James Set Apart
KEVIN James sent out a timely reminder to Colin Calderwood as Nottingham Forest reserves maintained their unbeaten start to the season at Huddersfield last night.
James stood out in a dour, goal-less affair at the Galpharm Stadium, as he continued to fight for his future at the City Ground.
The forward has yet to feature for the first team since impressing in pre-season. But after returning from a loan spell with Yeovil, he will be hoping to catch boss Calderwood's eye with his performances for the reserves.
He did his chances no harm last night, lightening up a lifeless match with some electrifying runs late in the second half.
With Forest struggling to dominate proceedings, James provided the cutting edge that had been desperately missing for much of the match.
His crosses might have provided the crucial breakthrough on two occasions, while it took a close-range save from Paul Rachubka to prevent him winning the match.
Bursting into the box, he latched onto an intelligent knock-down from Robert Hughes, but fired straight at the Huddersfield goalkeeper.
James was one of only a handful of experienced players in a youthful line-up put out by Ian McParland.
Other than John Thompson and Rune Pedersen, the responsibility of extending the reserves' unbeaten run to six was placed largely in the hands of products of Forest's youth system.
Not that they have not proved abundantly capable this season, winning four out of five before last night and conceding only one goal.
But the success so far has been built on more than just a watertight rearguard, with 14 goals already this term.
That impressive strike rate has largely been due to experienced players leading the line, such as Scott Dobie, Junior Agogo and Kris Commons, who have all done stints for the second string in recent weeks.
Experienced forwards were lacking last night as John-Paul Pittman and Ben Fairclough led the line.
Elsewhere Hughes was back with the reserves after making his first team debut against Swansea on Saturday - but only began to impose himself when shifted from wide on the left to a forward role.
With James Beaumont acting as the main play-maker from central midfield, it was his partner - the exciting Lewis McGugan - who looked Forest's greatest attacking threat.
He latched onto a 30-yard defence-splitting pass from Beaumont in the opening minutes to create the visitors' best chance of the first half.
Bringing the ball perfectly under control, he had only the keeper to beat, but drilled his shot the wrong side of the near post to let Huddersfield off the hook.
It proved to be one of precious few openings in the first period and if anyone looked like scoring it was Huddersfield as Pedersen kept out James Hand, Tom Clarke and Jonathan Worthington before half-time. Huddersfield continued to press after the break and only a smart interception from Thompson prevented Lucas Atkins from unloading from close range.
At the other end, Hamza Bencherif should have done better when the ball fell to him from a Beaumont free kick. The big defender had time to pick his spot, but fired tamely at Rachubka.
Forest slowly began to take control and looked the likelier to take all three points in the closing stages as James began to torment the Huddersfield defence.
His powerful run and cross from the right in the final 15 minutes only just failed to find Fairclough at the near post, for what surely would have been the decisive goal.
Moments later, James's pace down the wing again caused problems for Huddersfield.
Firing in a looping cross from the touchline, Rachubka could only help the ball to the back post where substitute Matt Thornhill was racing in.
But before the midfielder could convert the chance, Martyn Booty hooked away the danger.
Forest: Pedersen, Cullingworth, Heath, Beaumont, Bencherif, Thompson, James, McGugan, Pittman (Thornhill), Fairclough, Hughes. Subs not used:, Sharpe, Moloney, Reid, Whitehurst
FROM THE NEP