Forest 2-2 Preston - It's All About The Ref
They say that football is a funny old game, but this match was anything but. When you consider that Preston are rock bottom of the table and fighting for their Championship lives, that Darren Deadman, who has previous form for being a bit of a joker was refereeing the game and that Forest were not quite firing on all cylinders, you have all the ingredients for a pretty dour evening on the banks of the Trent.
A near capacity City Ground crowd turned up to see what should have been on paper at least, an easy 3 points for the Reds` and after a bright start in the opening 10 minutes, it was looking just so. Forest were on the attack from the off and a good effort from Cohen in the first few minutes saw his shot go just wide of the post. Moments later, captain Paul McKenna missed what would prove to be one of the best chances of the night, when he ballooned a shot high over the bar from only 12 yards out. He should have done better and had the time to do so.
After that initial 10 minute flourish from Forest, the visitors stole the lead and as a result went on to completely kill the game. Keith Treacy sent over a cross to the far post where an unmarked Barry Nicholson headed in to the net, with hardly a challenge from the Forest defence. It put Preston 1 up and stunned the City Ground crowd. Following the lead, Preston went on to use every trick in the book, to ensure that every painful move in the game would be stopped in its tracks and every throw in, free kick and corner drawn out for as long as humanly possible. This tactic would last for the duration of the game, or at least until the Reds` took the lead. The referee did little to endear himself to the home crowd throughout the game and bought every cynical moment of time wasting from Preston and every cynical dive their players made. He never once wised up to this and the more the game went on, the more the visitors used it to their advantage.
Forest offered very little in response to the goal and only had a near miss from a Konchesky cross to show for their efforts until after the break. You can`t criticise Preston too much for playing with the game plan they did, but you have to ask questions of the ref, when he fails to see what`s going on. When keeper Iain Turner took a goal kick, he would go through the same painstaking and piss taking routine every time. First he takes an eternity to reclaim the ball from where it went out. Then he ambles to the spot to place the ball. He slowly turns round and walks back five paces to the corner of the goal. Checks his finger nails, taps his boots on the post and then decides the ball needs re positioning. Slowly and painfully he goes through the entire rigmarole again. Then he steals another precious few moments by pointing at a player to tell him where he`s going to put the ball and then and only then, does he decide to gently run up to finally take the kick. This whole debacle, would be played out for every throw in, corner, free kick and set play that the visitors would get. It incensed the crowd, but only served to make Mr. Deadman feel like he was the star of the show and more bloody important than the game of football itself. Bitter? You bet I am. Chants of "you don`t know what you`re doing!" rang around the ground on more than one occasion. Darren Deadman was a joke of a ref.
If the tactics used by Preston in the 1st half were not to our liking, they took it to a whole new level in the 2nd half and somehow managed to perfect the art of kidding and conning the ref. A Preston throw in, would now have to be taken by the player furthest away from where the ball went out and every challenge from a Forest player would need the attention of the Physio, preferably with stretcher bearers and paramedics in close proximity, administering life saving treatment to the man on the deck.
Forest needed an early goal and it came just 10 minutes after the restart. McGoldrick, who had a bit of a mare in the 1st half, was showing some decent touches in the 2nd and had a part to play in the equaliser. He won the ball in the middle of the park and turned and passed in one move, to send Ando on his way. The winger made off with good speed and let off a great shot that was blocked on its way to goal. The rebound came out to Konchesky just outside the box and he hit a terrific volley that went straight into the net. 1-1 - game on - parity restored.
The Reds` were then dealt what could turn out to be a severe blow, when Konchesky limped off with an apparent injury to his hamstring. Lynch came on as his replacement, after barely having time to warm up. Soon after this, on came Rodney for McGoldrick and he almost gave us the winner from a beautiful Cohen cross. Rodney rose well above the Preston defence and managed to head the ball down ,but it somehow hit the post and bounced out safely for a goal kick.
The board signalling 5 minutes of stoppage time brought the home crowd to life and they did their best to roar the team on and to get the winning goal. For the first time in the match, Forest were playing with a sense of urgency and were looking for the breakthrough. It came with less than 2 minutes remaining and from a Cohen free kick on the edge of the box. Cohen put in another great ball, that I thought Chambers got a head to, but the official line is that it went straight in from the kick without any intervention. Forest should have now locked the doors and gone onto retain the ball and run down the clock. Instead of that, Preston now took to running around the pitch like gazelles in spring time and couldn`t come out of the blocks quick enough. In the 6th minute of 5 minutes injury time, they went and broke every Forest fans heart and put the ball in the net from a cross that was headed home from 12 yards out by Billy Jones. 2-2 and you couldn`t make it up!
Fair play to Preston, you play with what you`ve got and although they haven`t got much, they fought manfully and were worthy of the point. Forest will have to learn to break teams like this down and not allow them to dictate the way the game goes. If we had been more clinical with the finishing, the 3 points would have been ours. As it is, we have to settle for the draw and with it, relinquish 2nd spot in the table. We`re now down to 4th, but there`s still a long way to go and as Billy Davies says himself, "We`re still in the mix."
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