time with us – SIGH) Grant Holt is an injury doubt for the Canaries having picked up a hamstring injury.  He’s been somewhat of a talisman for them, and is their club captain too – whilst I wouldn’t wish injury on anyone, it would be useful for us if he’s either not fully fit or unavailable.  He’s having a cracking season on the goalscoring front, and I’m sure would like nothing better than to put the ball past us!

The Reds are without Chris Cohen for the final game of his suspension – with McKenna and Moussi getting back into their stride that’s not so much of an emergency now, I would expect to see Konchesky remain at left back – I’ve heard no news over Joel Lynch’s injury, nor the injury that kept Nathan Tyson out against Burnley.  Billy has been busy hinting over Robbie Findley’s return to training – I imagine a starting berth is too soon, but he may make the bench.

Whether the late brace from David McGoldrick coming on as a substitute warrants a starting place remains to be seen, Billy might also choose Boyd over other striking options – Boyd was ready to enter the pitch on Tuesday when a cramp for Moloney meant Gunter coming on instead.  I’d expect to see Gunter return to the side also – and hopefully Robbie Earnshaw can feature and prove deadly against his old club.

So how’s this one going to go?  It’s a tough ask to get anything out of Carrow Road – we’ve yet to score more than two goals away from home – and have been worrying at defending, although I do ascribe this to the lightweightedness of our midfield with Cohen, Moussi and McKenna having been missing – with two of those in contention I would hope that we will put up a more credible defence.

We’ve already drawn more games than any side in the Championship this season, but I’d be happy to chalk up another one tomorrow evening – a win would make me ecstatic.  Hopefully we can take a leaf from Swansea’s book – although we don’t really have the personnel to replicate their attacking focus which tends to be from the wings.  I do have a sneaky optimistic hope that we might exacerbate a bit of a blip for the Norwich, but that does seem to grate with my more rational thinking!


In memory of Billy Gray..

It was only back in December that I was reflecting on the FA Cup final in 1959.  I’m too young to have witnessed it in person, but had just watched what was a fantastic game on DVD.  If you didn’t the first time around I’d throughly recommend doing so yourself, it’s a stark reminder of the things about the game that have changed – some for the better, but much for the worst.  That 1959 Forest team were bloody good.

Only one member of that team now survives, Jeff Whitefoot contributed some moving words to the official site in tribute to his old team mate, Billy Gray, who passed away at the age of 83.  He joined Forest from yesterday’s opponents Burnley in 1957, and played 224 times for the Reds, netting 37 goals.  He returned to the club in the 1980s in the capacity of groundsman under no doubt close supervision from Brian Clough!

In the FA Cup run for which he and his teammates are best remembered, he scored five goals – including a vital one when there was an early threat of embarrassment for the Reds at the hands of Tooting & Mitcham.  His goal earned us a replay in the third round when it looked like an early exit was on the cards, and is firmly established in history as one of the most gifted players of his era.

Naturally heartfelt condolences to Billy’s family and friends – which I’m sure you’ll all share in offering.  A real Forest legend from an era that deserves to be remembered both fondly and proudly.  I’ll reiterate, watch that DVD and see how good we were – a fluid, skillful counter-attacking team that utterly dominated the final ’til Roy Dwight suffered a leg-break, leaving Forest with ten men for more than half of the game.

Even then, they still passed it around and tried to counter attack – it really is a joy to watch.

Rest in peace, Billy.

Back on track?..

Goldie: Matchwinner

Nottingham Forest – 2
Burnley – 0

Oof, for a considerable time this tie proved to be what the form table might suggest it would be.  The first half resembled a really slow brawl conducted by two men so inebriated they didn’t have the coordination to inflict any meaningful damage on one another.  To say I was a little bored would be an understatement.

From a Forest point of view the second half certainly improved – eventually you could actually tell which side was down to ten men after Bartley’s red card in the first half, and whilst Forest laboured ’til 73 minutes when substitute David McGoldrick broke the deadlock, there were a few more glimmers of hope in the build up.

Billy offered a few unexpected surprises in line-up, not least resting Gunts in favour of Moloney, the return of McKenna was bit of a surprise, but more so for me the inclusion of Moussi alongside him in midfield after he so obviously wilted latterly against Reading:

Moloney    Morgan    Chambers    Konchesky
McCleary    McKenna    Moussi    McGugan
Tudgay    Earnshaw

Before the game was a minute silence as a show of respect for Billy Gray, the recently deceased former Forest player who featured in the 1959 FA Cup win – I will take time later in the week to write more about him in due course.  The silence was immaculately observed by Forest and Burnley fans alike which is always good to see, and meant for a slightly delayed kick-off.

The first thirty minutes felt more like thirty years, both sides looked bereft of confidence and ideas, and struggled to keep hold of the ball for more than a couple of passes.  Burnley appeared to be set up to hit us on the break and/or go for a late run in the second half, whilst the Reds laboured to do something productive amidst groans from the crowd as passes went astray.

After the first half an hour suddenly chances on goal actually started to occur – the first fell to Burnley with a dodgy Wes clearance falling for Eagles, his shot looked to have fooled Camp who was forced into a good save with his legs diving the wrong way, the ball ending up over the bar at the expense of a corner.

Moments later might well have been the pivotal part of the game – it was hard to see what happened from my seat, but it appeared that Bartley went in stud-first on Chambers, and made considerable contact with him too – the defender was left down for a fair while whilst after the melee of angry players had subsided (perhaps a bit of an over-reaction?), the referee brandished the red card.

Forest’s first decent effort came soon after, a freekick from Lewis McGugan from an angle was smacked goalward-ish, but seemed to ricochet off Earnie and to safety.  As Burnley sat deeper it did offer the Reds more opportunity, a McGugan cross was heading for McCleary but for an interception from Duff giving the Reds their first corner of the match – on the 42 minute mark!

The final chance of the half was also from McGugan – a neat turn of his defender on the edge of the area opened up a shooting chance, his shot was reasonably well struck, but not with quite enough pace to beat the dive of Jensen who made a pretty comfortable save in the end.  A little more power and I think it might’ve slipped under him before he could hit the deck.

At half time we compared the beards we’d managed to grow and marvelled at how each of us had aged about a decade it seemed like we’d spent so long sitting there.  I exaggerate of course, but it was a half to forget for the most part probably from both fans’ perspective.  The hope was, of course, that we could make the extra man pay as the game wore on.

In truth, the second half started with more tempo – but in both directions.  A number of times we commented it was tricky to see where Forest were making the extra man count, indeed, without making the effort to count it was tricky to see which side was playing with a man less, such was Burnley’s workrate and Forest’s lack of creativity or mobility.

That said, there was more purpose than in the first half (not difficult!).  An early McGugan freekick was excellently struck toward Chambers who couldn’t quite get on the end of it, having to see it carry on and wide.  Lewis again was the architect, this time on the left where he beat his defender and crossed toward Moussi, but Jensengot there first.

The chance of the game so far came after – yes, him again – McGugan struck an excellent freekick from outside the box, Jensen made a cracking save, but parried the ball out to Earnshaw who appeared to be shoved as he headed it against the bar.  The referee waved away any appeals and, to be honest, even under attentions from a defender Earnie should be doing better there!

What looked like ‘one of those’ chipped passes forward from McKenna actually turned into a cracking ball to Earnie, who found himself clear of the last defender, but with the not inconsiderable hulk of Jensen closing him down – the big keeper did really well to smother the opportunity almost as soon as Earnshaw had the ball under control.

Burnley had opportunities too – Dean Marney had an effort from range which at least made Camp a bit uncomfortable, but he was able to dive and cover it relatively easily.  With the Reds still struggling to break down Burnley, Billy made a double-change with Raddy coming on for Moussi, and McGoldrick on for Tudgay.

An early foray down the right gave McGoldrick his first time on the ball, the second was put the ball in the net.  Lewis won a freekick after being cynically dragged back by a Burnley defender wide on the left, he took the freekick himself which deflected, falling for Goldie who swivelled and finished excellently to give the Reds the lead.

But for more excellent goalkeeping from Jensen it could’ve been two as well – McKenna found McGugan’s excellent run, which saw both him and Earnie against one defender, Lewis cleverly took it out wide and smashed a viciously swerving shot, alas it was a little too close to Jensen who made an impressive save.  Earnie was looking for the square ball, but to be honest I think Lewis was within his rights to have a pop.

Billy chose oddly to withdraw Brendan Moloney at this point to put Chris Gunter on, I thought the youngster (ha, I say youngster – I’m pretty sure he’s older than Gunts!) had had an excellent game and didn’t appear to be tiring.  He received a great ovation from the home crowd, and even a bit of a chant – which is nice, but harsh on many of the regular players who don’t have chants!

There were signs of calamity Forest at times, Burnley were increasingly gung-ho in their play as the game wore on, and we can be pretty susceptible to that at the best of times.  A late aerial assault culminated in Chris Iwelumo thankfully heading not quite over-Camp enough to prevent the Reds keeper catching it without falling back into the net!

The security of the second goal came in stoppage time – again McGugan was heavily involved down the right, he found Earnshaw on the left, who gave the ball to McGoldrick who put it into the top of the net from thirteen yards to secure the points, and hopefully secure some much-needed confidence for the games to come.


Spot the ball: Bartley goes in on Chambers, Eddie Howe things this is a tackle. Go figure.

As the scores elsewhere were confirmed (did anyone else feel dirty about cheering a Derby win?) it was a double-bonus, leaving us just a point away from the play-offs which certainly feels better than the four points adrift we found ourselves on Saturday.  Eddie Howe has kicked off about the red card so it will be interesting to see it again, as noted above, I couldn’t see it clearly.

Having said that, having been critical of a certain other red card lately I’ll reserve judgement – one thing I will say is that I was disappointed in the way some of the Forest players reacted (although they had a fine lesson in what that can achieve recently).  However, what is undeniable in this instance was that the ball was miles away and there was considerable contact from the player.  And Billy Davies stayed in his technical area.

A much needed win – hopefully a big confidence booster ahead of what is a very very tough trip to Norwich on Friday evening, once again where the TV cameras will be there to allow a nation to scrutinise our demise.  Or perhaps we might give the viewing public a surprise like we did all that time ago against West Brom.  Ah, how one of those performances would be welcome now!

Forest vs. Burnley preview..

It’s a bit irksome to keep trotting this kind of line out, but well, recent weeks of following Forest have been replete with little moments of history repeating themselves.  Tuesday’s visit of Burnley gives the Reds a great opportunity to put another disappointing result behind them, after Reading ran out 4-3 winners at the City Ground on Saturday.  There, I said it.  Of course, whether we prove up to the job of grasping this opportunity remains to be seen!

Forest are shipping goals at a worrying rate of late, although of course we did manage to score a few at the weekend.  Not least thanks to some generous refereeing since we were awarded two dubious penalties (although we were, in fairness, denied a cast-iron one).  We now sit in a position which requires a considerable reversal of form and fortune to be able to reclaim a play-off spot.

Our visitors are on pretty poor form, albeit better than ours – they’ve won one of their last six, and lost four – like us, they seem susceptible to conceding at a greater rate than they are able to score – they’ve scored four in their last six, and shipped thirteen (we’ve scored seven and let in fourteen).  What looked like a surge for the play-offs from them has subsided somewhat, although a mere three points behind us – so a win at the City Ground could reignite aspirations of gatecrashing the top six for the Lancashire club.

On the personnel front whilst Guy Moussi returned to the starting line-up, it was dramatically apparent in the second half that he was far from fully fit.  An impressive first half from him brought much needed steel and balance to our midfield, alas once his star waned we really struggled.  It remains to be seen whether or not he can recover sufficiently to take to the field again so soon, bearing in mind Friday’s trip to Norwich coming so fast too.

Chris Cohen of course remains suspended, and I’ve heard no news to suggest that Paul McKenna is likely to be ready for a return.  Joel Lynch appeared to go off with an injury, so Paul Konchesky’s return to fitness is certainly welcome news – with Julian Bennett a probable back-up on the substitutes bench.  Burnley should be able to welcome Chelsea loanee Jack Cork back to their side after he’s finished testing for a ‘health scare.’

On paper you’d look at this as a great opportunity to turn our awful form on its’ head, of course, Burnley will be looking at this game in very similar terms.  Both sides have been generally struggling to score of late and have been shipping too many goals at the other – which gives me the perhaps strange feeling that this could end up a goalless draw.  Certainly we need to get three points and hope that results are kind elsewhere in the league.

Leeds face a not-particularly-difficult trip to Derby, you’d expect Leicester to pick up the points at home to Palace, Millwall face Bristol City whilst Reading travel to Scunthorpe, Swansea host Hull whilst Norwich travel to Watford.  I’ve got a nasty feeling we might find that come Tuesday evening the gap to the play-offs might be a bit bigger than it is now.  As usual when I’m in pessimistic mood, I’d be delighted for the boys to prove me wrong!

Frustration mounts as limp Reds fall short again..

Earnie: Back amongst the goals

Nottingham Forest – 3
Reading – 4

A strange afternoon saw an end-to-end encounter that I’m struggling to describe as entertaining, because our defending was so shambolic.  A dreadful referee at least made dreadful decisions in both directions – but ultimately Forest didn’t have enough about them to deny Reading claiming a win they deserved.  As predicted, once Moussi went off (looking knackered, so fair enough), we lost the midfield battle.

Whilst the gap to the play-offs now sits at four points, a re-ascent into the promotion reckoning is by no means impossible, but having seen the kind of form we’re on, performances levels and the continued lack of options open to us – not to mention playing games against decent opponents as soon as Tuesday, then Friday, I’m about ready to give up hope on getting into the top six.

So, to the game, Billy brought Moussi back straight into the starting eleven, whilst Lynch got the nod over the recovered Konchesky at left-back, Earnie was restored to the starting eleven to partner Boyd up front…

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Lynch
McCleary    Majewski    Moussi    McGugan
Boyd   Earnshaw

It was a pretty positive start from the Reds, an early attack saw McCleary have a shot which deflected toward Boyd, who was offside.  Early on though it was the welcome back Guy Moussi show – he had a really positive start to the game, and really helped to show what we’d been missing since he suffered his injury.  Reading were certainly proving a threat though as the half went on.

On nineteen minutes Shane Long hit the deck with, and Shane Long fans might want to correct this, what I think was a variant 2 dive under the most minimal challenges by Gunts.  The referee thought it was a foul, and should therefore have given a penalty since I thought whatever had happened occurred in the box, but he gave a free-kick which Harte did really well to put straight in – although I think it’s fair to point a few questions toward Lee Camp.

Reading really dominated the game now, with Forest visibly wilted by going behind after their decent start.  Another dangerous delivery from Harte – this time from the right – found Manset in the box, but Moussi was able to get it clear.  Despite our early promise, the first shot on target game well after half an hour, and was a tame effort from Lewis, an easy first call to action by McCarthy in the Reading goal.

We did equalise though, on the 38th minute McGugan was *ahem* fouled by Leigertwood (didn’t look like it to me), Kris Boyd was quick to claim the ball, and confidently struck the ball into the bottom left corner, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way in the process.  This seemed to give the Reds a new lease of life, a venomous shot from McCleary from range swerved in the air forcing McCarthy into an awkward punch.

The rejuvenated Reds had a couple of forays down the right via Chris Gunter, but weren’t able to craft too many more meaningful opportunities, whilst at the other end Lee Camp made up for awkward positioning from another Ian Harte freekick which a decent save to tip it over the bar to give the visitors a stoppage time corner, which came to nothing, meaning we went in level at half time.

Forest came out positively in the second half, and immediately tried to probe the Reading defence but without much end product.  Reading were looking dangerous on the break, particularly down the flanks – Kebe in particular was making life incredibly difficult for Lynch (when he wasn’t writhing around on the floor in mock agony, that is!).  It was Reading making opportunities too, a Harte cross was headed just wide by Mayset.

Gunts in the meantime was exemplary in turning defence into attack, winning the ball to deny Reading a chance before bursting forward and into the Reading penalty area before being halted.  We did get the lead, too – the ball was played toward Earnie who dummied it beautifully allowing it to run through to McGugan, who spotted Earnie’s run into the box, picked him out and the number ten finished brilliantly with a low drive to the far post.

In recent Forest fashion though, the lead lasted a matter of moments – two minutes later and Reading were level, a very deep corner saw Camp ridiculously out of position, around five yards off his line, although that doesn’t take anything away from a brilliantly executed looping header from Karacan from the edge of the area which dropped just under the bar and in.

The match continued to be end-to-end, McCleary had done well to fashion a shooting chance for himself but was blocked off by a defender, McGugan pounced on the rebound but was also denied by a block.  At the other end Leigertwood sent Kebe clear who seemed to have all the time in the world but conspired to hit the ball wide.  Shortly after he did hit the target but Camp saved for a corner.

I think it was a 2-2 that Earnie showed echoes of Gary Crosby by cleverly nicked the ball away from McCarthy as he was making to clear.  Whilst it’s true the ‘keeper didn’t have the ball in his control having thrown it in the air, I’d be surprised if any referee would’ve tolerated Earnie stretching his foot up to nick the ball, round the goalie and net it.  Shame though, it was a nice finish. Earnie was booked for his trouble.

It was third time lucky for Kebe, a Reading corner was hit goalwards after a good turn from Khizanishvili – Camp made the save but was only able to parry the ball into the danger area where Kebe was on hand to hammer the ball into the roof of the net from six yards out to put Reading back into the lead.  Billy introduced Nathan Tyson for the visibly knackered Moussi, and Konchesky to replace the run-ragged Joel Lynch.

Tys had an early chance – Boyd had a shot blocked, the ball fell to the former Reading man but he characteristically blazed it over and wide.  Adebola was Billy’s last throw of the dice, replacing Boyd with a little under a quarter of an hour remaining on the clock.  McCleary had a strong finish to the game, another shot blocked from him fell to Konchesky whose cross found Chambers, but he headed wide.

Dele was fouled blatantly in the area by McAnuff but the ref waved away appeals for a penalty, moments later Gunter looked to have gone to ground rather easily and I can only presume the referee was evening up the earlier miss.  McGugan grabbed this one and put it the same was as Boyd had earlier, and again sent the ‘keeper the wrong way to give Forest an equaliser which, to be honest, was a bit flattering.

Alas, anyone who reads a Forest match report of late knows the script of late – for every Forest goal there must be one for the opponent soon after – and that’s what happened again.  The 90th minute saw a quick freekick release Karacan down the left, he struck a powerful cross into the six yard box which hit Chambers to go in for an own goal to give them the lead.

In stoppage time there was time for more controversy, a block from Gunter which I’m sure he made with his chest was given as a handball to give Reading an undeserved penalty (I actually don’t think any of the penalties the ref gave should have been given!).  With the visiting fans thinking the game was sewn up now they had a moment of discomfort after Camp saved Long’s penalty, but the Reds weren’t able to muster up anything approximating a threat in stoppage time and thus lost. Again.

As I said above, I think that’s it for us this season – but would love to be proven wrong.  Our strength in defence is eroding through lack of depth and – more crucially – lack of defensive cover in midfield.  Pretty much as Billy has always said, we lack the squad size to challenge – and, against what Billy says, I don’t think that we are excellent candidates for the play-offs, not without a BIG improvement over the next two games and beyond.

Forest vs. Reading preview..

Right then, a chance to move on and look forward in contemplating the visit of The Royals this coming weekend.  Reading, of course, usurped our play-off position at the weekend, and went on to further their advantage by beating Preston midweek to leave the Reds three points behind sixth place, and with an inferior goal difference to boot.  So both a daunting opponent, but also a great opportunity to try to breathe some life back into our alarmingly ailing season.

Reading are in excellent form, and we of course, are not.  Eight matches have passed without a win, I’m going to tactically ignore events last weekend because they’ve been covered adequately (indeed, to excess!) elsewhere – however the fall-out of that game means that we have two more additions to our absent list, as Chris Cohen is suspended and Paul Anderson is likely to be out for ‘weeks rather than days’ after a not-excessively-forced knee to the ribs at Elland Road.

Whilst results have been a source of frustration for us, there were green shoots of hope offered in recent performances, however, if we are to prevail then we really need to sharpen up our finishing.  Whilst we can task our midfield with creating opportunities more frequently for our front men, we need to be a lot more ruthless when these opportunities do arrive – something Leeds demonstrated very well at the weekend.

Reading are unbeaten in nine games, so come to us on the crest of a wave of momentum – they’re also pretty hot away from home, they’ve only lost five games away from the Madejski stadium all season – and they’ve scored 28 goals on the road.  Not least thanks to the goalscoring prowess of Shane Long, a dangerous opponent anyway, before we factor in his propensity to win penalties.

I’d love to be optimistic – but with no Cohen in midfield, and at best a not fully fit Moussi or McKenna returning I fear that we risk being over-run in midfield, which will put too much pressure on our defence (the very problem we had against Leeds once Cohen had gone off).  Reading have a lot of attacking threat, and my worry is it will prove too much for us to deal with.

On the flip-side, with a not-exactly-young back four if we can approach the game positively and press forward with pace there could well be opportunities.  Any goalscoring chances that do come our way need to be converted with much more frequency than we’ve seen of late.  Plus we do of course know to our own cost recently that all good runs have to come to an end, just as bad runs do.

Despite desperately clawing some optimism though, I fear we might be in for disappointment in this game.  Certainly the home fans can play their part – if ever the boys needed plenty of backing from the stands then this is it, so I certainly hope as many of you will join me in plenty of vocal support as possible.  A win here would give us a much needed confidence boost and adrenaline shot going into this always tricky run of fixtures.

A loss and it would be difficult to envisage much opportunity for us to reclaim a play-off spot, but of course, not impossible.  As Billy says, seasons always have ups and downs, twists and turns – lets hope our season is about to resume a more upward trajectory.

Ten man Reds swept aside by fourteen man Leeds..

Mark Halsey - man of the match for Leeds this afternoon...

Leeds United – 4
Nottingham Forest – 1

With cash-flow a little stagnated at nffcblog towers, I decided to opt to take advantage of the Leeds United documentary that the BBC televised that happened to feature our match against them as an afterthought, rather than go for a pricey trip to Elland Road.  It sounds a bit embittered, but good lord it was certainly the Leeds United Show and make no mistake about it!

I know that we should try to avoid banging out about officials – but I hope this ‘performance’ from Mark Halsey is seriously examined by the powers-that-be, because it was pathetic.  Not just in Cohen’s sending off, the crowning turd on a cess-pit of a performance, but missing fouls on Camp and Morgan for the second and third Leeds goal, for booking our players and not even punishing theirs.  It was awful.

The headline for this game, and probably the decisive factor was the ridiculous sending off of Chris Cohen, who – after Marcus Tudgay had missed probably our best chance of the game – executed a brilliant tackle on George McCartney, unfortunately the shameful reaction of him, the Leeds United bench, the fans and the linesman who ultimately gave the decision resulted in the unfair dismissal of Cohen.

I would hope Forest will appeal the decision, but knowing the authorities track record they would probably uphold the decision and increase the suspension – and of course they won’t do anything about the disgraceful conduct of Simon Grayson, his staff – and indeed his players.  Meh.  I suppose that we all know that life isn’t fair!  With injuries still a problem, Billy went for the following formation:

Gunter   Morgan    Chambers    Lynch
Majewski   Cohen    McGugan
Tudgay   Boyd   Anderson

Sort of, it looked more like a 4-5-1 than a 4-3-3 much of the time.  Leeds United lined up with a similar formation, with a few notable differences..

Lichaj   O’Brien   Bromby   McCartney
Bannan  Howson  Johnson
Linesman   Referee   Linesman
Gradel   Becchio   Snodgrass

A little bit of bitterness perhaps, but certainly the ‘balance’ of the coverage from the supposedly unbiased BBC made me wish I had forked out to travel up to Yorkshire instead!  I stand by the fact that for key decisions we were let down big time by the officials who let the home crowd and Leeds United bench influence them.  I don’t tend to get drawn into the ‘dirty Leeds’ chatter too much, but boy did they live up to that moniker today.

As the players prepared to get into position in the line-up I noticed one of the Leeds players had a bit of a cuddle with the referee rather than just the handshake his team-mates had with him.  It didn’t really mean much at the time, but maybe there was more to it? (I don’t actually think so, I’m just joking, I simply think that Halsey is a gutless and clueless official ‘assisted’ by two similarly hopeless linesmen).

The very early stages of the game saw the home side mounting a bit of pressure on us – Bradley Johnson fluffed his lines a bit when through, allowing Camp to make the save.  Despite failing to take the advantage after an earlier foul by Morgan on Becchio, the referee decided to bring play back regardless to give the home side another opportunity.  Gradel spannered the resulting freekick over the bar.

Forest started to come more into the game though, a foul by George McCartney on Anderson gave us a freekick of our own, which Lewis McGugan struck powerfully, but straight into the wall.  At the other end Aston Villa loanee Barry Bannan struck a powerful shot which bounced awkwardly just infront of Camp, who spilled it but gathered comfortably with Leeds players opting not to gamble, fortunately for us.

Another piece of refereeing buffoonery saw him see, but discount a blatant handball in the penalty area by Robert Snodgrass, bizarrely giving Leeds a freekick for a push by a Forest player that existed only in his imagination.  In the interests of balance, we were probably awarded two or three throw-ins that looked like they were actually Leeds throw-ins.  Real key decisions went our way, eh?

We really started to play more positively now – although in that typical Forest style of a lot of play but not too much by way of chances.  A Majewski effort deflected and curled wickedly towards the top corner, but was just wide and out for a corner, a little later a great run down the left from Lynch saw him put the ball across the goal, finding Tudgay at the back stick who had a difficult chance, but really should’ve done better than to miss the target.

Leeds too were still proving a threat – Snodgrass did really well to trick his way in the box – indeed, it looked like Chambers clipped him to me but he stayed on his feet, and ultimately his shot was a tame effort straight at Lee Camp.  Shortly after Anderson took a knee in the ribs, which funnily enough the referee didn’t notice, after a lengthy spell of treatment he did return to the pitch but was substituted for Garath McCleary on around the half hour mark.

The half hour mark was to be a pivotal moment for the match.  Majewski picked up the ball on the left and tricked his way brilliantly past two defenders and into the area, Tudgay peeled back to space and Raddy picked him out perfectly.  Tuds really should’ve done a lot better than to take a snap shot which was cleared off the line – he had time to look up and pick his spot.  Very frustrating.

Not as frustrating as what was to come though – as the ball broke from Forest’s last attack George McCartney raced towards the ball as did the covering Chris Cohen.  With the ball bouncing Chris Cohen dived in excellently winning the ball, George McCartney ended up standing on the ball, falling over and clattering Cohen – if anything, it was a foul by the Leeds defender (in reality, it was a good tackle and Leeds throw).

After a massive tantrum from Simon Grayson and his bench, soon joined by the players on the pitch, the referee consulted the linesman who clearly saw the same fictitious foul that the Leeds United bench did.  The red card was produced and Forest were reduced to ten men most unfairly, even Danny ‘Dark Satanic’ Mills who was as Leeds-biased as you like conceded it only warranted a yellow – the general consensus was it shouldn’t have even been a foul.

Despite the setback, it was Forest who continued to have the better of the half – a freekick from a challenging angle was well struck by Lewis McGugan and punched away by Schmeichel, and at the death of the half Garath McCleary had a decent effort which brought a diving save from the Leeds keeper.  As the whistle went, Billy did his best to gee up the Forest supporters who’d been in decent voice.

The second half didn’t quite go according to plan – just six minutes on the clock and Leeds skipper Jonny Howson had despatched a decent ball into the box from Lichaj past Lee Camp.  A real blow, a certainly I can’t think that quite such a gap would have been present for Lichaj to run into had we got a full quota of players on the pitch, certainly Cohen’s ability to operate defensively was sorely missed.

Billy took off the largely ineffective Kris Boyd and introduced Nathan Tyson to give us a different attacking dimension, however, it still wasn’t really going our way.  A decent corner in found Bromby whose header struck the post and fell for Becchio who – fresh from pushing Lee Camp over – basically had an empty goal to head into.  Of course, the referee didn’t see the push.

The home side really had their tails up now, and were threatening regularly – and Snodgrass was really unlucky to see an excellently taken effort which dipped viciously, having Camp totally beaten, but struck the bar and went over.  Then, out of nowhere, Garath McCleary cut inside and from inside the box unleashed an excellent curling left-footed shot right into the top corner.

Shortly after this from a Majewski corner the Leeds keeper Schmeichel misjudged his jump, but he adjusted really well to block a slightly unconventional attempt on goal from Wes Morgan.  Alas, there was a sucker-punch from this good work at a comeback from the Reds, and Leeds increased their lead – Snodgrass looked to have fouled Wes for me, which was ignored (of course), and the latter’s clearance fell for Gradel who finished smartly from the edge of the area.

The final change for Billy was probably really the only sensible choice he had open to him, to introduce Earnshaw for Tudgay.  It wasn’t really happening for us though, Chambers knocked one down in the area and Tys was only able to put a powerful effort just wide.  The final kick in the knackers came at the end, Camp saved well from Becchio, then even saved a follow-up, but couldn’t prevent the third attempt from Gradel into the goal.

At some point after this Gunts took a tumble in the box, whilst Martin Keown seemed sure he’d taken a dive I thought there was contact.  Either way, there’s no way the referee was going to give it (I suppose, really, we should be grateful that he didn’t opt to book Gunts too).  The game finished with five Forest bookings to Leeds one, one red card, two penalty appeals denied, two fouls on Forest players before Leeds goals – and one bloody awful performance from the officials.

On the plus side, we did probably get awarded three throw-ins that probably should have gone to the home side.

In fairness the BBC did actually see fit to reflect that 4-1 was flattering to Leeds, and indeed the general consensus was that the red card was both wrong, and a pivotal moment of the game.  They even found time to interview the Leeds United captain, and two-goal-scorer Gradel and the graceless Leeds United manager, Simon Grayson.  Of course, they didn’t bothering their arse wasting any time on interviewing a Nottingham Forest player, or the manager.

This was, after all, the Leeds United show.  It would have been interesting to see how the game would have panned out if we had eleven men (and indeed, if Leeds didn’t have fourteen), because we looked good in the first half.  With ten men they were too strong for us though, and it’s no surprise they finished up with a convincing scoreline.

It’s a real blow in promotion campaign terms – hopefully the injustice of events this afternoon combined with players returning from injury will help to galvanise the boys to at least attempt what will have to be a fairly momentous turnaround in form if we are to retain any hope of pushing for second spot.  Indeed, we will need some kind of turnaround in form to retain a play-off spot.

Thanks a lot, Mark Halsey.