Thank goodness that’s over..

Dexter caps off a great recovery from injury with a brace against relegated Pompey

Nottingham Forest – 2
Portsmouth – 0

A pointless game played at generally a little above walking-pace by two sides who’ve endured a torrid season.  A decent  but quiet home crowd, and spirited going-to-have-a-good-time-no-matter-what made for a strange atmosphere, but a reasonably good-natured one.  A largely forgettable first half was goalless, a Dexter Blackstock brace snagged the points for the Reds putting us 19th in the final league table.

I believe that’s one place higher than where we were when Steve Cotterill took charge of us.

I’d half been expecting to see fringe players chucked in, but the gaffer stuck with the formula that has enabled us to limp our way out of the relegation picture, and ultimately it delivered a rare home win, but well, it wasn’t one that will live long in the memories, that’s for sure!  Funnily enough, nobody wanted to pitch invade (that magic tape worked for a change!) so the ‘lap of appreciation’ went off without a hitch, aside from what felt like a huge delay.

Gunter    Chambers    Lynch    Cunningham
McCleary    Guedioura    McGugan    Reid

Forest started okay, Blackstock wasn’t quick enough to react to a McGugan crossed ball allowing Ashdown to make the save.  Guedioura fashioned a chance for himself with some nice skill to beat two players, his shot was on target but an easy save for the Pompey ‘keeper.  At the other end an increasingly common Camp fumble could’ve caused us problems from an Etuhu shot, but Chambers was on hand to clear the danger.

Another break from the visitors culminated in a shot from Norris that was blocked by Cunningham.  With their tails up, Chris Maguire had a decent effort from around the twenty-five yard mark which again Camp was less than decisive with, making the save at the second attempt.  The game then rapidly descended into the pedestrian really.  Reidy tried to cause some problems but his shot was deflected for a corner.

As is customary for a Forest corner, the ball soon ended up back in our area – Camp more decisive in saving from Varney who had shot from inside the area.  Back on the attack it was Reid of all people who rose in the box to head the ball towards the back post where it was scrambled wide.  The best chance of the half probably fell to Gunts, some great work by Cunningham on the left saw the ball drilled in low, falling for Gunter running into the box, he elected for a left footed effort which ended up in the Pompey fans.

The first half fizzled out and well, it was kind of par for what has been a spectacularly disappointing season.  Scores from elsewhere were announced, and nobody really paid attention, once again a selection of supporters failed to kick the ball through the hole in the Victor Chandler board – possibly the most rubbish half-time entertainment ever.  Garath McCleary had won player of the season – unsurprising, personally I’d have singled out Joel Lynch without wishing to downplay the fantastic contribution Gaz has made too.

The other thing of note was I managed to get my mits on a programme at half time to see the season ticket prices for next season – frozen.  If they’d gone up it would’ve taken the piss, personally I think the prices compared to similar-stature clubs is already too high, however with the uncertainty around ownership and funding it’s likely that the club will depend more wholly on cash it generates – so a price cut would probably have been reckless.

Early in the second half Dex spurned a great chance – Gunter was the architect of the chance, winning the ball and getting the ball to Blackstock who conspired to hit it over from ten yards out.  Forest actually had a fair bit of possession but struggled to do much with it, a scrappy encounter in our area ended with Norris putting his shot over from the edge of the area.  Gunter needed to be on hand after to block Varney’s cross which was heading to Maguire.

A little past an hour gone and Majewski was withdrawn for Paul Anderson, who certainly looked eager with some promising early touches, but again Forest struggled to create many meaningful opportunities.  Just as we were resigned to a limp 0-0 finish Dexter Blackstock – who’d had a wasteful afternoon so far – broke the deadlock.  Cunningham crossed, it found McCleary who cut it back across the goal giving Dex an open goal from a yard out.

Moussi was introduced for the not-exactly-energetic (sic) McGugan, and Dex was nearly on the scoresheet again – he couldn’t get much power on his header but it was well-directed and only stopped thanks to a fine save by Ashdown.  He made two more saves from the Forest frontman who’d got more accurate, but not quite enough to beat the ‘keeper again.  Guedioura had picked up a few knocks over the course of the second half, and was finally taken off.

It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the impact Adlene has had on our season – it’s huge.  He’s been a revelation in midfield and whilst I don’t hold out much hope, I dearly hope that that isn’t the last time we see him in a Forest shirt.  Clearly I’m not alone, he was given a fantastic ovation by the appreciative Forest fans as he was replaced by his fellow Wolves-mate George Elokobi – who was warmly welcomed to the pitch.

Portsmouth took a bizarre corner, it moved in the air and it appeared that Camp ended up punching it up onto the underside of the bar, I think it ended up in but the linesman had indicated the corner had curled out of play before reaching the danger area.  A strange one indeed!  In the meantime, Forest ended the season by actually scoring from a corner!  Dex rose to meet Reid’s corner and squeeze his header through a crowded area into the net.

Much like our first goal, the Portsmouth fans probably celebrated just as much as we did – if not slightly more.  Amusing chances of ‘Let us score!’ were almost taken up by home fans too, such is the forlorn hope their club has become at the moment, it wasn’t to be though – but there was plenty of mutual appreciation between the two sets of fans which is always good to see.  I hope the future for them isn’t as bleak as it appears at the moment.

All in all, an average game to finish off an appalling season.  I suppose our opponents for the day give us that stark relief of realising that it could’ve been worse though – now we enter a summer of more uncertainty than we’ve had for some time.  As ever, I’m not really interested in seeking or re-hashing the inevitable flurry of rumours – so I’ll await some news before joining the speculation about the future of the club.

Whilst I was cynical about the ‘lap of appreciation’ it was a good opportunity to show some love to the loan signings that have made such an impact, as well as some of our established squad who we might not see in a Forest shirt again – it was great too to see Chris Cohen walking around with the lads, and George Elokobi deciding to film the crowd with an iPad of all devices.  How many of that group of people walking around the pitch are here next season remains to be seen.

Have a great summer, everyone – I’m sure there’ll be a few updates before next season commences.  In the meantime, I hope you’re all coping in these drought conditions!