After the proverbial game of two halves, Nottingham Forest were lucky to pick up a point against Brighton & Hove Albion. Simon Bristow offers a fan’s eye view from the Amex Stadium.
The last time I wrote a match report I was about nine and it described yet another victory for the Lowes Wong Junior School A team. I played in goal, we had a stupidly good side (just the one, highly controversial, defeat in four years) so I was never that busy and would make notes during the match, then write them up and read the report in morning assembly.
Today was slightly different. For a start, there was a sizable crowd of 26,684 (Brighton’s highest attendance ever) instead of assorted mums and dads and our teacher-come-manager, Mr Bragg. The quality of the football was better, although because of the horrendous weather (more on that later), only just. I’d also had three pints and some fish and chips before kick-off, which obviously wasn’t the usual pre-match routine back in my junior school days.
Sean O’Driscoll made four changes to the starting XI with Ayala, Cohen, Guedioura and Moussi replacing Ward, McGugan, Lansbury and Gillett.
Although Brighton started well, they could only create a couple of decent chances. Twice they fired into the side netting and twice the home fans got a little over excited and were encouraged to ‘sit down’ by the Forest faithful.
It became evident pretty quickly that Dan Harding was the weak link in the Forest side. Wave after wave of attack came down the Brighton right in Harding’s direction. Reid received a yellow card after Harding was caught napping and then Brighton’s best chance came when Harding, yet again, was weak in the challenge. Fortunately the attempted volley sailed over the bar.
A nice move by Forest ended with Reid firing over and then the rain came. By rain I mean apocalyptic, Noah and the Ark type rain. It was the kind of rain that used to result in Lowes Wong A team matches being called off without any hesitation. It sent the first 10 rows of Brighton fans in the stand next to us scurrying to the bar – and they almost missed Forest take an undeserved lead when Reid fed Sharp who flicked the ball with the outside of his foot onto the bar. Forest could have easily been three down at half-time but they almost found themselves one up.
In highly amusing fashion, it stopped raining during the break, then the players came out for the second-half and the heavens opened again.
The rain seemed to inspire Forest’s players and the travelling support. The volume level increased significantly in the away end and on the pitch Forest took control.
O’Driscoll had wisely replaced Harding with Halford at half-time and his overlapping run was found by a Reid pass, the cross found Blackstock who, under pressure from a Brighton defender, poked wide.
Brighton’s main threat continued to be down the right flank. Although Halford was an improvement on Harding he was soon booked and there were then two heart-in-mouth moments when he fouled Brighton players.
Lansbury, introduced on the hour, added a bit more spark but conditions were dreadful and affected the flow of the game.
Anyone who attended the same fixture last season will remember the daylight robbery committed by Brighton with an injury time winner and it was almost a case of deja vu when the ball got caught in a puddle, Halford slipped and Will Buckley raced clear. Thankfully a smart save from Camp denied Brighton.
Given the conditions this was a good point away from home. Ayala was Forest’s best player with Camp and Reid also worthy of a mention.
Whilst Forest might not experience the success of Mr Bragg’s Lowes Wong side this season, I think the resilience and strength in depth that was evident today is a good sign as we head to the busy Christmas period.
Follow Simon on Twitter: @simonbristow81
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