Nottingham Forest overcome 9-man Newcastle 2-1 at the City Ground, but that only tells half the story…
Both Nottingham Forest and Newcastle came into this fixture with contrasting form; Forest were looking for their 3rd successive victory whilst Newcastle were still reeling after back-to-back defeats against Blackburn last weekend and Hull City in the midweek EFL Cup Quarter Final.
The game started in a very subdued manner, with Forest sitting back and allowing Newcastle to dictate the game in the hope they could catch them on the counter-attack as they did so impressively last week against Barnsley where they won 5-2, however, what was to follow was simply astonishing.
The chaos began in the 33rd minute where an inconspicuous tangle in the Newcastle box from a Forest corner saw the linesman flag for an infringement on Henri Lansbury; the referee duly picked up on this and under instruction from his linesman awarded Forest a penalty and sent off Jonjo Shelvey for kicking out at the Forest man. The decision was correct despite protests from Toon fans and players alike, however, this set the tone for a dismal display by Steve Martin. Jonjo Shelvey could now face a 5 match suspension on top of this 3 match ban if he is found guilty of racially abusing Wolves’ Roman Saiss on December 19th; the date of the hearing.
Nicklas Bendtner was to take the resulting penalty however his tame effort to the left of the mightily impressive Karl Darlow – who alongside Jamaal Lascelles was returning to the City Ground for the first time since joining the Magpies, was saved. Newcastle seemed to spring into action after the red card and should have taken the lead on 37 minutes but Ciaran Clark’s header was chalked off by the linesman after a perceived infringement on Matt Mills. There was to be more controversy as Newcastle were adamant Pajtim Kasami handled the ball in the box on 39 minutes; the officials disagreed. Newcastle kept plugging away and took a deserved lead into the break after Matt Ritchie sumptuously diverted a deflected Isaac Hayden cross past the hapless Stojkovic in the Forest goal.
Newcastle would have been happy with the way they were playing with 10 men, with Isaac Hayden dominating the midfield and captain Jamaal Lascelles ushering his defence with real confidence, however there was to be yet more controversy in an extraordinary first half. A ball floated over the Newcastle defence was controlled by Henri Lansbury who was bundled over by Paul Dummett inside the box, with the referee not only awarding Forest a 2nd penalty, but controversially sending off Dummett and condemning Newcastle to 9 men in the process. Unbelievable. This time Henri Lansbury; who seemed to make the most of both challenges that resulted in the red cards, stepped up to face Darlow in the Newcastle goal, but failed just as Bendtner did before him this time to Darlow’s right. An extraordinary half that saw 1 goal, 2 saved penalties and 2 red cards was finally brought to a close to a chorus of Geordie boos and Forest bemusement.
The second half was a far less dramatic affair, with Newcastle sitting in a tight 4-3-1 formation in an attempt to defend their lead however on 52 minutes it seemed the flood gates would open. Nicklas Bendtner, who was having a very quiet game bundled in a scrappy equaliser after a mini-melee ensued in the Newcastle box after Assombalonga headed down a Lansbury diagonal.
This didn’t deter Newcastle from their improvised game plan however and continued to frustrate a toothless Forest who failed to produce any real moment of quality to break down the 9-man Newcastle rear guard. In fact, it was Newcastle who strangely had an opportunity to win the game in the 81st minute as a cleverly worked Ritchie free kick was played into Isaac Hayden who jinked his way into the box and curled an effort agonisingly wide of Stojkovic’s goal. Forest eventually found a 2nd goal however in the 86th minute, ironically through a Jamaal Lascelles own goal who was helpless to avoid bundling the ball past Darlow after a vicious corner was swung into the Newcastle box.
Forest were able to hold on to another 3 points; their 3rd win in a row, however, they seem to look rather impotent when having to dictate a game and look far more comfortable playing on the break. As for Newcastle, it has been a terrible week; losing 3 games in a row, exiting the EFL Cup and squandering a lead at the top of the Championship however they can be proud of how their 9 men played, and should remain confident of securing an immediate return to the Premier League.
MoM – Karl Darlow/Isaac Hayden