Olé, olé olé olé, Tudgay, Tudgay!

Tonight's heroes - Tuds the workhorse gets the goal, but the Lynch-pin really stands out in defence again..

Nottingham Forest – 1
Reading – 0

It wasn’t pretty – but three points is three points and despite only elevating us to the heady heights of nineteenth in the table, that’s what counts right now for us.  Reading didn’t come and play like a team on an eight match unbeaten run.  The game threatened to go the way of the weekend game against Hull, but for an improved second half which eventually brought about the much needed breakthrough.

Cotterill made what I described on Twitter as ‘common sense’ changes to the team – Miller is injured, and was well below-par at the weekend (possibly carrying aforementioned injury) so was replaced with Findley, whilst Moussi back from suspension dropped into midfield at the expense of Greening.  Sensible moves in my book, giving us a team that looked like this:

Camp
Chambers   Morgan   Lynch   Cunningham
Gunter    Moussi    McGugan    Majewski
Tudgay   Findley

Early in the game my fears borne of last season’s mauling by Reading started to look justified – the Reds struggled to get the ball out their own half.  A tackle by Wes Morgan and a claim of a cross by Lee Camp thwarted early pressure from the visitors who looked began the game reasonably confidently.

We thought we’d snagged a goal when the ball fell kindly for Tudgay at close range – he put it away tidily only to be greeted with the offside flag.  On first viewing I thought the linesman probably called it right, but driving home Steve Cotterill sounded adamant in his post-match interview that there were a couple of defenders playing him on.  It will be interesting to see if the scant highlights we see from midweek games include it to see again.

At the other end Robson-Kanu was making life difficult for Chambers – he managed to get a cross in which was ably dealt with by Lynch (aka ‘The Lynch Pin’).  A bit of luck smiled upon us too – McAnuff hit a decent effort which appeared to beat Camp and hit the woodwork, the rebound falling for Gorkks who dithered for too long and allowed Camp to claim the ball.

Another let-off followed thanks to the wasteful finishing of Adam Le Fondre, who blazed over when he should really be scoring after good work from Leigertwood.  As for us, we just couldn’t keep hold of the ball – we weren’t closing down and certainly weren’t winning the second ball.  We livened up a little, an odd corner saw Lewis hit it hard and low to Raddy who tried to swivel and shoot but put it over.

A decent break from the Reds saw McGugan felled by Alex Pearce, I thought in the area quite obviously (but then I always do), the referee thought not and gave us a free kick right on the edge.  Lewis took it himself, and struck it powerfully straight into the wall – eventually it was cleared.  Another freekick from Lewis was drilled low into the box, it hit a couple of defenders, almost fell for Tuds who put his shot over from in the area.

I won’t lie, it was  dull first half – there were chances for both sides though, I suppose.  Cotterill apparently thought the same from the way Luke Chambers described the half time exchange in his post-match interview.  There needed to be more endeavour, more workrate and something to wake the disappointingly low crowd from their slumbers – just over 18,000 Forest fans in the ground with a fairly modest following of 446 fans from Reading making the trip.

Reid replaced Majewski for the start of the second half, and moved to sit behind Tudgay, with Findley moving to the left wing.  The second half certainly started more positively from a Reds perspective.  A delivery from the left into the box from McGugan caused some uncertainty in the box, but was eventually cleared after a couple of attempts.

The Reds began to look a bit more like breaking the deadlock though – even deliveries from corners weren’t completely shocking as they have been of late – a McGugan corner almost found Chambers in the box.  Tudgay – working hard to hold the ball up and be a threat up front with sometimes fairly limited support – latched onto a pass from Findley and fashioned a shooting chance from the D, the set-up was better than the shot which was pretty much straight at the keeper.

Loan-man Cunningham was having a decent game in defence too – he was on hand to block an effort from Karacan, again fortune favoured us somewhat when the rebound fell for Cummings who missed the target on the follow-up.

We eventually grabbed the lead with fifteen minutes on the clock.  Reid had lost the ball, but pleasingly worked back to help get it back – eventually it came to McGugan who fed Chambers who’d overlapped down the right, he put in a nice cross in to Tudgay who showed great skill in controlling, turning and striking a decent shot past the keeper and in off the far post in the Trent End goal.  A fitting reward for his hard work of late.

This really helped to give the ailing crowd a boost, and seemed in turn to spur on the Forest players.  A nice run from McGugan was halted cynically by Cummings, the resulting freekick being hit by the fouled man and nearly catching out Federici at his near-post.  A corner after, this time from Reid, was cleared as far as McGugan who tried his luck from range but missed the target.

Cotterill shored up a little by introducing Moloney for Findley, taking up position on the left of midfield (so that’s two right backs on the pitch, playing on both wings, with a centreback at right back – and we thought Smoulderwood was a sod for square pegs and round holes!!).  He pinged in a lovely shot shortly after coming on though, after Reid and McGugan had been playing keep-ball in the corner.  Federici was alert enough to make the save at his near post from Moloney’s well-struck shot though.

Into stoppage time and Reading – who’d been very quiet in the second half – finally started to show some urgency and came bloody close to equalising.  A cross came in from the right, and Le Fondre got a decent header on it looking like it was going to get across Camp and in, but the Reds ‘keeper was able to parry it away, and make sure it wasn’t into the path of other onrushing Reading players, allowing us to get the ball clear and to safety.  A cracking save.

All in all, a very welcome three points indeed.  If I’d had the chance to do a preview I’d have been somewhat reticent to predict a home win – but perhaps reflect that with Reading typically likely to play a more open style of football than the Hull City’s of this world, it might give us opportunities.  As it turns out, this was a pretty closed-off encounter too between two teams perhaps not at their attacking best at the moment.

It doesn’t matter though – it’s all about points on the board for the Reds in these early games of Steve Cotterill’s tenure.  As he said himself post-match, our job is to play our part and get behind him and the boys as much as possible to spur them on.  Preferably by not spouting the usual fate-tempting masterpieces like ‘How shit must you be, we’re winning at home!’ type songs – don’t you people learn from games like against Birmingham?!

To finish on a completely unrelated-t0-Forest note – it was really saddening to hear about Doncaster Rovers striker Billy Sharp losing his baby son this week just days after his birth.  What a brave thing to have played this evening – and how great he notched a goal that he dedicated to the memory of Louie Sharp.  Rest in peace, Louie, and I’m sure I can feel safe in extending mine and all Forest fans best wishes to Billy and his family.