April 12, 2016 by notjustpumpkinbread
I don’t think there were many who thought we’d get much out of this game, if we’re to be totally honest. In fact, since Mr Dougie’s departure, there hasn’t been too much to look forward to. And so it was, on a rainy Monday night, the latest kids-for-a-quid match mustered up a beleaguered band of followers numbering 17,642. We were greeted with a line-up that didn’t include a recognisable front man, a back four that featured “fan favourite” Danny Fox and a bench that saw a first team squad debut for Joe Worrell (recently called back from his loan spell at Dagenham & Redbridge).
BUT. The last time we started without a recognisable striker we beat table-topping Middlesbrough and Danny Fox was starting in the centre of defence rather than at left back – the position he’s been constantly derided for since he donned the Garibaldi. Yes, I know I was clutching at straws, but optimism is my modus operandi.
As the game began it was clear the languid technical area movements of Paul Williams would be complimented by the kick-and-head-every-ball antics of Academy maestro Gary Brazil. This contribution from Mr Brazil should not be overlooked. As for the game on the pitch, well, we weren’t exactly pulling up trees in the first half. Eric didn’t learn his lesson and conceded yet another free kick on our right not too far from the top of the penalty area. Brighton’s striker from the Czech Republic – Jiří Skalák – was given another opportunity to get the delivery right and subsequently found the head of 6′ 3½” defender Lewis Dunk, who guided the ball home on 27 minutes.
If Dunk wasn’t making a nuisance of himself during set pieces, he was occupied at the other end swatting away 5’5″ man-up-top Jamie Ward. That Ward had to contend with 2 centre halves of similar stature, while Messrs. Blackstock and Macheda warmed the bench, rankled somewhat with the Forest faithful. But, on 42 minutes, Ward ran down one too many balls over the top, immediately indicted something had gone “twang” and that a substitute was required. On came Dex and the complexion of the game changed, but not for the worse
So, as halves went, we hadn’t painted the town red and were a goal down. On the plus side, Ben Osborn was looking as sharp as ever, our Henri was playing in a more advanced role (which we hoped would suit his natural game) and Danny Fox was having a good game in the heart of defence. Oh…and his beard was looking as lustrous as ever, which pleased me tremendously!
I don’t know what was said or done during the interval, but a different team emerged for the second half. Clearly they weren’t a different team. All were present and correct, were still wearing the correct kit and knew which direction they needed to attack in. But mentally they appeared to be up for the fight. And Brighton weren’t expecting that.
Our equaliser was a carbon copy of the Brighton goal. A wonderfully delivered free kick from the cultured boot of Henri Lansbury, connecting with the head of none other than Dexter Blackstock on 50 minutes. It was the catalyst we needed and from that moment on we were in the ascendancy.
Dex was putting himself about a LOT, running down balls, winning headers, breaking forward when need be. An entirely different player to the one we’d seen for most of the season. The real Dexter Blackstock whom we’d missed for so long.
Our Henri slotted into an advanced midfield maestro role, pulling all the strings and bringing players into the game. Someone we’ve missed for too long.
Bojan Jokic and Ben Osborn interchanged nicely down our left, spurred on by Lansbury and the reinvigorated crowd. Chris Cohen had his best 45 minutes since his return from injury and he was no real slouch in the first half either. We looked like a team. It was bloody lovely to see and the City Ground faithful made it known to them with as much signing and chanting as we’ve heard for a fair few months.
But it wasn’t enough. While Dorus had made a couple of fine saves and our defence looked like they could cope with pretty much anything, we squandered some opportunities at the other end which would have sealed it for us. In particular, a delightful break from Dex and Henri saw Dex put his breakaway partner through, but this time we were not treated to a vision of culture; rather a rash and hasty shot that blazed over the bar. With the scoreline at 1-1 Brighton always had a chance.
How – in the 90th minute – Knockaert kept the ball at his feet in our penalty area, while all in Garibaldi around him failed to dispossess him, we shall never know. But they didn’t and when Knockaert found fellow substitute Sidwell he duly obliged to further Brighton’s claim to an automatic promotion place. It was an undeserved winner, from a team that looked all at sea during that second 45 minutes, but perhaps an indication this may well be their season.
In a word – gutted. We’d done enough to get a point, but when it’s not going your way, it’s not going your way. Onwards to the next game.
Which is Rotherham away and if we play like that second half, we should give Neil Warnock’s revitalised team a run for their money.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!