Forest Sheffield United

Refereeing decisions have featured heavily in the story of Forest's season.

By Jon Ball
Friday, 19th April 2019, 3:35 pm
Updated Friday, 19th April 2019, 3:44 pm
Nottingham Forest manager Martin O'Neill.
Nottingham Forest manager Martin O'Neill.

Kemar Roofe's handball for Leeds, Dwight Gayle's dive for West Brom, Ryan Yates's disallowed goal at Preston. And now Yohan Benalouane's red card at Sheffield United.

It looked a genuine attempt to get the ball, but he was beaten by the skill of David McGoldrick as he raced though one-on-one and quickly went down. Although not as quickly as ref Andy Madley produced the red card, a snap decision given the change of rules regarding professional fouls.

It was a decision just two minutes into the second half which changed a game Sheffield United had dominated without testing Costel Pantilimon, but they took the lead within two minutes of the red card as Forest struggled to adapt to going a man down.

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Martin O'Neill had played tinkerman once again in a bid to arrest Forest's poor run of three straight defeats, with three changes to his starting XI. Benalouane replaced Jack Robinson at centre half, Daryl Murphy came in for Lewis Grabban up front and Claudio Yacob for Arvin Appiah as Forest switched to a 4-1-4-1 formation for their third trip to South Yorkshire in 13 days.

It didn't change much on the pitch though as Forest struggled to make any impression against the promotion-chasing Blaces.

Captain Jack Colback's limp dive after 12 minutes pretty much summed up Forest's last few months. Faint hopes of a positive outcome, quickly extinguished, bringing the season to an early end.

The booking the makeshift left-back picked up a was his 15th of the season, earning a three-match ban and ruling arguably Forest's player of the season out of the final three games, a season which can't end soon enough.

Yohan Benalouane brings down David McGoldrick for his red card.

The feeling of despair surrounding Forest's supporters regarding on-pitch progress is a direct result of the unrealistic expectation placed on Aitor Karanka's team last time the sun was shining back in August, as the Reds kicked off the season with a trio of Portuguese starlets, including £13 million record signing Carvalho, who was ruled out of the Blades trip with concussion.

That just Pantilimon and Murphy remained from the starting XI who drew 1-1 at Bristol City says much about how the season and those unrealistic expectations have panned out.

At Bramall Lane, it took until 33 minutes for Forest's first real chance as Yacob won the ball in midfield and played in the previously ineffective Murphy, but he pulled his shot wide in about the only moment of note of a scrappy first half where neither goalkeeper was tested.

However, just like at Hillsborough on the other side of Sheffield less than a fortnight ago, things took a turn for the worse within two minutes of the restart, with Benalouane's red card.

Mark Duffy puts Sheffield United ahead.

Forest swiftly brought on defender Alex Milosevic for Pele, but not before Jack Colback was lucky to escape a second yellow card for a cynical block on former Forest £1m striker McGoldrick.

Three minutes later though and Sheffield United broke the deadlock, as Mark Duffy found space on the edge of the box to curl his shot beautifully past Pantilimon and into the top corner.

Pantilimon then denied the impressive McGoldrick - who seemed to cover more ground in 90 minutes here at Bramall Lane then his entire Forest carrer - with a stunning one-handed save low to his left.

The 10 men of Forest came more into the game with Grabban replacing Murphy, without ever testing Blades keeper Dean Henderson, and Sheffield United wrapped up the points with six minutes left, when the influential McGoldrick played in Enda Stevens who shot low across Pantilimon and into the corner.

Enda Stevens makes it 2-0.

So four defeats on the bounce for the first time since the days of Philippe Montanier - remember him?. Where do Forest go from here?

Play-off chasing Middlesbrough visit the City Ground in three days to meet a Forest who will be without the suspended Colback and Benalouane. Three key days for Martin O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane to come with with some answers and confidence, which could massively influence the summer months for Forest...