Another small step towards a play-off place was made in Lancashire yesterday afternoon in a fairly competitive but largely dull encounter with Preston North End at Deepdale. Aside from goals inside in the opening 15 minutes, the game lacked any genuine quality and was probably why things petered out into a 1-1 draw. Sabri of course was the happier of the two managers, the point puts 6 points between us and the 7th placed teams with only 3 games remaining. It would’ve been nice to go into those games with greater daylight and an opportunity to further rest players but we’re still at least a point off confirming the play-offs yet. However, unlike Fulham where there wasnt many positives to take away from a thoroughlly miserable performance, yesterday’s showing offered a little more sunshine. Without Joe Lolley, Matty Cash and Toby Figueriedo in the team; a point at Preston in the grand scheme things isn’t to be sniffed at; with Nuno Da Costa , Carl Jenkinson and Michael Dawson all having solid games in red shirts. Lewis Grabban took his tally to 20 goals and on the whole, we looked more than comfortable in dealing with Preston’s aerial threat. Concerns still linger about our ability on the ball but we simply have to keep going and hope that it comes.
The game couldn’t have started better. A great tackle by Samba Sow inside his own half set Forest away on a counter attack; Ben Watson drove forwards and played in Nuno Da Costa to have run at the Preston defence. Although initially making strides into the box; the chance looked to have gone as he turned away from goal but some nibble feet invited a clumsy tackle to win an early penalty. Whilst I’d have been nervous last season with Lewis stepping up, he’s not had same issues this season as he tucked his penalty inside the post. Easy.
That’s 20 goals now for Lewis and with 16 last season; he’s turned out to be a quality signing for Forest. It’s taken 17 years for Forest to produce a 20 goal a season striker and given that Forest hardly play the most offensive game; he’s done incredibly well. I’d love to see a montage of his goals because bar the scrappy one at Leeds; the rest have all been good finishes from our experienced marksman. Let’s hope he can add a few more to his tally before the season is out.
Last 30 yrs #NFFC have had the following hit 20 goals in a season
90/91 N.Clough 20
91/92 Sheringham 22
93/94 Collymore 25
94/95 Collymore 25
97/98 PVH 34 Campbell 23
02/03 Johnson 29 Harewood 21
Then 17 years wait for it to happen again.
*19/20 Grabban 20👏
(* season not over) pic.twitter.com/JVpqdwiBrs
— A⭐️D🌳A⭐️M (@AJT_1980) July 11, 2020
With the early cushion to take the pressure off, I popped downstairs to grab the popcorn, I was convinced we were about to find the 4th gear and be happy to play cat and mouse; cementing a play-off place in the process. Unfortunately, optimism got the better of me as Preston had levelled matters within 10 minutes. It was frustrating because Preston didn’t look the greatest side and we’d given them a lifeline. Both Michael Dawson and Joe Worrall were struggling in the air against Stockley as Preston decided that an aerial bombardment was going to be of more use than attempt to pass through Forest’s midfield of Watson, Yates and Sow. Whilst Preston weren’t causing a massive threat, I thought defensively we let them back into it with a pretty soft goal in the grand scheme of our impressive defensive season. A hopeful knock back down Forest’s left already had Yuri Ribeiro out of position and with Joe Worrall seemingly slow to react to the danger in tracking Brad Potts’ run; the Preston man had time to put a great ball into the box for Stockley to tap home from close range.
It wouldn’t be the Forest way to do it easy. I’d half expected a full on barrage from Preston but thankfully it didn’t come. Preston seemed almost to be as happy as Forest with a point in a game they really needed to win and whilst they huffed and puffed a little; they only managed two shots on target. That’s not to say Forest didn’t have any scares. Both Ben Watson and Joe Worrall made goal saving blocks in the 2nd half as Preston threatened to nudge themselves ahead from balls into the box.
Sammy Ameobi looked Forest’s biggest threat in carrying the ball but a combination of some suspect refereeing and lack of quality in decisive moments prevented him from being the match winner he can be. He almost provided Lewis Grabban with an opportunity to seal things in the last 20 minutes but Lewis couldn’t get away from his man to finish off a teasing cross from the Forest winger. Likewise, on the opposite wing, Nuno Da Costa had shown some cracking touches and positive running but at crucial moments he too seemed to either lose his footing or be fouled by a Preston man. He’s got really nimble feet and with a low centre of gravity; he showed on a few occasions that he could spin away from his man with ease. Whilst he’s starting to look like a decent signing; I would like to see him pose more of a threat on goal as we haven’t really seen him have a shot of note or take up a decent position in the box to be picked out. In the absence of Joe Lolley, he certainly looks more than up to carrying a threat and its good news that we’ve got him at our disposal.
Forest were notably better in the 2nd period and following the introduction of Tiago Silva for Samba Sow, we looked the better side and one more capable of winning the game. Sadly, we just couldn’t muster up that final opportunity to put Preston to the sword that would’ve capped off a well fought performance. Joe Worrall had a particularly strong 2nf half, winning his fair share of balls into the Forest half but also showed quality on the ball, carrying it out from the back with confidence in trying to drive the team forwards. Carl Jenkinson had a fairly solid game and that was a huge relief given the injury of Matty Cash; they were big boots to fill.
As the game petered out, both sides seemed content with the point which nudged us ever closer to clinching a play-off place. With results going Forest’s way since the Fulham defeat, we are almost there. Since the restart, I’d have more than taken 1 defeat out of 6 given form before the lockdown. The concerns are that it is still more steady than spectacular but I just have to keep hoping we can find the 4th gear. My head still says that we’ve the talent to be better with the ball but until that is resolved; I think this will ultimately hamper our chances in the long run. My heart says I don’t care how we do it; we just need to enjoy these moments and hope we get through these next games unscathed. Let’s hope that we can secure things on Wednesday and rest a few legs too; it might just give us a glimpse of a certain Joao Carvalho to show the manager what he is capable of.
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 6 – Steady – no more and no less.
SAMBA: 6 – Dealt with what he had to reasonably well and considering crosses have been a problem of late; he looked confident coming for the ball – little chance on the goal.
JENKINSON: 7 – Took him a little while to get back up to speed but had a very good 2nd half topped with a crucial block.
RIBIERO: 7 – Another good performance. Moving up the Player of the Season pecking order.
DAWSON: 7 – Was quite unassuming but got to grips with Stockley in the 2nd half.
WORRALL: 8 – MAN OF THE MATCH – Thought he switched off for Preston’s goal but had a huge 2nd period for Forest.
SOW: 6 – Was a little subdued yesterday but the game passed him by as Preston went long from the off.
DA COSTA: 7 – Another encouraging performance.
WATSON: 7 – One of those games where he stood his ground in the battle field. Saved a certain goal.
AMEOBI: 6 – Carried our biggest threat but lacked quality in the vital areas.
YATES: 6 – Decent shift and seemed to get better as the game wore on.
GRABBAN: 6 – Took his penalty well but other than that; it was a frustrating afternoon.
SILVA: Instant impact on the team: 7
MIGHTEN: 5 – Barely had any time to affect things.
DIAKHABY: 5 – Likewise, not enough time.