Nottingham Forest – 2
Burnley – 0
I must admit that at half-time I was quietly resigning myself to a draw – whilst we saw a much improved performance from Forest, they were struggling to convert some nice passages of play into meaningful chances before the break, but some subtle changes in approach helped us to unlock Burnley and snag the win.
Much to the delight of the callers to Matchtalk, I’m sure, Sean opted for two up front – with Dexter returning to the starting eleven along with a surprise start for Lewis McGugan – and the excellent news that Majewski and Ayala were fit enough to take places on the bench, resulting in Forest lining up something like this:
Hutton Ward Collins Harding
Lansbury Gillett McGugan Reid
In reality the midfield was inevitably narrow, as Gillett sat deep whilst Reid and McGugan roamed – with the full-backs clearly having the brief to get forward when the opportunity arose. The tricky with this was when Burnley attacked our fullbacks, as ever, were exposed – Harding was usually on his own, whilst even when Lansbury was back to assist Hutton the Clarets would often have three attacking down there.
The first half I’d say we rode our luck a bit. Dyche’s side had great movement in and around our box which pulled our defenders all over the place and created some real opportunities. Their first chance came through a mistake, though – Ward totally mis-timed a header and the ball fell to Charlie Austin.
The 21-goal striker is probably the last person you’d want to end up clean through with the ball dropping to him – luckily for us he rushed his shot from the edge of the area putting it off target when there looked to be ample time to have controlled and got a bit closer to make sure of getting the ball past Lee Camp. A definite let off early doors.
Paterson was the next to spurn an opportunity, putting his effort just wide after a cross from the right from Trippier. Whilst Forest were, at times, passing the ball neatly we didn’t fashion much to bother Lee Grant. A low freekick from McGugan was close but just wide having picked up a deflection, whilst Dex couldn’t get a header from Hutton’s cross on target.
The strikers were isolated from midfield somewhat, so it was often them heading out wide to get the ball – Sharp did this and was picked out by Reid for a pass, he crossed well towards Blackstock but he wasn’t able to get any real power on his header which was straight at the ‘keeper.
Burnley looked dangerous on the break – and a counter-attack culminating in a cracking throughball from Dean Marney put Chris McCann clear of the Reds offside trap but mercifully for us he was unable to convert. Paterson was given aeons of time to pick out a shot that Camp saved as the half came to a close, he spilled the shot though but Harding was able to get it clear.
Whilst there was no obvious change post-half-time, the fullbacks were a little more disciplined and the ‘wingers’ were a little more likely to be found in wide positions, and whilst initially we weren’t exactly creating a plethora of chances we did at least appear to have nullified the very real threat that Burnley had been posing in the first half.
A Reid cross from the left found Blackstock, his header fell for McGugan in the area who elected for a volley comfortably over when perhaps there was time to control it and do something more productive. I don’t suppose we’d be complaining if he’d leathered one into the top corner though, so maybe we shouldn’t be too critical when ambitious efforts don’t quite come off.
With the hour mark coming up Lansbury was withdrawn for Cohen, and he proved a lucky omen as moments later we were ahead. Reidy – who many had been chuntering about (self-included) demonstrated his value, playing in a deep cross that found Blackstock in the area who looped his header perfectly into the ‘net beyond the despairing grasp of Lee Grant.
I must admit I was surprised to see it not disallowed as Dex was definitely climbing on the defender, and the referee had given every challenge as a foul against him for much of the game – but well, we’ll take that, thankyouverymuchindeed! Certainly Sean ‘Stonecold Steve Austin’ Dyche wasn’t happy about it, and I can see why.
The goal got Burnley going again, and Camp made a decent save from Austin to maintain the Reds lead, the top marksman cutting inside having been fed the ball from Lafferty before unleashing a powerful strike. Substitute Sam Vokes spurned a good chance by heading wide from close range shortly after being introduced.
O’Driscoll replaced Gillett with Moussi in the defensive midfield role, and the big fella was involved from the off with some decent touches and passes (whilst always maintaining that uniquely Moussi-like ability to not look in full control of his limbs!). Guedioura replaced McGugan a few minutes later and immediately injected more urgency into proceedings with an eye-catching performance.
With the Burnley central-defence standing flat-footed in a line, Reid slotted through a lovely pass to find the arcing run of Billy Sharp – he got through one on one with Lee Grant and, just as the defender was catching him up, came up with a composed finish to double the Reds lead and effectively put the game to bed.
Sean definitely knows best – I’d have been tempted to take Reidy off before he assisted both the goals that enabled us to win the match!
A good result, and a very good second half performance in particular. The first half wasn’t bad as such, but we were limited in the opportunities we created – it’s good to see that some minor adjustments gave us enough options to get a result against a decent side. It’s true we rode our luck defensively in the first half, and I’d definitely say that 2-0 is flattering to us.
This was a 1-0 either way or draw type game on balance of play, I thought. But, with players coming back from injury and illness, and hopefully some improved confidence from players and fans alike after a good result perhaps we can look forward to some more convincing displays.
Oh yeah, and if you hadn’t summarily dismissed the ridiculous rumours about impending financial meltdown anyway – then you should do so. Apparently there was an issue with BACS payments to Forest staff, which of course was jumped upon with glee by desperate fans of a certain other club. So yeah, nothing to see here.
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