|Portsmouth made it a miserable Christmas for Forest as they took all three points from the City Ground, beating Forest 2 – 1 in front of the Sky cameras.
It was only Forest’s second home defeat of the season (the other being Watford’s 1-0 win back in September), but it came on the back of three away defeats to Burnley, Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday. The only high point being the 2-0 home win against Reading last Saturday.
Without making any excuses for the team, suspensions and injuries are starting to take their toll on what was a stable side. Today’s game saw Paul Hart forced into making three changes, with Harewood serving a one game suspension for picking up five yellow cards, while Scimeca and Hjelde both missed out due to picking up knocks.
The good news for Forest was that Paul Merson was still struggling with his ankle problem and would not be playing, neither would Steve Stone. Even better, Des Walker had passed a late fitness test and would return to the starting line up.
The game started at a fierce pace and Portsmouth gave early warning of their intentions when Burton shot on goal with around fifteen seconds on the clock – it’s probably the earliest touch Darren Ward has got to the ball in a game.
Less than a minute later Burton fed the ball through for Taylor, who could only drag his shot across the goal and out for a throw.
It was an early wake up call for the Red’s and wake up they did, having the best of the next 15 minutes, with Reid providing some good balls into the box, including one in the third minute which beat Hislop in the Portsmouth goal but hit the post and was then put out for a corner.
Things started to go wrong for Forest with 14 minutes on the clock as Walker – after a recurrence of his thigh injury – had to be substituted.
Burton tried a long range shot on 19 minutes and it forced Ward into making an excellent save as it powered its way towards the top corner.
The next few minutes saw Portsmouth take over from Forest and chances fell to Burton, Quashie and Todorov. Then on 25 minutes it looked like Todorov had scored as he bundled the ball over the line from a corner, but the referee had already blown for a foul.
Just before half time Todorov and Ward chased a loose ball, Ward went down and knocked the ball clear before taking out Todorov as well. Todorov made a meal of it claiming a penalty, the referee wasn’t interested and all Todorov got for his trouble was an earful of grief from Ward.
Louis-Jean – who picked up a knock at Sheffield Wednesday – didn’t come out for the second half, he was replaced by John Thompson. Thompson was called into early action when he got in a good block to stop the advancing Todorov.
Portsmouth were dominant in the second half and Forest were pegged back for most of the game, the breakthrough for Portsmouth coming on 54 minutes, a brilliant solo effort from Taylor.
He made a run down the left side before rifling in a long range effort which gave Ward no chance at all as it crashed into the far side of the goal.
Four minutes later Forest had a penalty call turned down after DeZeeuw and Lester tangled in the Portsmouth area – the referee opting to give the defender the benefit of the doubt.
Portsmouth continued to harass Forest, never letting them settle on the ball and winning all but a few of the 50-50 balls, then with four minutes left on the clock they doubled their lead.
Crowe fired in a blistering shot which Ward managed to parry downward, but Pericard was quickest to react as he bundled the loose ball into the back of the net.
Forest managed a consolation goal in the last minute of normal time as Williams’ out-swinging corner found the stooping head of Dawson on the edge of the penalty area. His header rocketed into the bottom corner of the net.
The two minutes of injury time were not sufficient for Forest to capitalise on their goal and the final whistle saw them drop down into fifth place in the league.