With Forest’s attacking threat no Bournemouth fan realistically expected them to get nil.
Eddie selected a rather narrow team compared to normal as despite having seven wingers in the squad he did not have a suitable fit replacement for the injured Fraser. Surman got the gig in a ‘block up their left side’ move. Daniels was only fit enough for the bench so Harte continued at left-back which greatly reduces our attacking threat on that side. It was the usual 4 4 1 1 formation despite my musing that Eddie may plump for two holding midfielders and go 4 2 3 1. What do I know!
Despite what you may think of Billie Davies his teams play good flowing football and as it is always our intent to do the same an open match seemed likely. Straight away Forest poured forward and won several early corners which came to nothing but they were also caught offside which was a trend for them all afternoon…..I’ve never thought of us playing the offside trap and from our seats behind a goal it was hard to gauge whether it was just poor play by Forest or tactical on our part.
We got going in the seventh minute when Rantie ran onto a poor back-pass but allowed the keeper to smother his attempt on goal. Immediately after this it was disaster for the on-loan Henderson when having stopped but not gathered a long-range shot by Abdoun he dived onto the lose ball whilst under challenge from Simon Cox. He immediately started writhing about in pain and gesturing to the bench. As there was no reaction from the other Bournemouth players it was clear that he had sustained the injury in the act of collecting the ball nd nothing to do with Cox (this was confirmed later and that it was a shoulder injury). He was replaced by Allsop after a delay of over five minutes.
The match became end to end with Forest having the better of it but being wasteful with the chances created also not helped by their off-side woes. For us Cook went close with a header from a set piece and Rantie produced a fine save from Darlow with a twenty yard shot. For Forest Henderson, Cox and Lansbury in particular all had efforts blocked, saved or wide whlist Cohen flashed a cross come shot in from the left far too hard for a striker (or a defender for that matter) to react to get a touch.
In the thirty-ninth minute a lose ball fell to Lansbury a long long way out. He advanced a couple of strides before hitting a spectacular curler into Allsop’s top left hand corner. Not a lot you can do about things like that apart from perhaps close him down better but from that distance you don’t expect shots to be taken let alone go in. The goal did not dampen the attitude of the players who kept plugging on. Grabban even hit a post with a toe poke from a few yards after a melee following a Cook long throw.
Another delay occurred not long before half time when a rather bulky assistant ref pulled up lame and was replaced by the fourth-official. This increased the added on time for the half to seven minutes. During this time Forest’s Collins limped off in sympathy to be replaced by Wilson. One down at half time was about right on the balance of play but we didn’t feel out of it because they didn’t look secure at the back. With sub Wilson on this could be further tested in the second half.
Charlie Daniels replaced Ian Harte at half time in a very positive move which would give us more width and attacking options. This had an immediate effect as we came more into the match although Forest were still carving out chances. We started gaining corners and from one of these Forest’s Reid was scythed down by Collison as he attempted to break. A clear yellow card and one was duly issued. Henderson and Cox were still wasting chances for Forest whilst our back four, in particular Ward, were also making interceptions as well as catching various opponents offside. Darius Henderson even managed to round Allsop only to pull his shot wide when scoring was the easiest option.
The longer the match went on the more Forest didn’t know whether to stick or twist. The whole stadium sensed this with tangible nervousness from the home fans and increasing urging from us the away fans for the team to keep going for the equaliser. Pitman had replaced Surman with Grabban going out wide to add pace down the right flank. Both he and Pitman had headed opportunities and Arter sent a left footed shot just over. Five minutes added on time was indicated and rightly so. Darlow in the Forest goal had wasted minutes but had attracted the ire of ref Mr Gibbs and been booked so now had to speed up a bit. A minute into this added on time Rantie span his man and raced towards the box. He lost control on the edge of it but the Forest defence could not deal with the lose ball and Pugh scored from just inside the area with a slightly scuffed shot. We didn’t care and celebrated hard. In the remaining few minutes it was us who went looking for the winner although Darlow now really did get a move on when they had a goal-kick. No further goals so it finished one apiece.
At times we rode our luck in this match, indeed Forest had twenty-one attempts on goal but crucially only four were on target such was their wastefulness. On the flip side we had thirteen attempts on goal, which showed our attacking commitment, again with four on target. It was probably a really good match for neutrals to watch.
There were a number of good performances from the team. Cook was solid at the back after an uncertain start, Arter imposed himself late on as Forest lost direction and belief and Rantie worried the defence constantly with his pace but we still need to see some end product from him. True the panic he causes benefits other players but him scoring would be the ideal but it’ll come.
My man of the match, however, is Elliott Ward who seemed to put his knowledge of Forest gained during his loan spell last season to good use by reading the play and blocking and intercepting passes. As we were heading away from the stadium I overheard some Forest fans bemoaning that they had not signed him but gone for Kelvin Wilson (who came on as sub). I was disappointed that Fraser was not fit to play today as his form has been a revelation so far this season. I likened him to a startled rabbit in a match report last season so to see him learning what it takes to play at this level so quickly is very pleasing. He and Cook have been the two players who have stepped up the most in my view.
The ref, Phil Gibbs from the West Midlands, is rather rotund and must be in his dotage as during the first half in particular he did not venture far from the halfway line. Despite this he kept a good control of the match. Not known as someone who likes to use his cards he ended up issuing four to Forest players whilst just one to us in Collison although some reports indicate that Pugh was also booked possibly due to his celebrations for scoring.
Leicester City away next weekend will be another tough test. They are more physical than Forest but this indicates a bigger team so our pace could prove to be vital. If Daniels is fully fit we could cause them problems down both flanks. So whilst I’m not expecting anything from our trip to the King Power Stadium I suspect that they won’t be taking us lightly and Eddie is right in saying that we are beginning to look like we belong at this level. Achieving this is one thing but if we start believing it too much and stop putting in the effort we will soon be tumbling down the table.
AFCB: Henderson, Francis, Cook, Ward, Harte, Surman, Arter, Collison, Pugh, Rantie, Grabban
Subs: Allsop (for Hendersen, 13 mins), Elphick, Thomas, MacDonald, O'Kane, Daniels (for Harte, HT), Pitman (for Surman, 73 mins)
Phil Nesbit, Cockfosters