Nottingham Forest 1-1 West Bromwich Albion Six Things: Reds denied victory by Phillips’ late show

Bartley duels with Carvalho – @WBA

Nottingham Forest were cruelly denied the first win of their 2018-19 Championship campaign due to a late equalizer from Matt Phillips, in a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. Here’s six things from the game.

Forest’s first half pressure

Adlene Guedioura brilliantly called the shots in midfield, bringing Tendayi Darikwa and Joe Lolley into play with raking balls. While they got into reasonable positions though, they lacked the final touches of quality to truly test Sam Johnstone. The ex-Villa goalkeeper’s only first half save was to simply bat away Lewis Grabban’s tight-angled effort and when he was forced out of his goal due to Tosin Adarabioyo’s naïve back-pass, neither Grabban nor Lolley could capitalize.

Cautious Baggies

West Brom lined up with at times all 11 players in their own half; lone striker Jay Rodriguez did a lot of defensive work. While they threatened in flashes from Chris Brunt’s set pieces, which maximized Kyle Bartley’s physical advantage over Tobias Figuierdo, they did not play with the positivity required to consistently attain dead ball scenarios. Harvey Barnes, who scored a stunner at the weekend, spent far more of the first half worrying about opposing right-back Tendayi Darikwa’s runs than showing his own ability. Matt Phillips looked the likeliest source of creativity in open play; his right-sided delivery set up a glorious chance in the six-yard box, but Rodriguez couldn’t quite get the right contact.

Guedioura takes centre-stage

With Forest’s forwards lacking the ruthlessness to make pressure pay, they perhaps needed a belter to get ahead and Guedioura obliged. The Algerian took three touches to set his sights then, amid the desperate challenge of Jake Livermore, hit his effort slightly into the ground and it flew into the bottom left-hand corner. The ex-Wolves man had been arguably the game’s stand-out performer, so it was fitting that he enjoyed Forest’s moment of glory. He could have had another, too on 80 minutes, after spotting Johnstone off his line from his own half, but was denied a Goal of the Season contender by the goalkeeper’s faint touch.

Late drama

That moment though didn’t disguise the fact Forest had dropped off a few yards and, with West Brom finally stirring, a dramatic finale ensued. Visiting substitute Dwight Gayle, often a reliable finisher, hit the post from close-range but Phillips levelled, ramming the ball into the roof of the net after a well-timed run. Seconds later, the same player hit the bar with an attempted cross, before Barnes too found the bar from the same move, which led to Gayle nodding straight at the keeper, barely a minute before Grabban saw his header cleared off the line at the other end as it finished all-square. The Championship, eh?

Mixed night for Moore

In some ways, Darren Moore deserves credit for the way his side reacted to going behind; putting Gayle up top with Rodriguez in a switch to an orthodox 4-4-2 made a difference. In other ways though, the comeback invites further scrutiny into his side’s mentality while the game was level. Getting their first point of the season is the first step for Albion, but the next one is to develop a positive playing ideology that fans can believe in – we didn’t quite see that at the City Ground.

Encouraging signs for The Reds

This result certainly shows Forest need to be more ruthless in front of goal, with Grabban particularly guilty of missing good opportunities. However, Aitor Karanka, who places great emphasis on the work his players do without the ball, can take heart from the intensity at which they pressed for at least an hour. The challenge for his side is to either maintain that pressure for longer periods, or become more clinical when chances come their way.