A fairly unspectacular first half in which the Reds had some chances, but were largely nullified by the visitors exploded into goals in the second half. Forest lapsed in concentration twice in quick succession and found themselves two goals down – a couple of O’Driscoll substitutions later and we’d hauled ourselves back level – so it should go down as a good result.
The only change to the line-up was Simon Cox – subject of an injury scare – was dropped to the bench and replaced by Billy Sharp. On the subject of whom, some fans have set up an initiative where they will donate cash to the LJS Foundation for every goal he scores for us – check out this link if you’d like to join in, I think it’s a great idea!
Forest too are getting behind the cause, agreeing to stock wristbands in the club shop and have collection containers in there – from what I heard they sold out of bands before the Birmingham game, which is great! I digress, here’s the team as started:
Hutchinson Ayala Collins Halford
Guedioura McGugan Gillett Reid
Our first real opportunity came a little after ten minutes when Butland struggled with a Hutchinson cross, Sharp latched onto the ball in the area but by the time he’d composed himself the shot was straight at the ‘keeper. The next chance was from McGugan – a carbon copy freekick from the same spot as against Charlton, if anything struck better, but tipped over well by the ‘keeper.
Probably the best opportunity for us came part way through the half – a ball from Gillett sent Sharp a little bit too far down the right, but he dug out a ball to Reid on the left. Reid had options for the pull-back into the area but instead opted to return the ball over to Sharp, a pity but some nice movement and awareness nonetheless.
At the other end Camp was alert when King was put through by Lita, getting out to block any chance of the sex offender scoring. Reidy had a freekick on target which again Butland was equal to with a tip over, whilst King squandered a decent opportunity for Birmingham by firing over as the half drew to a close.
Our half time reflections were that Birmingham were certainly – Wigan aside – the best team we’d seen so far at the City Ground, they were proving more difficult to execute a passing game against, we also lamented the lack of cutting edge of decision-making for the opportunities we did fashion. We’d edged the first half, but only just.
We started the second half brightly with a dangerous cross from Reidy, but quite rapidly the game became somewhat of a struggle. Referee Mark Halsey was proving unpopular as ever so it was quite amusing when Sharp inadvertently took him out (the referee, of course, missing the foul on Sharp that caused him to floor the official).
SO’D made an uncharacteristically early change on the hour, taking off the tired looking Dexter Blackstock and introducing Simon Cox, but it was the visitors who were to draw first blood soon after. A lapse allowed Marlon King a shooting chance which was well blocked by Hutchinson, but the rebound fell for Mullins who struck powerfully goalward and in via a deflection.
We’d barely had a chance to blink when Redmond made a great run down the right, cutting the ball back to King who placed an accurate finish in the bottom corner to put the West Midlanders two goals to the good. Harsh on Forest in terms of balance of play, but you certainly couldn’t argue with the incisiveness of the Blues’ attacking play.
It only took us a couple of minutes to reignite our game though – a precise pass of fifty yards or more from McGugan found Cox in the box, he deftly controlled it with his right foot, cushioning the ball up infront of him – in the meantime, Butland was rushing out of his goal, Cox casually flicked his right foot again to put the ball over the ‘keeper and in the goal, evading the two defenders on the line.
Sean made another change, introducing Harding for Guedioura (who’d also had a rather quiet game). Harding went to left wing back, Hutchinson to right wing back with Halford slotting in to the right hand side of a defensive three alongside Collins and Ayala. A ballsy move, but one that started to give us the width we’d lacked earlier in the game.
Whilst we were making inroads, the last change saw him gamble on losing the defensive screening of Gillett – another impressive game from the midfielder – and introducing the creative influence of Majewski. Whilst the Pole might not have been directly involved in the equaliser, his presence certainly gave our opponents something different to think about.
As it happens, it was an unlikely source of a goal – but as Halford took the ball forward a gap like Moses created in the Red Sea opened up, he duly took advantage and strode further forward, clipping a decent ball in which found Harding at the back post. His shot was off target but deflected in off a defender to give us the equaliser.
I will admit it was quite a thrill to see a blonde haired number 3 marauding forward to sweep the ball into the net, even if it was really an own goal! There was a chance for the winner too, a difficult aerial ball was met by Billy Sharp but he couldn’t get his header on target – I’d have liked nothing better than to celebrate three points by chucking the first of what I hope will be many pound donations to the LJS Foundation.
As it is, it wasn’t to be – and given the circumstances a draw is a decent result. Despite their shaky start I expect Birmingham to be in the play-off or even automatic mix as the season draws on, the jury might be out for some on Lee Clark but he has a cracking squad at his disposal. Whilst it’s annoying to have lapsed and let in two, our response to that was fantastic, and should see us in good spirits for forthcoming trips to Palace and Leeds.
The goals are here if you’ve not seen ’em yet.
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