Lewis Grabban earnt Nottingham Forest a point for the second time this week, as the Reds secured their Championship safety with a 1-1 draw against Stoke City at the City Ground. James Edginton reports
Nottingham Forest hosted Stoke City looking to improve on recent disappointing performances and try and end their season strongly. The visitors had won just one of their previous 13 away matches.
Chris Hughton made three changes to the side that rescued a late draw against Birmingham on Wednesday, with Yuri Ribeiro, Cafu and Lewis Grabban coming into the side.
The first-half performance by Forest epitomised their season, with the Reds dominating possession but not creating enough in front of goal against a Stoke side content to sit back. Grabban had Forest’s best chance of opening the scoring, when he pounced on a loose ball and drove into the penalty area before sending his effort into the side-netting.
It was a big opportunity missed for the Reds and it proved costly, with Stoke scoring with their only real chance of the first half, just before the half-hour mark. Rabbi Matondo, on loan from Schalke, was the goalscorer, meeting a Josh Tymon cross to stab the ball past Brice Samba.
Forest failed to respond in the remainder of the first half and at half-time they trailed Stoke 1-0. However, a bright start to the second half meant that it was not long until Forest equalised.
Five minutes into the second half, Anthony Knockaert picked out Grabban with an excellent cross and although the striker’s first effort was blocked, he made no mistake with his second opportunity.
It was Grabban that had the best chance of either side to win the game, but his shot from tight angle was saved by Adam Davies. In the end, neither side could find a winner, with the point confirming Forest’s Championship status and taking them up to 17th in the table.
Hughton said: “I thought there were a lot of good things in the performance, we were the better side and we played against a team that are very good at what they do. I thought our possession was good but the difficulty we had was that unless you get those opportunities and goals, then you are always on tenterhooks that you will make a mistake or they will score a quality goal.
“I thought in the first-half period, their goal was the one opportunity that they had. Credit to them for that but we should have been ahead before that.
“Coming out in the second half, you think back to the last two games when we have played well for the first 20 minutes and then dropped and what I was most delighted with was the attitude in the second half. I thought we gave it a really good go, we needed that second goal and on the balance of play and the possession of play we had, we needed to find that formula. It was a game we deserved to win but if you aren’t putting the ball in the back of the net it becomes harder.”