Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.
Football can be a contradictory game, that’s been evidenced by City’s results this week; a win when not playing well at Burnley on Monday and defeat despite a good performance on Saturday. City played well enough and created enough chances to win what was a cracking game of football against an in-form Forest and we certainly didn’t deserve to lose. It was though, the bear’s turn to be victorious.
Thankfully, not far away in South Yorkshire, Watford were being gotten by a bear too, as they succumbed to defeat at Barnsley, meaning ultimately that our defeat wasn’t catastrophic. In fact, when the day ends and we’re still second, still two points ahead of Watford and they’ve one less game to catch us, that’s a pretty good day, even if it didn’t feel like such at ten to five. In terms of keeping in the hunt for the title, it was a frustratingly missed opportunity, but as far as holding the runners-up spot, all is well that ends well.
Steve Bruce carded Stockdale; Chester, Hobbs, McShane; Elmohamady, Brady, Meyler, Quinn, Koren; Boyd and Gedo to start on the ever degrading KC Stadium turf.
Within two minutes it looked like City had taken the lead, if you sit in the East Stand that is, as a Robbie Brady free kick was lashed into the side netting, causing many to erupt in triumph in the East, and it took a fair few seconds before realisation hit home and seat retaking sheepishness overrode jubilation.
Nonetheless it was a good start by the Tigers, and when Brady fired a cross into the box, George Boyd and Gedo thought a defensive clearance would result in a corner but were confounded by ref Scott’s award of a goal kick.
After James Chester cleared up a Forest advance, Ahmed Elmohamady skipped past Chris Cohen on the right touchline after ‘megging him and ran laterally into the box, eschewing several chances to cross before being tackled and gaining a corner.
The game was fast and flowing, with Forest creating chances too, Darius Henderson got on the end of a cross, firing a header goalward that was parried then pouched by David Stockdale.
After good work from Robert Koren, Elmohamady fired in a shot that was unfortunately straight at Stephen Quinn, who unwittingly blocked. At the other end Simon Cox drilled a shot wide, moaning afterwards that David Meyler was impeding him, but the ref wasn’t interested.
Boyd struck a great shot that forced an equally decent save from Karl Darlow, and as City tried to make something out of the rebound and Forest sought to clear, Brady was chopped down on the edge of the penalty box. Koren’s free kick caused consternation for Darlow who parried, but fortunately for him the parried ball hit one of our advanced men and bounced harmlessly over the bar.
Forest began to impose themselves on the game, their high pressure game caused City to make mistakes in possession, miscuing passes on a less than manicured pitch, and they were more physical than City for 50-50 balls. A great move was fashioned from a series of sideways passes and Stockdale got down well to save the eventual shot from Adlene Guedioura, thankful when the rebound shot was fired into the South Stand by Cox.
As for City, there was a nagging lack of understanding between colleagues that seemed most notable when Elmohamady made a long pass, though when Boyd was caught offside on one such move, it was the Egyptian’s delayed pass rather than Boyd’s timing that was off.
Regardless, City had swung the perpetual arm-wrestle back in our favour, Gedo went on a sprint down the right touchline and arced his run towards goal, but his cross was tamed by a deflection and Forest cleared. Soon after Darlow palmed a thumping Jack Hobbs header over the bar after our defender rose to meet an Elmohamady cross. Gedo had a point blank header at the back post blocked by the keeper too as Forest were thankful for Darlow’s form.
By this point it was clear that Paul McShane could not continue, he’d been hobbling around for a bit and boss Bruce sent on player Bruce before Ginger Baresi’s leg-knack proved costly.
The entertaining end-to-endery continued, Radoslaw Majewski created room for a near post shot that tested Stockdale who dropped to smother it. Gedo missed a gilt edged chance to shoot when he raced on to Elmohamady’s deft header but under pressure he swung and missed. His reaction said he knew how good a chance had been spurned.
The grapple then edged in Forest’s favour, as they enjoyed a spell of unbroken possession. The Trees look a decent side and one you wouldn’t relish meeting in the play-offs if they can maintain current form, which makes our holding onto second place all the more imperative.
Not that it looked to be in doubt when we took the lead shortly before the break. From a Brady corner swung deep in from the left, Elmohamady softly headed it into the six yard box, there Cohen tried some nervy keepie-uppie, only for Boyd to seize initiative and hook the ball over his head and over Darlow as it looped in for 1-0.
Earlier Forest fans had referenced their near signing of Boyd with a chant of “he’s only got one eye”. If so, it’s an eye for goal, as he showed by gleefully sprinting past them making a bespectacled gesture. There was no time for Forest to make amends as ref Scott blew for the interval.
The Tigers started the second 45 brightly, an errant Boyd pass for Gedo was nonetheless chased by the Al-Ahly man who forced a defender into meekly giving away possession, Gedo tried to find Boyd, now in the box, but Forest survived our attacking foray.
At the other end Forest mystifyingly got a corner when Cox blazed over and no one else got a touch, but it foreshadowed the visitors establishing parity. From the left wing, Majewski delivered a smart cross off his laces to Cox who acrobatically toed the ball past Stockdale but onto the bar, there was dithering from City’s defenders (Bruce and Hobbs were guilty of watching) but none from Henderson who swept the ball home for 1-1.
City appeared to be set up to attack on the counter, an odd move at home, and one that allowed Forest more possession than they were entitled to. We had no shortage of goalscoring opportunities however, Brady drove forward and laid off to Boyd who thwacked a terrific shot that Darlow saved, albeit unconvincingly, the ball popping into the air. An alert City player following up could have scored, but frustratingly there was no one around. Andy Reid made way for Billy Sharp for the visitors who were showing their intent.
Brady went just wide with yet another free kick, City had a lot of these as Forest were content to halt our attacks cynically and take the yellow card, they racked up five overall. You have to say the ploy worked well as it robbed City of fluidity and attacking rhythm. Lewis McGugan was introduced, replacing Majewski.
Forest looked dangerous from set pieces themselves, Meyler gave away a free kick on the edge of the box and then raged at team mates when they allowed Billy Sharp a free header that he put wide.
A Brady cross across goal caused a melee in the box but Forest scrambled the ball away before another Brady free kick was flashed just wide after Meyler was bundled over. Jay Simpson joined the fray, replacing Quinn, and Boyd dropped back into midfield for a bit.
Then City fell behind, courtesy of some more abhorrent defending; A long hoof was headed on (Bruce should have done better), Chester blocked a shot but again City failed to consider the player attacking the second ball, and about six City players watched (too far away to do anything) as McGugan swept the ball past Stockdale for 2-1 with about seven minutes left.
City went all out for the leveller. Brady smashed a free kick off the bar and showing the right way to defend second ball chances, a wall of red shirts formed ahead of Jay Simpson and his shot on the rebound was charged down and hacked away.
Bruce threw Nick Proschwitz on in place of Koren, and City won a free kick near the goal line in front of the North/West corner. Brady flung it in, Bruce rose to meet it and was so convinced that his header was in, he wheeled away with arms aloft, but somehow it was punted off the goal-line by a twisting, airborne Henri Lansbury.
The Tigers had one last chance to salvage a point, a point that with Watford losing and Palace facing a tricky game at Brighton on Sunday, would have edged City nearer to ownership of second place. Bruce won a challenge after Meyler gave up possession near Forest’s box, and the ball bounced invitingly for Boyd. One Eyed George’s cross goal shot was parried by Darlow and fell for Gedo, who under pressure, blazed over with the goal at his mercy.
There was then, no late heroics, and the Tiger Nation were in disbelief when the final whistle sounded and City had lost. It was a decent performance from City, one that deserved at least a point, but it was Forest’s admirable tenacity and competitiveness that won them all three.
It was, whichever way you look at it, a missed opportunity. A win would have kept us on Cardiff’s tails and put five points between us and Watford, who unexpectedly lost at Oakwell. Still, Watford’s defeat meant that the day finished as it had started, which is second with two points over the red moose logoed Hornets, and that makes for an acceptable afternoon while ramping up the importance of Watford’s visit to the KC Stadium in two games’ time.
Forest’s win meant the bear had gotten us today, but you can answer the question “are we still in control of our automatic promotion chances?” with another question… “Does a bear shit in the woods?”