Match report: Nottingham Forest 0, Blackburn Rovers 0
NOTTINGHAM Forest registered a fifth Championship game without a win, but there were more positives than negatives at the City Ground, as promotion favourites Blackburn Rovers were made to hang on for a draw.
The main question mark for Sean O'Driscoll's side was how they had not claimed three points from a match in which they were the only side to carve out meaningful opportunities.
The best fell to Billy Sharp, a man with a history of showing his predatory instincts at this ground.
But the striker's search for his first Forest goal continues, following a night of finishing frustration for the entire Reds team.
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Henri Lansbury was denied by an outstanding save from Paul Robinson, while Andy Reid twice came close to breaking the deadlock on a night when Lee Camp was rarely tested.
Forest were quick out the blocks from the kick-off, with Dan Harding sending Reid into space down the left, where the Irishman bent in a cross that was cleared for a corner – which was fizzed temptingly past the far post by Lewis McGugan.
Chris Cohen then cut in from the right to let fly with a left-foot shot that Robinson had to be alert to get his body behind. Although a flowing Blackburn move also saw Nuno Gomez force an adept save from Lee Camp, plunging low to his right, with a crisp 18-yard shot.
Blackburn were allowing Forest more room to produce the fluid football that had become their trademark at the start of the campaign and, following more progressive, patient build up, Simon Gillett had the room to strike a left foot shot – although the quality of that, unfortunately, did not match what had gone before.
Forest had to survive a spell of pressure when the visitors turned the screw for the first time, winning a flurry of corners in front of their own fans, with Collins having to be particularly sharp to clear as one delivery bounced around dangerously in front of goal, with a clutch of Rovers players poised to pounce.
Greg Halford conceded another corner as he misjudged an attempt to head the ball back to Camp – and the end result was another minor moment of panic as Jason Lowe delivered another fine ball into the danger zone, which again had to be scrambled clear when it seemed it would surely drop for a Blackburn boot.
Cohen's quick feet engineered the room for him to whip a cross into the centre, where Sharp was crowded out as he attempted to connect.
Sharp was playing as a lone striker with Lansbury, making his first start since signing from Arsenal in the summer, playing just off him.
With Dexter Blackstock and Simon Cox suspended and Marcus Tudgay recovering from a hernia operation, Forest were not overwhelmed with forward options.
But Lansbury looked comfortable enough, with McGugan also often pushing on down the centre to offer his support to the front line.
Indeed, when Sharp dropped into a wide position on the left, to turn creator, Lansbury almost pounced on his driven cross at the near post, as the Blackburn defence took their turn to be forced into a moment of panic, before ultimately scrambling clear.
McGugan then found a gap to exploit down the right, delivering an outstanding ball into the centre, where Sharp seemed to be caught in two minds as to whether to shoot or take a touch and ended up prodding the ball through to the keeper.
Lansbury then hesitated when presented with a chance to dart through the centre – or to feed the overlapping Reid, allowing Blackburn to recover. The England under-21 international almost conjured up a moment of brilliance, as he came within inches of slotting Sharp through on goal, only for his superb reverse pass to carry too much pace.
Having finished the half the stronger of the two sides, Forest had still not carved out a meaningful, glaring opportunity – at least not until the final minute before the interval.
McGugan was first to come close to breaking the deadlock, as he drove a powerful 25-yard shot towards the near post, where former England man Robinson did well to push the ball around the woodwork.
Then Lansbury was left with his head in his hands when, after Blackburn had failed to deal with the resulting corner, he struck an equally forceful shot from the edge of the box that forced a vital, brave headed clearance from Scott Dann, as the ball dipped menacingly towards goal.
Harding won a free kick in a dangerous position wide on the left when he challenged bravely for a header in the first minute of the second half, with Bradley Orr clattering him to the ground. But McGugan's curling free kick was deflected over after taking a nick off the defensive wall.
Reid was rather closer with a clean strike from the edge of the box that fizzed narrowly over the bar.
Now Forest were enjoying a spell of dominance, with Reid's attempt to bend the ball inside the far post flying inches wide, following a corner.
Robinson then had to produce the best save of the game so far, as a flurry of passes eventually culminated in Lansbury skipping into the box, before hitting a powerful, angled shot that the keeper did well to push away.
Lansbury, who had played well but was tiring, was replaced by Majewski, as Forest looked to maintain their momentum. And the little Pole almost carved out a goal when he cut in from the right, into the box, before lashing the ball low, across the fact of goal, where Dann had to scramble clear.
Halford then crossed well from right, with Ayala just failing to get a touch after producing a towering leap in the centre. Sharp could have scored when picked out by an outstanding pass from Cohen, who sent him angling clear through the centre, but the striker hammered the ball into the side netting as Robinson advanced.
Jermaine Jenas was then given his first taste of the action after returning to the club where he began his career on loan – and his first touch might have been a goal, had he managed to make contact with a bending cross from Reid at the far post.
Forest's confidence was growing, with Blackburn sitting deep, seemingly happy to try to hold on for a point. And holding on they were, as Gillett saw a low shot deflected wide of the post.
Forest: Camp, Halford, Ayala, Collins, Harding, Gillett, Cohen, McGugan (Jenas 72), Reid (Coppinger 85), Lansbury (Majewski 83), Sharp. Subs: Evtimov, Moussi, Greening, Moloney, Coppinger.
Blackburn: Robinson, Orr, Olsson, Givet, Lowe, Formica, Murphy, Dann, Gomes (Kazim-Richards 64), Hanley, Rhodes (Dunn 86). Subs: Nunes, Pedersen, Rochina, Ribeiro, Kean.
Referee: Mick Russell (Herts)
Attendance: 18,748 (1,158)