Forest Stamp One Foot In The Playoffs
Almost 28,000 fans packed into the City Ground yesterday for the final home game of the season, to watch Forest stamp one foot in the Playoffs with an emphatic 5-1 win over Scunthorpe and in the process, relegating the Humberside club to League 1 football next season. There`s still the not so small matter of securing a point at Selhurst Park next Saturday before the Reds` can claim that Playoff spot, but the goals scored today, should make it an almost insurmountable task for our nearest rivals Leeds Utd next week, when they take on QPR.
Billy Davies made 2 changes to the side that won at Bristol last week, reinstating Chris Gunter at right back and putting McGoldrick in midfield. There was also a welcome return from injury for Paul Anderson, who was recalled to the bench for the first time since knackering his ribs at Leeds. It was an attacking line-up from the manager, who opted for Earnshaw and Boyd up front, with Lewis McGugan supporting from midfield.
The game got off to a brisk start, with the City Ground crowd in good voice for a change and getting behind the lads from the off. It was the visitors who had the first chance on goal, after a rasping shot from Duffy, had Camp diving at full stretch to push the ball out for a corner.
Robert Earnshaw helped put the Reds` in front, when some clever work in the middle of the park saw him put Kris Boyd through on goal, for a one on one with the keeper. The advancing Murphy in the Iron goal, did his best to intercept the on rushing Boyd, but the striker did well in slotting the ball past him and into the net to put the lads 1 up.
Soon after the Iron keeper Murphy was to make 2 blinding saves to keep his side in the game. First one from Earnie, that he pushed over the bar and not long after Chris Gunter saw him get a hand to the ball, just as it looked to be on it`s way into the net. He could do nothing about Forest`s 2nd goal though on 24 minutes, when Luke Chambers popped up to head the ball in from close range.
Fair play to the visitors, who didn't let their heads drop. The eye catching Nunez almost pulled one back, when his cheeky little lob had Camp scrambling back to the goal to stop the ball going in. Fortunately for us, Camp somehow managed to keep his balance and was able to tip the ball over for a corner. Paul Konchesky almost gifted the Iron a goal, when his sloppy back pass of a header landed Camp in all sorts of trouble. Luckily for the Reds`, the keeper was alert and was quickly off his line to smother the ball and eliminate the threat.
United won a fortunate penalty 10 minutes before the break, when Gunter made the slightest of contact with Nunez just inside the box. The on loan Leeds striker made the most of the contact and went down like a sack of spuds, much to the dismay of the City Ground crowd. Nunez then had a bit of a strop, when he and O`Connor fought for the ball. O`Connor won the battle to take the penalty, much to the disgust of Nunez who walked off in a huff and began to throw a tantrum even after O`Connor had dispatched the ball well into the top corner of the net, to pull his side back into the game.
With the scores staying the same at the break, it was something of a surprise to see Davies make 2 changes at the restart. On came Moussi and Anderson and off went McKenna and McGoldrick. Anderson`s first touch of the ball, saw him tap in from close range, after a well delivered McGugan free kick caused havoc in the Iron defence. 3-1 to the good and the Iron were there for the taking. The game then slumped into a period where both teams gave the ball away needlessly and it became a less than eye catching encounter. That was all to change though, when some neat play from the Reds`, saw Cohen felled just outside the box. It was a tantalising position to have a shot from and McGugan thought the kick should have been his. Earnshaw had other ideas and claimed the ball for himself. McGugan looked none too pleased and he was even less so when he saw Earnie`s shot tipped over for a corner. McGugan was replaced soon after, but his spirits should have been lifted, as he was given a well earned standing ovation from an appreciative City Ground crowd. He was replaced by Julian Bennett, who was surprisingly installed in midfield. The normally tenacious left back had several marauding runs down the flank, with one or two resulting in decent crosses for the strikers to feed off.
One of those marauding runs led to the 4th goal, as Bennett was hacked down on his way down the wing. Cohen sent a good ball into the box, where Chambers capped off a memorable afternoon and added to his Player of the Year award with his 2nd goal of the game. It was another header from close range, making it 4-1 to the Reds'.
If goal difference comes into the equation next week, then Forest`s 5th goal of the game, could prove invaluable. It came after a free kick was awarded on the edge of the box. Chambers wanted a pop at it and the crowd were urging him on, as he grappled for the ball with Kris Boyd. Amidst some banter between the two players, Kris Boyd won the day and set the ball down to take the kick. Earnshaw then decided to take advantage of a mix up in the visitors defence and lobbed the ball over the wall and into the net. This act of apparent ungentlemanly conduct earned him his 2nd yellow card of the game and a sending off in the process. It seemed a little harsh to say the least and a little over zealous on the part of referee Whitestone, who put a dampener on an otherwise good day. Anyway, Boyd stepped up to take the kick and his shot smashed against the wall, only to get a deflection and go past the on looking Murphy, on its way through to goal. It was almost the last kick of the game, before the ref blew his whistle to send the City Ground faithful home with a smile on their faces for once in this rollercoaster season, that is far from over yet.
With Millwall losing at Swansea and Leeds United 3 points behind, it does mean that Forest have their destiny in their own hands. All it takes now, is for us to take a point at Selhurst Park next week and a Playoff place is ours. It`s been a rollercoaster of a season, just as the manager predicted it would be. Let`s just hope we have come to the end of it now and that the fun and joys of the Playoffs can begin. We all know how much us Forest fans love them.