Reds robbed by Brighton, again!

Reidy's freekick strikes the post...

Nottingham Forest – 1
Brighton and Hove Albion – 1

It was almost going to be the most undeserving double a team have ever done.  Earlier in the season at the Amex Stadium the Seagulls triumphed 1-0 with a late goal, their only attempt in a game dominated by Forest, and this afternoon fortunately their goal – the only attempt in a game dominated by Forest, was a little earlier this time.  It gave us time to get an injury time equaliser to rescue a point that could have been all three.

Brighton are a surprisingly niggly team for one with a reputation for attractive football, full of gamesmanship, sneaky kicks and cynical play.  With a referee who didn’t clamp down on it, it made for a frustrating afternoon at times.  Whilst it’s disappointing to have not got win, particularly given the chances we had and the defensive lapse that let the visitors score, four points from Leeds away and Brighton at home is good going.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Steve Cotterill decided not to tinker with the side that got such an impressive result at Elland Road.  Tudgay returned to the bench from suspension, the only potential other chances might have seen Higginbotham or Elokobi returning – but their recovery clearly isn’t that far along, or perhaps Steve Cotterill is considering the need to keep the loan pair fresh for battles to come.

Gunter    Chambers    Lynch    Cunningham
McCleary    Moussi    Guedioura    Reid

It was a decent start and a decent atmosphere from the home crowd, buoyed by the midweek heroics.  A good following from Brighton too, whose travelling supporters have risen along with the stock of the club in recent years.  A cagey start saw the visitors comfortable to keep possession patiently and Forest struggle to get a hold on the game.  There were no real significant inroads made by either side on the goals.

Our first real attempt was a long ranger from Adlene Guedioura – it brought some Ooohs from sections of the ground but for most it was apparent his powerful drive was considerably off target.  For their part the Seagulls attacked and saw Barnes cut in from the right and also hit an effort well off target.  Gued was getting to grips with midfield though, some good work from him on the right saw him get the ball across the face of the goal but with nobody to convert we had to settle for a corner.

There were cries for a penalty but the referee got the call right from my view, when either some cunning trickery or accidental clumsiness saw Moussi get the ball past two before being cynically chopped down by Lewis Dunk right on the edge of the area – he gave the free kick which was right of centre, taken by Reidy it was expertly curled around the wall and off the far post to safety.  A cracking hit from him.

Guedioura was making a nuisance of him self again – he nicked the ball from a visiting player and looked to have shaped to shoot, but instead tried to tee up Blackstock who couldn’t get his effort on target.  Probably our best chance came when Reid picked out a cracking cross to the back post where he found Blackstock but the Reds striker put his header wide when he really ought to have been hitting the target (although he was under a bit of pressure from a defender).

Another long range effort from Guedioura was just wide – the ball had come out from a corner and this time was much closer to hitting the target.  It was a pleasing half from the Reds, they’d played well and knocked the ball around nicely – a bit more sharpness in front of goal and things boded well.  Brighton had offered little going forward, although obviously those of us who went to the away fixture will remember well they only need one chance.

Much like the first half the second took a while to spring into life – McCleary, who’d been quiet and quite well marshalled – had a break down the right, and put a low ball in which almost picked out Guedioura.  The attempted clearance fell to Moussi who fed the ball to Reidy, but as with many of the Irishman’s crosses this afternoon it was too close to the ‘keeper and was gathered fairly easily by Brezovan.

As noted above, Brighton are a dirty niggly side – none more so than Ashley Barnes.  He should’ve been in the book for an ugly hack on McCleary who’d shown him a clean pair of heels down the right.  A moment later he did the same to Gunter on the right of the area – he got the booking this time, but this should’ve been his second.  He even had the nerve to protest his innocence.

Then the suckerpunch – a freekick was given when Lynch was a little over-zealous in an aerial challenge, the right call from the referee, but similar incidents at the other end hadn’t given us freekicks.  Vincente delivered it from 35 yards out over the packed area to the six yard line, for reasons best known to our defenders Sam Vokes was able to break from the pack without so much as a sniff of a marker, Lee Camp half-came then didn’t and the striker glanced his header over him into the net.

A well-taken freekick, a great run – but bloody awful defending for sure.  This brought the visiting fans to life somewhat, they were impressive in number if not in voice aside from straight after the goal.  This spurred on the home fans somewhat, which was mirrored on the pitch as Forest looked to pick themselves up and get back into it.  Guedioura unleashed a powerful drive on target this time, but it was straight at the ‘keeper who punched rather than try to gather.

McCleary worked well down the right and fired a shot from a tight angle – it deflected, and brought a save from Brezovan for a Reds corner.  Tudgay was introduced with about twenty minutes left for Majewski, Raddy had had a decent game but did appear to be tiring so probably the right call from the gaffer. Guedioura had another long range effort, this time he had the keeper well beaten, but not the post – it struck the inside of it and came back out.

Steve Cotterill withdrew McCleary who it transpires has been feeling a tight hamstring and replaced him with the lacklustre looking Ishmael Miller who went out onto the right.  It was the substitute whose fairly feeble effort evaded everyone in the box and dribbled against the post before eventually being cleared out for a corner.  The final throw of the dice was to take off Cunnningham – an excellent game for the youngster today – for McGugan.

As noted before, Brighton should’ve been a man down anyway – but they were as stoppage time arrived when Matt Sparrow picked up a second booking for a fairly silly foul.  It was deep into stoppage time when the ball was knocked into the box with Tudgay nodding down, it was a bit messy in there, and a hint of a handball from Lynch I thought before it eventually fell for him to shoot low into the Trent End goal to get us the point.

A good game, and a solid performance from the Reds who were desperately unlucky.  Just as elements of luck saw everything go in at Elland Road, today the woodwork spared Brighton’s blushes as did our wastefulness with a couple of opportunities to be a little more deadly.  Workrate was great though, style of play much more pleasing than of late – so there’s a lot to be pleased about, but a cursory glance at the league table underlines there’s still a lot more work to do.

It’s disappointing to have been effectively undone by a single solitary defensive lapse – and whilst I’ve been critical of Brighton’s niggling and cheating and gamesmanship, credit has to go to them for making the best of the limited opportunities they created.  Gus Poyet sounded displeased with his sides’ performance in his post-match interview on the football league show, as well he might be – Steve Cotterill rightly praised his side and the fans.

Tuesday’s trip to Leicester will finally end the game-in-hand debate and make the likely target we are working towards more transparent.  With Portmouth and Doncaster also in action (and Peterborough if we’re slightly optimistically looking upward).  We really could’ve done without Coventry picking up the win today.  I think eight points might be enough for us now, using a crude combination of prediction, basic assumption and random guesswork.

Now, whilst we’ve got some daunting fixtures between now and the end of the season if we can’t pick up an average of a point per game for the remainder of the season, then you’d be forced to conclude that we are indeed relegation fodder.  I feel cautiously optimistic if we can keep McCleary, Guedioura and Reidy fit, continue to reintegrate Raddy into the side and of course keep Dex firing.  A team effort indeed.  We were robbed, though.