It would be hard to say who had the most difficult night in South East London on Tuesday.
The Forest team were second best on the pitch throughout while those of us who made the journey to Selhurst Park to support them faced a long and arduous journey to get there and back. It’s easy to see why the ground is known as the most difficult of all to get to. M1 roadworks on the way back made it a very late night.
It proved to be a frustrating evening for all of us as Forest struggled to make any impact on the game. Palace dominated for long spells and ran at the Reds defence time and time again. Our passing game that has served us so well so far this season was absent. This was partly due to a blatant game plan by the home side to stifle our creativity and also because many of our players failed to pick the right pass on numerous occasions.
In Wilfred Zaha, Palace possess something that Forest really lack: pace. I’ve never been particularly impressed with him before but he demonstrated why he has been linked with big money moves to the Premier League. He was a continuous threat for the entire ninety minutes and continuously had the better of the Forest defence.
It is something that I’m sure we have all identified already but there is not a player like that in our squad. Someone who can frighten opponents with their speed and direct style. Zaha provided a constant outlet for his team mates and regularly looked to cut inside in search of a view on goal. Garath McCleary certainly fitted the bill during his six month purple patch last season. Yet he has not been replaced. James Coppinger will address our need for some width when he is called upon but he is not the type of player who I have described above.
Despite my concerns with the right sided position, the Forest squad hasn’t looked stronger for many years. It is refreshing to see that we now have options in most positions. Players such as Greg Halford who can play in a number of roles are showing their worth already. Halford has been deployed in five positions already this season and this flexibility was required once again when Sam Hutchinson departed through injury.
There are now endless candidates to fill the midfield slots too. The likes of Chris Cohen, Radoslaw Majewski and Guy Moussi have all been regulars in previous regimes but are currently struggling to secure a place on the bench. Although this is certainly something they won’t be happy with, such fierce competition should bring out the best of them.
The sending off of Guedioura is certainly an opportunity for one of these three to claim their place while a below par display from McGugan could see his place under threat. The decision by Guedioura to kick out at his opponent was extremely foolish. I missed it at the time but there is simply no justification for it. Having only just gone a goal down, he made a difficult task much harder.
I discussed the merits of this team’s new found resolve in my previous article and it was clear to see once again as Forest battled for an equaliser. I’d like to say that we found another gear and fought our way back into the contest. We didn’t. What we did do, however, was keep on trying.
As a supporter, it’s all I will ever ask. I’ve clapped them off after bad defeats in the past because the effort was there and I’ve been critical in better results because it wasn’t. At Selhurst, the players carried on in search of a goal but fell short on the vast majority of occasions.
It took one moment of brilliance in the 81st minute from Simon Cox to grab us the equaliser. Having turned his man, Cox threaded a ball between two defenders into the path of Dexter Blackstock who had replaced Billy Sharp a short time before. Our view was straight in line with the ball and it looked like Speroni, the Palace goalkeeper, would get there first until Blackstock stuck out a toe.
The ball crept in under the ‘keepers body and there was jubilation in the away section. It wasn’t deserved but we didn’t care. A few weeks ago we conceded a late goal at Huddersfield that they didn’t warrant so I guess these things even themselves out.
We were under pressure until the final whistle but we very nearly won it with a Blackstock header being brilliantly tipped away by Speroni. The very impressive following of 1,800 were appreciative at full-time and celebrated our unbeaten run being extended.
For the second game in succession we have somehow gained a point when we had no real right to. This ‘never say die’ attitude is a great attribute to have. It has certainly been an asset recently. Let’s hope it remains.
We finally have a Saturday away game this week after four consecutive midweek matches on the road. Leeds will be a stern test for us. We want seven (but 1-0 will do!)