It was billed as ‘The Return of the King’, but there was no Hollywood finish for Billy Davies on his first game back in charge as Nottingham Forest drew 1-1 with Bolton Wanderers. James Bolton offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground.
Pre-match began with what I thought was a rather bizarre message from Davies on the big screens. He vowed to return us to the top flight having had “circumstances intervene” when he left us “on the brink of the Premier League” 20 months ago. He did, unsurprisingly, receive a stunning reception when he walked out from the tunnel.
The opening exchanges were fairly scrappy with both sides struggling to keep hold of the ball, but it was Forest who were creating almost all of the goalmouth action. Henri Lansbury and Radi Majewski both forced Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan into low saves and Andy Reid almost whipped one in direct from a corner.
Some dogged midfield play from Lansbury helped set up Forest’s best chance of the half. The England Under-21 won the ball back in the middle of the park and found Majewski who picked out Simon Cox with a precise through ball, but after dancing passed Zat Knight, Bogdan was on hand to deny Forest a half-time lead.
In the second-half, Forest continued to dominate and were frequently testing Bogdan, but the Hungarian was equal to efforts from Reid, Lansbury and Majewski.
Bolton’s first real sniff at goal came after a wayward clearance from Chris Cohen – playing at left-back (a Billy Davies team without a recognised left-back? Sounds familiar) – found Steve De Ridder whose drilled effort was stopped by Karl Darlow.
But just before the hour mark, Bogdan was finally beaten. A cross into the box found Lansbury whose cushioned header to the edge of the box fell perfectly for Reid who, first time on the volley, bent the ball beautifully into the bottom corner.
Bolton were almost gifted an equaliser when Cohen’s poor back pass released Kevin Davies, but the Bolton skipper was thwarted by the rapidly onrushing Darlow.
The visitors were growing slightly into the game, having caused next to no problems for the Forest defence. On 77 minutes Lansbury lost the ball in the centre of the field and Jay Spearing fed in David N’Gog down the right flank. The striker found his fellow substitute Craig Davies 10 yards out, who side-footed passed Darlow to give the visitors a thoroughly undeserved equaliser.
Bolton left-back Marcus Alonso was sent off for a second bookable offence with 10 minutes remaining, putting Dougie Freedman’s men under serious pressure in the final stages. Adlene Guedioura lashed a fierce effort towards Bodgan’s near post, but again was denied.
Forest’s best chance at getting what would have been a deserved winner fell to substitute Darius Henderson who, unmarked in the centre of the box, could only head Cohen’s cross wide of the goal.
The game finished 1-1, but we really should have taken all three points. Bolton have Adam Bogdan to thank for their point as we came across a goalkeeper in top form. On another day we would have forced a late winner, or even ran out comfortable victors with the amount of efforts we had on goal.
I think there was room for improvement in terms of the quality of chances we created. There weren’t as many clear-cut chances as there should have been given the possession we had and the players who make up our midfield.
Having said that, the performance level and work rate from every player was head and shoulders above some of the seriously lacklustre displays we’ve seen over recent weeks. With 14 games remaining Forest are eight points off the play-offs, a gap that is surely too large to overcome, but this was certainly an encouraging start on the field to Davies’ second spell in charge.
You can follow James on Twitter: @bolton0301
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