Not out of the woods yet…

Nottingham Forest – 2
Coventry City – 0

Phew. What a relief that is – results elsewhere combined of course with the points deduction handed out to Portsmouth mean that not only have we registered a much-needed home win against a relegation rival, we have also found ourselves three points clear outside the drop zone.  Considering we were six points from safety earlier in the week, it’s a remarkable turnaround of fortunes considering this has been the season where it seems everything that could go wrong has done.

However, realism is important – we aren’t out of the woods yet by a long chalk.  Without wishing to be disrespectful the run Coventry are on away from the Ricoh Arena makes them probably the biggest home banker you’ll ever see in this league.  What was promising was a few things – an ineffective starting eleven was adjusted at half time, and whilst even the second half performance wasn’t groundbreaking, we got the goals and the result.

I can forgive quite a lot if we get the result – so well done to the team and, figure of much criticism, the manager for that.  Of course, one swallow does not make a summer – and with a daunting trip to Birmingham up next there’s still plenty to worry about.  Hopefully McCleary’s injury isn’t too bad as his ongoing impact is something we are coming to depend upon – and it must’ve been great for Findley to net afterthat first touch against Watford.

There were two changes  to the side that fell up at the Riverside midweek, Marcus Tudgay and Andy Reid coming in to replace Ishmael Miller and Marlon Harewood in a strange looking selection that I can at best represent like this:

Wootton  Chambers   Higginbotham   Elokobi
Gunter    Moussi    Guerdioura   McCleary

It’s fair to say the first half was a largely dull affair – the match preview moniker of ‘The Clash of the Shite ‘Uns‘ was certainly looking apt.  We forced an early corner through good work from Guerdioura passing to Gunter who forced the ball over the line off a Coventry defender.  The ball in from Reid wasn’t the best though and fairly easily gathered by the Sky Blues ‘keeper Joe Murphy.

At the other end whilst Coventry – much like us – looked devoid of confidence and ideas, Alex Nimely looked a bit of a livewire – a decent strike from the loan man from around 25 yards wasn’t too far wide with Camp diving across.  Forest had a similar opportunity when Garath McCleary found Tudgay with plenty of space to pick out a shot from around 20 yards which he put wide – he really ought to have been hitting the target.

Other half-opportunities came when a clever flick from Reid set Elokobi loose down the left side, he fired in a dangerous cross but there was nobody in the right place to convert it.  The half progressed with both sides spectacularly wasteful in possession and creating practically nothing.  One close effort from McCleary who cut in from the left and tried to a curl a shot in from the edge of the area, it deflected and gave us another corner (which, of course, came to nowt).

Coventry registered what was probably the first shot on target of the game towards the end of the half, Norwood put the ball in from the left finding McSheffrey whose shot was tame and easy for Camp to gather.  The former Reds loanee was causing trouble shortly after too, getting a shot away which deflected for a corner – they had a few corners at the death which, much like us, they never really looked like doing a great deal with!

The half time whistle was greeted with boos.  I have mixed feelings on this – I respect people’s right to express themselves but I can’t see booing being helpful while the game is ‘live’ so to speak.  I suppose it’s possible it might’ve spurred on the players – but I’m not quite so sure about that.  Certainly the healthy but one-song-obsessed (which was apparently written by Jimmy Hill) following from Coventry applauded their side off.

Steve Cotterill obviously recognised the lack of – well – pretty much anything in the first half and elected to make a couple of changes.  He withdrew Wootton (who’d had bugger all to do really) and Tudgay (who was spectacularly ineffective) for Blackstock and Findley, and reverted to a more conventional formation with Gunter moving back to fullback, McCleary on the right and Reid on the left (initially, at least).

The early signs were quite positive – a ball in from Gunter caused a degree of bedlam in the box, the ball ending up going in the air and Murphy spilling the ball under pressure from Blackstock.  The ball spun away and struck the post before eventually being bundled away for a corner.  McCleary and Gunter combined well to ultimately give Gunts an opportunity – but Murphy was out quick to smother the chance – a pity, would’ve been great for Gunts to exorcise the demons of last week!

A rare break from Coventry almost gave them the lead – a long hoof forward was nodded back well by the giant Sky Blues striker Clive Platt where it sat up nicely for the onrushing Gary Deegan who absolutely leathered it from around 20 yards, putting it just wide.  It would’ve been some goal.  This spurred them on with McSheffrey putting it across the area, with Chambers needing to put a block in at the expense of a corner.

I thought we had scored when a ball in by McCleary found Reidy lurking at close range – he got a foot on it, diverted it goalwards only to be stopped by a cracking save from Murphy.  Moments later Blackstock fed the ball to Findley in the area who was clearly hacked down.  Referee Mark Clattenburg wasn’t interested – and, perhaps, that’s for the best.  Of course, we could always have missed a penalty, and we didn’t have to wait long for retribution!

The exact build-up for McCleary’s opener is a little bit sketchy – I think Chambers put the ball to him, the winger picked the ball up from the half way line right of centre – and basically ran at Coventry who – to a man – back off him until getting to the edge of the area, where he got past a couple before opening up an opportunity to place a left footed shot well into the bottom left corner.  Top marks to Garath – but a poor show from Coventry.  We’d have been gutted to concede a goal like that!

Gaz was substituted shortly after which was baffling at the time, but it turns out he’s been feeling his hamstring a bit all week and as a precaution was withdrawn for forgotten man Jonathan Greening.  He took up position on the left, with Reidy moving right.  He was immediately involved with some committed challenges – good to see.  A scare occured when Guerdioura went down injured but after treatment he continued.

The nerves were finally settled when Andy Reid picked up the ball deep and picked out a delicious pass to Robbie Findley who did really well with timing his run to beat the offside trap, chest the ball down and slot the ball under Murphy to basically secure the points for us.  A big relief for all concerned – well done to all concerned, but you’ll forgive our cynicism in stating this is the beginning of a recovery, one that needs to continue if we are to survive.

It feels good to look at that league table and see us not in the bottom three, but we’re not too far from it still, and whilst I’m delighted to have won it was against probably the worst team we’ve seen here for some time – against whom we really only offered a proper match too for part of the second half.  It’s hard to feel too confident on the strength of that, however, we should enjoy the moment.

Check out Big G’s goal, it was nice…