Friday, 14 October 2016

Nottingham Forest 3 v Birmingham City 1 SkyBet EFL Championship

Friday 14th February 2016
SkyBet EFL Championship
at the City Ground, West Bridgford, Nottingham
Nottingham Forest (1) 3
Eric Lichaj 33, Apostolos Vellios 63, Hildeberto Pereira 83
Birmingham City (0) 1
Lucas Jutkiewicz 71
Admission £24. Programme £3.Attendance 19,208
Nottingham Forest:
Stojkovic; Lichaj, Mills, Perquis, Traore (Pereira 76); Lansbury, Vaughan, Cohen; Carayol (Lam 82), Bendtner (Vellios 57), Osborn.
Unused subs - Dumitru-Cardoso, Kasami, Henderson, Grant.
Birmingham City:
Legzdins; Shotton, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds; Cotterill, Gleeson, Davis (Brown 86), Maghoma (Donaldson 70); Adams (Fabbrini 64); Jutkiewicz.
Unused subs - Kieftenbeld, Wiggins, Stewart, Kuszczak
I believe that those within the betting fraternity refer to this kind of game as a coupon buster.
Forest hadn't won a league game since they beat Leeds United back in August, whereas Blues arrived at the City Ground unbeaten in their last eight away games... in actual fact they had only lost one game all season and that was when Wolves visited St. Andrew's on August 20th.
So how did the game unfold tonight then?
Obviously I must start with the much overused cliche, about football being played on grass, not paper.
But while those in the red corner will claim that they over ran their play off chasing visitors and dominated play so much that they stifled Gary Rowett's preferred 4-4-2 formation, or 4-4-1-1 if you really must, while those of a Blues persuasion will point out that they misfired so badly on all cylinders, they made Forest look good.
There is definitely at least a good dollop of truth in the narrative of both camps, but this was the best performance I have seen from the home side for a very long time, while City got nowhere near the standards that their travelling support have come to expect of late.
Personally, I was actually impressed with the way that Phillipe Montanier's side imposed themselves, but was thoroughly disappointed by the way that Birmingham didn't.
It used to be the infamous West Midlands police force who saw all football supporters as public enemy number 1 and made things as unpleasant as possible for anybody who merely wanted to attend a game of football, but their latter day Nottinghamshire equivalent are currently making a real fist of snatching that lob sided crown for themselves.
Many people assumed that tonight's game must have been scheduled to be shown on live TV, but as fans of Mansfield Town and Notts County have already found out this season, the local police round here are on a mission to inconvenience fans as much as they possibly can.
Sky TV were actually showing Cardiff City v Bristol City; the real reason that this game had been switched to a Friday night, was that the powers that be felt that their resources would be somewhat overstretched, if that had to police this game at the City Ground on the same day that two potentially high risk fixtures (I'm being sarcastic here) were also going ahead in the same county.
Namely: Mansfield Town v Wycombe Wanderers and Notts County v Crewe Alexandra, which are both League 2 (AKA Division 4) fixtures.
Clubs are getting shafted by expensive bills from their local constabulary, while supporters are being messed about, with games getting their dates swapped about, or kicking off in the morning, on the pretence that the police have 'inside information' that trouble is potentially afoot, here there and everywhere, when that is clearly not the case at all.
But returning swiftly back to the City Ground from whatever off kilter tangent that I was stomping off on into the distance, let's concentrate on football issues.
As I was driving away from the game, Radio Nottingham's team of 'expert' reporters were putting the feel good factor and cheery ambiance around the stadium down to the breaking news of a potential boardroom takeover, whereby Forest's unpopular chairman Fawad Al Hasawi could soon be on his way, which would be good for both the club and football in general in my humble opinion.
But the twice European champions (and you thought they had those two stars on their shirts because they also worked at McDonald's) aren't the only club who should be bathed in optimism at this current moment in time, because Hong Kong stock market announcement at 2AM this morning, heralded final confirmation that Paul Seun Chu Hung's 'Trillion Trophy Asia', will takeover as Birmingham City FC's new holding company, with a 60% stake in the club as of Monday, when shares in Birmingham International Holdings Ltd resume trading.
At which time Blues fans can get the red carpet down to welcome such business luminaries as Zhao Wenqing, Daniel Sue Ka Lok, Ms. Chan Yuk Yee, Yiu Chun Kong and Zhu Kai to St. Andrew's as well as the TTA's non executive board members: Yan Ming, Pun Chi Ping and Christine Leung Pik Ha.
I have followed this long running saga with a close interest for quite a while now and can thoroughly recommend that you trawl through all of the lengthy documents pertaining to City's imminent takeover that are available to read online, particularly if you suffer from insomnia.
But though you'd have to say that any leap of faith, or jump into the dark, is never going to be entirely risk free, there are definitely enough pointers to feel more optimistic, or cautiously optimistic at least, that BCFC are going to be on a stronger footing than they have been for several years.
I guess that only time will tell.
Either way, if the local radio show was speculating that the Forest hordes were of a cheery demeanour because there is a possibility that their football club was about to enter protracted takeover talks (there is no other kind), I can confirm that the vast majority of Blues fans in the sold out away section were bloody miserable because their team were playing shite.
Henri Lansbury, who commanded a fee of £1 million when he joined Forest from Arsenal on a four year deal, shot from the edge of the box in the first minute and Blues keeper Adam Legzdins struggled to get to grips with the ball, but eventually got to grips with it at the second attempt with Ben Osborn almost benefiting from his indecisiveness.
Legzdins was beaten by Lansbury's free kick after nine minutes, inside his near post with a low shot... a goalkeepers nightmare if ever there was one.
But, the match referee Jeremy Simpson was summoned over by his assistant and the goal was ruled out for an offside infringement.
Osborn delivered a free kick to Nicklas Bendtner, who like Lansbury is another former Arsenal player, but he diverted his header just wide.
Legzdins was then tested again from another free kick by Lansbury.
Forest had a moody looking firm out tonight
Following a sustained spell of pressure from the home side, Eric Lichaj took Bendtner's pass down on his chest and drilled the ball across the face of Legzdins goal and bulled the inside of the side netting to put Forest ahead... it had been coming. Just to rub it in to the travelling Blues, before he scored, every time Lichaj had touched the ball, he was roundly booed for his previous involvement with another club that plays within the city boundaries of Birmingham.
Half time came and by my reckoning the Forest keeper Vladimir Stojkovic hadn't had a single save to make.
HT: Reds 1 v Blues 0
The home side were doing a good job of keeping tabs on Che Adams, who was prevented from having as much influence on the game as Birmingham would've liked, which was a good a way as any of restricting the visitors fluent movement in the Reds half of the pitch.
Michael Morrison collided with Bendtner as they both went for the ball at the same time and the Forest play maker never got up again and left the pitch on a stretcher grasping an oxygen mask to his face. 
Hopefully the extent of his injuries won't be as bad as they looked as he was carried away.
My favourite Welsh player, Dave Cotterill, showed why Gareth Bale takes the free kicks in international games, when he scuffed a free kick from twenty yards that harmlessly bobbled though to Stojkovic.
Aspostolos Vellios, on as a substitute for Bendtner, doubled Forest's lead with his first touch when he diverted Lansbury's cross past Legzdins at full stretch from close range after 63 minutes.
Ryan Shotton didn't look especially comfortable playing at right back, after an enforced Blues defensive shuffle, but it at least afforded him the opportunity to get down the wing and cross for Lucas Jutkiewicz to head the ball past Stojkovic to half the arrears in the 71st minute.
The goal boosted Birmingham and backed by their noisy supporters in full voice, the visitors upped the ante for almost five or six minutes before vanishing back into their shells.
Hildeberto Pereira had only been on from the bench for a few minutes,when he struck the final hammer blow, with a goal was probably the pick of the bunch, on a night that was punctuated by some quality finishes.
The Portugese Under 20 international, who is on a one year loan at the City Ground from Benfica, picked up the possession on the edge of the Forest area and raced forward into Birmingham's half, before playing the ball out wide to Osborn on the left flank and continuing his run into Legzdins
area and adding the finishing touch when he received a return pass straight in front of the Blues goal.
The game was now effectively over and Gary Rowett's side will now be chomping at the bit and hoping to get back in the saddle immediately when Rotherham United visit an 'under new ownership' St. Andrew's on Tuesday night, while Forest face a tricky away trip to Ewood Park on the same night, where Blackburn Rovers will be looking to avoid defeat, because as things stands, they are anchored into one of the three Championship relegation spots.
FT: Nottingham Forest 3 v Birmingham City 1
Upon arrival at my desirable homestead, I was taken aback to read the stats for tonight's match that suggested Blues had seen more of the ball over the 90 minutes. 
Possibly they had, mathematically at least, but not in the areas of the pitch where they were ever likely to cause their hosts much damage.
Least ways, you can dissect any game of football statistically, but there is only one real count that matters at the end of the day... and to that end Forest came out on top by virtue of three really well taken goals. 
Out of interest, the respective Under 23 sides of Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City face each other on Tuesday night, in a game that kicks off at 7pm at the Impact Arena, the home of Alfreton Town FC, which can be found at: North Street, Alfreton, Derbys. DE55 7FZ