Reds repell physical Bolton for a point..

“I didn’t see a shove”, said Kevin Davies post-match. Cheating git.

Bolton Wanderers – 2
Nottingham Forest – 2

A bit of frustration, but a lot of pride in the boys after this performance.  Our first test of an overtly physical side and whilst of course there are lessons to be learned (not least that referees cannot be relied upon to see what is patently obvious – but we knew that already!) there are so many positive signs to be taken.

The first half hour of the match saw Forest impose their passing game on the hosts who had little answer beyond bludgeoning their way into the game.  Kevin Davies was booked early for annihilating Dan Harding for no good reason – that would probably prove unfortunately as subsequently the troublesome frontman seemed to have immunity from any action from the referee at all.

Lewis McGugan had given us the lead with an absolute thunderbolt, but in the last ten to fifteen minutes of the first half Bolton realised our naivity in dealing with their more physical approach and looked dangerous in the final moments of the second half – particularly given their apparent freedom to shove our players where they liked when launching balls into the area.

The second half continued with home dominance initially, and the lead for them following a lapse from Greg Halford gifting the ball to Davies to tee up Sordell for a smart finish.  We did come back though having doggedly attempted to get the ball on the deck and were rewarded with a tremendous finish from Reidy to level.  Both sides could have nicked it in the closing stages.

Sean O’Driscoll opted not to change the formula that had worked so well at Huddersfield and named the same starting eleven.

Moloney    Halford   Collins    Harding
Guedioura   Gillett  McGugan   Reid
Blackstock   Cox

On the bench Ishmael Miller was absent – it turns out because we’ve loaned him for a season to Middlesbrough.  Seems like a good move all round to me – through injury, managerial turnover and – well – frankly unimpressive appearances in a Forest shirt clearly pastures new could be a good thing for the striker, and it would be good to get his wages paid by someone else!

As noted above – less than a minute was on the clock when the evening’s pantomime villain Kevin Davies was booked for a late challenge on Harding.  If this was the referee attempting to assert his authority on the match, it didn’t work.  Davies – who looks like a fat Kingsley Black – continued to elbow, shove and foul his way through the game with no further punishment.

In the early play a decent cross in from Moloney was nearly turned into his own net by former Forest target Matt Mills.  Whilst the resulting corner was cleared, it found McGugan who cut inside and fired a tame left footed effort goalward which was easily dealt with by Bogdan.  Dex too fired straight at the keeper from a tight angle when perhaps trying to pick out Cox in the box would’ve been a better bet.

A quarter of an hour in and a Bolton throw-in was eventually intercepted by the Reds, as the ball fell to McGugan 30 yards out I thought he might step outside of the defender and go for a far post strike, but he unleashed an absolute piledriver into the near top corner, swerving, dipping -it looked delicious from my seat directly behind him – it clipped the bar and found the net – Bogdan had no chance at all.

Forest were buoyed by the strike, and continued to press – with McGugan turning provider, Cox wasn’t able to direct his effort away from the Bolton ‘keeper.  Bolton were stirring through, Bolton’s first proper assault on our goal saw Collins get his head to the ball ahead of Davies to nod behind.  The referee gave a goal kick when it clearly should’ve been a corner.

Adlene Guedioura was the latest to fire an effort pretty much straight at Bogdan, but as Bolton started to close down our passing much more readily they did fight their way back into it.  A ball into the box was heading for Collins who was unceremoniously shoved over by Davies, who then headed against the post.  The ball came out to Eagles who finished coolly to equalise with the Reds players quite rightly pointing out the push.

The referee ignored this – as he had ignored Davies’ earlier two-handed propulsion of Halford into Matt Mills during another corner, with both players ending up needing treatment before returning to the action.  At one point the referee did had a word with Davies about his, well, I can only call it cheating – presumably reminding him he was on a yellow, alas he never made good with that warning.

Bolton tails were well and truly up now – and Marvin Sordell should really have done better when the Reds defence deigned to give him far too much space in the box to be picked out by a cross which he tried to loop over Camp.  Campy was equal to it and made the save by tipping over for another corner. A final scare came when Mears outpaced Harding to get a cross in, but Halford was able to get it clear.

So half time all square – Bolton’s ground is okay for a relative new-build.  It is set edge of town in a retail park much like Derby’s, which I don’t like.  At times the home fans made some noise, to be fair – a section of them relying on a poxy drummer to achieve this.  Despite also being a weeknight game, and a match televised on Sky, Forest took 1,366 fans – 400 more than Derby managed on Tuesday’s untelevised trip.

Amusingly the Bolton fans made a few jibes of us ‘coming in a taxi’ despite their less than impressive home attendance.

Whilst I have complained a lot about their first goal, there’s nobody to blame but ourselves for their second – early in the second half I can only assume Halford was trying to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick, but Davies was alert to this and picked his pocket.  The pass he made to Sordell left the Team GB striker with a lot to do, and it was a nice finish at an awkward height that saw him direct the ball in off the far post to give Bolton the lead.

He ought to have put the game to bed, too – Sordell again found space in the area but lacked composure and put his side-footed effort over.  Forest took a while to get back into the game, but having at least limited Bolton’s opportunities we were starting to get the ball on the deck again and play some football – and after about ten minutes or so of tentatively working our way back into the game we had our reward.

Collins clipped a good ball forward which Blackstock was able to flick on to Cox, he found Reid who’d made a clever run with a bit of space and he lofted an immaculate finish over Bogdan and in off the far post.  From my seat I was convinced he’d put it over and was almost head-in-handing as it dropped under the bar, off the post and in – a lovely lovely goal and really gave the ‘keeper absolutely no chance at all.

Guedioura was subject to calls of ‘Off! Off! Off!’ from the home fans aftera  late challenge on Ricketts.  He picked up a booking, which was probably about right – particularly considering the leniency showed elsewhere by the officials.  Bolton were roused into further action, Andrews headed straight at Camp from close range, and Davies should have hit the  target unmarked in the 6 yard box but he volleyed over.

Forest too fancied their chances of snagging a first away win of the season – Cox put a header at the back stick wide under close attentions of Tyrone Mears.  He was so frustrated at not scoring he punched the goalpost – although I don’t think it was that easy-a-chance.  Reidy had another effort that he put just over this time, and the final chance of the match came when the Reds broke thanks to Gillett, he ended up down the right and put in a wicked teasing ball that Cox couldn’t quite get on the end of.

All in all, delighted with the point – of course there are niggles, gripes and injustices – but it’s great to see Forest undergo a stern test from a side who are very good at what they do.  Bristol and Huddersfield attempted to play on the deck like us, so it’s good to see us face up to a brutish side and come out with a point, and have a reasonable case for feeling disappointed that it’s only one (despite what Owen Coyle says in his baffling post-match interview!).

Bolton fans booed their team off – which perhaps belies expectations of a simple ascension back to the top flight they’ve occupied for the last few years.  It’s true they should be a contender, but listening to the locals on the way out of the ground it would appear that Owen Coyle’s conversion of them back to a rather one-dimensional percentage football team isn’t popular.  I must admit I was expecting a bit more craft from them rather than a battering ram approach.

As I continue to stress, this Forest side is a work in progress – to have gone three games unbeaten has really exceeded my expectations and I can only reiterate my admiration for the Al Hasawi family, Sean O’Driscoll and his coaching team and the squad for the remarkable way they have worked to begin what is hopefully a positive era for the club – I’m so proud of them all, that they are achieving results and doing so playing the kind of football that I want to see.

The last words for Greg Halford who plaintively tweeted an apology after the match for his part in the second Bolton goal – don’t apologise, Greg – learn from it, get stronger – this season is our opportunity to stand or fall united as a football club.  We can accept mistakes, there will be many as the season goes on, when we see such effort and the embryonic stages of a football team we can start to feel proud of again after so long.

I’m really looking forward to Tuesday night’s game against Wigan which is – if I’m honest – probably the kind of game that I would be tempted to skip under previous regimes.  Right now I can’t get enough of Forest and long may it continue!

Can’t imagine many of you haven’t seen them, but the highlights are down here before the YouTube police take them away…