QPR extended their lead at the top to 6 points with a draw against the Championship’s in-form team, Nottingham Forest, who played for 70 minutes with 10 men. So was it a missed opportunity ? Certainly for Forest it was. Like the game at the City ground, if the visitors had been more adventurous then maybe 3 points would have been travelling home on the M1. I thought they were the better side first half, before and after the red card, but second half they went defensive (understandable perhaps) and possibly lost the chance to go back to second place.
Before the game I met up with an old Forest mate and all I was asking him was how was Radoslaw Majewski doing this season as I had been very impressed with him every time I’d seen him, and whether either Earnshaw or Adebola would play as no QPR defender has ever played well against them. I also said that if Forest wanted to win, they’ll have to take note of the Watford game where the visitors attacked us from the first whistle and beat us comprehensively.
Tommy Smith was restored to the starting line-up and was the only change to the side that won at Reading last time out. Even if Ephraim wasn’t banned, I guess Smith would’ve returned from his two match lay off following an injury, just by going on his performances recently. Rob Hulse kept his place upfront with both Helguson and Miller on the bench. The rest of the team picked itself, but following this game I think Warnock has some important decisions to make with Pascal Chimbonda and Danny Shittu waiting in the wings.
Not sure if Billy Davies had heard my comments in the pub before hand, but Forest were out of the traps quickly with Marcus Tudgay hitting the post within the first minute, albeit he was offside. Forest then forced four corners in the first 6 minutes and McGoldrick and Tudgay were giving Connolly and Gorkss their hardest game so far this season in the first half. Forest were pressing us in our own half when we had the ball. We were struggling to get to grips with McKenna and Majewski in the middle who were here, there and everywhere, but when we did manage to get the ball to Taarabt, Forest had only one plan and that was to kick him and kick him hard !
In the first 10 minutes he was on the end of two robust challenges from first McKenna and then Morgan. Shortly after, Taarabt managed to evade being upended before delivering a great cross that Hulse never got near, but the ball fell nicely to Faurlin on his favoured left foot. The Argentinian hit it first time through a ruck of players and the ball was goal-bound, but the ball ricocheted off Tommy Smith’s shin and wide of the goal. A let off for Forest albeit against the run of play. Three minutes later, and both Faurlin and Smith were involved again as we took the lead. Faurlin picked the ball up in midfield and as it looked to all the world that the ball would go to the left, he had other ideas and hit a lovely reverse pass to Tommy Smith out wide right. With his first touch, Smith cut inside and left every Forest player wrong footed as he advanced on goal and then hit a perfect left footed shot into the bottom left hand corner of the net for his 5th goal in 13 starts. The goal gave us a bit of confidence and we then proceeded to take the game to Forest at last. Derry and Faurlin were now getting more involved, but the Forest back-line were playing well against our lone striker.
On 22 minutes, Forest’s chances looked doomed as Radoslaw Majewski was given a straight red card for an awful challenge on Adel Taarabt (who else ?). In his defence, he is not usually that type of player, but the laws are there to protect ALL players. The fact that Majewski didn’t complain says a lot, but it didn’t stop Forest’s captain, McKenna, moaning at referee Mark Clattenburg. He may change his opinion if he sees the tackle on TV. Rather than bring on a sub at this point, Billy Davies took a leaf out of Warnock’s book and carried on regardless. Two minutes later it paid off as following a needless foul by Connolly 20 yards out, Lewis McGugan hit the free kick right footed, as it headed well wide, it hit the inside leg of Dave McGoldrick and squirmed into the bottom corner of the net. It was definitely a fluke, but it was also just rewards for Forest’s enterprising play in the first half, in fact it was the least they deserved.
Forest almost went ahead 3 minutes later when Wes Morgan found himself totally unmarked at a corner some 10 yards out. His downward header was powerful, but thankfully Paddy Kenny managed to save it with his feet to save Connolly and Gorkss more blushes. Just before that corner, Hill had got on to the end of a good cross from Orr, but his 20-yard shot cleared the bar. Maybe two goals in two home games is asking just a tad too much from a left back perhaps ? I’d rather our centre forward would get into scoring positions though. Taarabt then had two attempts at goal as we tried to take advantage of numbers in personnel. First he teed up a shot, but gave the Forest defence enough time to attempt a block tackle. He let fly with a screamer, but somehow the defender threw himself in the line of fire and was no doubt in a lot of pain for his trouble.
Then soon after, Adel tried to outfox Camp with a cheeky chip from outside the box. He managed to bamboozle the keeper, but the chip lacked direction and went just wide. It was shortly after this that Camp went on one of his walkabouts that was reminiscent of his last days at QPR. Following his flap at a high ball in the box, he charged out of the box and eventually managed to hoof the ball into the South Africa Road Stand. A shame that he didn’t do that all those years ago at Carrow Road eh ? Not that I’m bitter as I fully appreciate his classy performance on his debut at Hartlepool and his telling contribution to our last promotion season. Just before half time Smith went off injured and was replaced by Miller.
First half we were given the runaround at times and in particular Connolly and Gorkss were having mares trying to cope with McGoldrick and Tudgay. The red card seemed to inspire Forest even more, as it did for us last week at the Madejski. Half time: 1-1.
The start of the second half saw Billy Davies make his first substitution with a defender replacing a forward. There could be only one result now surely ? The second half didn’t live up to the pace and excitement of the first half, unfortunately for us as Forest understandably got men behind the ball with five across the back in front of Camp with a lone striker. One disappointment for me was the fact Lee Camp didn’t have a worthy save to make in the second half, but that would take away from the performance of an excellent Forest team. The only time I recall us beating Camp was when Orr met a Taarabt corner with a powerful header which was headed off the line.
Both teams showed why they are in the promotion race and in the last 10 minutes, Forest even went for a win, so fair play to them. On 72 minutes, Routledge flew down the left wing as the ball was played over the Forest back five and as he got to the ball first, he appeared to be taken down from behind by Chris Cohen, but seeing as the referee was no more than 6 yards away, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. At the final whistle, I heard a few groans, but we had just witnessed two of the division’s best teams play out an excellent game of football. I see it as another point gained and we’ve now reached 60 points with 45 more to play for. We don’t have too much to grumble about seeing as we’ve been top or joint top for 29 of the 31 games so far. Now if only we could get our centre forward banging them in, then we wouldn’t have to worry about the next 15 games.
Team: Kenny 7, Orr 7, Hill 7, Connolly 5, Gorkss 5 (Chimbonda 7), Faurlin 8 (Vaagan Moen 7), Derry 7, Routledge 6, Smith 7 (Miller 7), Taarabt 6, Hulse 5.
MOTM Faurlin. What will he be like when hes in his prime ???
Referee: Mark Clattenburg 8, one of the best refs we’ve had in a long time. He seemed to be talking to players at every incident and appeared to get every major decision correct, not that there were very many.
Attendance: 17,227 (including 2,575 very noisy away fans)