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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Playoff Dream Over. Again

Nottingham Forest have continued their awful run in the play offs with defeat at Swansea last night in what was an enthralling contest. The Reds fell behind 2-0 before battering the Swansea goal in the second half, before finally scoring with ten minutes left. The dream was ended in extra time by long term target Darren Pratley who scored from half way when Camp had gone up for a corner.

That opening paragraph barely covers the full story in trying to start this article with an overview of a game that was as usual for the Reds in the Play offs, action packed. Second legs of our play off matches should come with health warnings now. I watch the hairs physically grey in front of my eyes on some people sat around me.

For a neutral that must have been exhilarating watching. Goals, penalty appeals, posts and bars hit, repeatedly. Questionable reffing one again from a topflight referee. It was as good an advert for the Championship as you could get, it's just a shame it all ended in the wrong manner.

Davies sprang a surprise with his team selection by selecting Tyson. Opting for the electric pace up front, rather than the finishing of Earnshaw. And it nearly worked early on,when Tyson raced clear, making the defender look static before squaring a great ball to McGoldrick, who's left footed shot clipped the top of the bar.

Not long after Swansea went up the other end with a good chance. Sinclair had got in down the left and fizzed the ball across the area, where no-one was to put it in. If they had been it would have undoubtedly been 1-0 there and then. Forest went up the other end and nearly scored with a McGoldrick flick from a free kick put in. The flick went straight at de Vries,and had it been one foot either way it would have been in. At this stage too Moussi was consistently giving the ball away after winning it back.It encompassed all that is frustrating about the Frenchmans game.

Swansea then had two very good chances. Rangel first bursting into the box and providing a defenders finish by blazing it wide, before Borini had a wonderful effort come off the bar. The came the first penalty appeal. McGugan moving into the area was having his shirt clearly pulled by Tate in the Swansea defence. Marriner, didn't flinch,nothing given. Even Warnock at half time said it was a penalty and he hates Forest. Then 1 minute later Gunter was booked for the same offence. Guess they just aren't given in the area.

And then Swansea scored. Twice in five minutes. First Britton scored a lovely goal. A curling finish Camp didn't even move for. Tudgay should have defended better,but you can't detract from what was a great finish. Then five minutes later Dobbie,who was a key member of the Blackpool team who demolished Forest last year scythed through the defence, nutmegging Chambers and finished low into the bottom right hand corner, and Forests fans hearts all collectively sank.

Just before half time came another penalty appeal when Rangel and Tyson tussled. Borini also had a good shot well saved by Camp, and that was that. 2-0 at half time and we looked dead and buried. I consoled myself with beer during half time whilst being shocked that I agreed with a lot of what Warnock was saying in the studio. He really does have a triangular head.

As the second half came to life so did Forest. Tyson had again used his electric pace to get away from the defenders and squared the ball back to the edge of the D, where Tudgay blazed over with his left foot. He might have had time to get it on his favoured foot.

Just before the hour and the woodwork was hit again. A free kick right on the edge of the area,McGugan stepped up and smacked it off the bar. So close again to that elusive goal which would have given us hope. Swansea then had a chance to finish it,when Pratley who had just come missed a free header in the box from close in.Completely unmarked,it was shambolic defending from the Reds. My friend told me of course Pratley would miss, he's signed a pre contract deal with us. I remained sceptical.

Forest made changes. Majewski, Boyd and Earnshaw were all introduced over the next 10-15 minutes. Tudgay, Tyson and McGoldrick being removed. And on 80 minutes it paid dividends. Majewski put in a gorgeous ball, and Earnshaw did what he did best, getting away from his man and finishing into the corner of the goal with a great finish. It was game on now. Forest had been pounding on the Swansea door and we now had a foot in it.

The last 4-5minutes were torture. Earnshaw hit the post, a matter of inches and it would have been 2-2.Knowing the way we have played after getting back in games, we'd have blown it anyway. But by god it was close. And then Camp started coming for corners. On one of them the ball came to Earnshaw again who tried to put the ball in and it seemed to hit Williams on the arm. I felt sure it did but I haven't seen it again. But then the game was ended.

The ball fell to McGugan as it came out of the area,but he slipped and Swansea had possession. Pratley ran it to halfway,were he shot from, and with Camp up the other end, the net was empty. Swansea had restored the two goal lead and Forest were beaten. Again it was painful, as it has been each and every occasion in the play offs. This time though, we never led the tie like before.

My brother being a neutral, told me later that it was an amazing match. It was amazing for me too as a Forest fan with a huge vested interest.But by god that last 10-15 minutes were a mixture of exhilarating and confusing. Horrorfying and compelling. Painful but memorable. We simply don't do bland second legs in the playoffs. We should be given a fee pass to them to provide the country with entertainment.

It was frustrating that we allowed ourselves to concede essentially two sloppy goals. But we can be ever so proud of that second half performance. A different ref and we may have had one of those penalties. The Swansea posts and crossbars will need a new lick of paint, after our battering of them. I will say this though,over two legs the Swans deserve it and I say fair play to them. They are a good team and I hope they go up. I couldn't stand to see Cardiff there.

So another season draws to an end with another painful ending. But I can't wait for the next one. That might be the last we see of Messrs Earnshaw, Tyson, Moussi, Bennett all of whom are out of contract. I hope its not the last we have of Billy.



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