Bags of character, but Nottingham Forest were lucky to net point
ANOTHER game, another draw. On the face of things, the plot line to Nottingham Forest's season is becoming just a little predictable.
Only, on this occasion, the story that unfolded at the King Power Stadium was anything but.
Having dominated against one of the sides challenging at the top of the table, Middlesbrough, a few days previously, and failed to collect the three points they deserved, Sean O'Driscoll's side snatched a point that they certainly hadn't merited at the King Power Stadium.
Forest have now drawn as many matches as anyone else in the country this season. But none of their previous seven stalemates had been quite as dramatic as this one.
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If their performance against Middlesbrough was encouraging for the quality of their football, it was Forest's character that shone through across the East Midlands, as they twice fought back from behind to claim a 2-2 draw.
Foxes manager Nigel Pearson was rightly worked up into a rage after seeing a penalty awarded against his side that was dubious at best, while seeing a handball from Simon Gillett go unpunished at the other end.
Pearson's fury was aimed in the direction of referee Anthony Taylor and at the Sky television pundits covering the game, who dared to suggest that the spot kick – awarded after Zak Whitbread had slid in from behind on Billy Sharp, appearing to get a toe to the ball before he felled the striker – was justified.
But, while Pearson was labelling people 'clueless' and 'overpaid punters', O'Driscoll was offering his sympathy, after seeing Simon Cox net from the spot to secure a point.
The Forest manager admitted he would have been disgruntled had a similar decision been made to the detriment of his side – before launching himself into what he later admitted was 'a bit of a rant' about needing to support referees more, with video evidence and advice.
There cannot be many managers who would make such appeals following a controversial decision that has done their side a massive favour.
But then nor can there be many who insist on taking home their own training kit to wash or, before and after every away game, helping to load and unload the team coach.
Such habits are not formed because O'Driscoll favours a particular brand of fabric softener, but through a desire to engender a sense of team spirit and togetherness.
By doing his bit when it comes to the menial tasks, O'Driscoll is better placed to demand the same of his players on the pitch.
And, while they were second best at Leicester City by some distance, they were exactly the qualities that shone through as Forest grafted their way to a point that was barely deserved.
Elliott Ward and Andy Reid both cleared the ball off the line, Jermaine Jenas chased back to make a goal-saving block at the far post and Lee Camp made a string of saves as Leicester carved out chance after chance.
Admittedly, many of those opportunities had come through Forest's poor play, on a day when their biggest strength suddenly became an Achilles heel.
Normally Forest are confident in possession, intelligent with their use of the ball.
For some reason, those qualities deserted them on Saturday, to be replaced by an uncharacteristic uncertainty and inaccuracy which repeatedly handed Leicester possession and chances on a plate.
Ward was unlucky to see his attempt to clear a Lloyd Dyer cross merely deflect the ball inside Camp's near post and – after Forest's best passing move of the game had culminated in Cox cutting the ball back for Adlene Guedioura to stroke powerfully home an equaliser – Leicester's second goal owed everything to the brilliance of Anthony Knockaert and David Nugent, for, respectively, a superb pass and an outstanding clipped finish.
Referee Taylor's generosity and Cox's composure from the spot will go down on paper as the moments that secured Forest a point.
But saves from Camp to deny Dyer and Martyn Waghorn were equally important, as the visitors hung on grimly for a draw.
It is often said that the sign of a good team is that they can pick up points when they are not at their best and that, in a nutshell, sums up Saturday afternoon perfectly.
But O'Driscoll will also know that a dramatic improvement is needed this weekend, even if the opposition are a Sheffield Wednesday side who have picked up only one win on their travels all season.
There is a good chance that Daniel Ayala will return from a hamstring injury to face the Owls, which might see some stability restored to a back four that looked decidedly fragile on Saturday.
There is also a slim possibility Dan Harding might be available as a natural fit in that left-back position, if he can recover from a hamstring problem of his own.
But the side that under-performed against Leicester was virtually identical to the one that had given another of the promotion contenders a real fright just a few days before, with the only change being Brendan Moloney in for Harding.
And, as O'Driscoll testified, when it comes to bad days at the office, Forest have not suffered too many this season. So wholesale changes to personnel may not be the answer, even if a change in their performance level very much is.
In their last East Midlands derby, Forest saw Dexter Blackstock sent off for an elbow in the harshest of circumstances, against Derby County. Over the course of the season, refereeing decisions will balance themselves out.
What Forest need to ensure is that they are not relying on another to get them out of jail when Wednesday visit on Saturday.