Match report: Nottingham Forest 1 Ipswich Town 1 – Trotter scores deep into stoppage-time to deny his former club
Liam Trotter scored a debut goal deep into stoppage-time to deny his former club what would have been a vital victory at Nottingham Forest.
Ipswich Town had led through Jonathan Parr’s expert 75th minute finish and looked to be comfortably seeing the game out.
But then – in the sixth and final minute of added time – Trotter, who only joined on loan from Bolton on the morning of the game, tapped home after Dean Gerken’s weak punch and Piotr Malarczyk’s goalline clearance.
It was a case of late heartbreak but, in truth, a draw was probably the fair result given that Ipswich, with all their attacking array of taken on the field, took almost an hour to produce a meaningful shot on target.
Both teams are now winless in six league matches, the Blues having claimed just seven points from their last nine. That’s now 11 matches without victory at The City Ground for the Suffolk side.
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It had all looked so good after Parr, who replaced the injured Jonas Knudsen early on, sent a crisp half-volley into the top corner after Kevin Bru’s cross was half-cleared.
It was Ipswich’s first goal in almost 350 minutes of football and sparked a lengthy celebration that involved all 10 outfield players huddled in front of the 1,873 travelling fans.
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Forest, who were denied by a fine Gerken save in the first half, looked to be dead and buried but mustered one last push.
Ahead of the match, Blues boss Mick McCarthy decided that, with Forest similarly struggling for wins, attack would be the best form of defence. For the first time, Daryl Murphy, David McGoldrick and Freddie Sears all started, with forward-thinking midfielders Ainsley-Maitland-Niles and Kevin Bru also selected.
The attack-minded 4-3-3 system was a world away from the 4-5-1 set-up selected for the 3-0 defeat at Hull City in midweek, Jonathan Douglas, Giles Coke, Parr and Larsen Toure all dropping to the bench.
There were two familiar faces in the Nottingham Forest line-up in the form of Trotter and Jonny Williams.
Trotter, a former Northgate High School pupil who came through the ranks at Town, was thrown straight into the starting line-up after completing an emergency loan switch from Bolton on the morning of the game. It was his first appearance since coming on as an 89th minute sub for the Trotters on the opening weekend of the campaign.
The injury-hit Williams – who proved an immensely popular player at Portman Road during three separate loan spells – was making his first start for Forest since joining on loan from Palace. His season had been limited to just two sub appearances for his club and 86 minutes for Wales.
Forest boss Dougie Freedman ideally would have worked the aforementioned duo into his team slowly, but his hand was rather forced due to the fact he was without 10 first team players through injury or suspension.
Town started brightly enough and, for long spells, were camped in the home team’s half during the opening exchanges. That possession wasn’t translated into goalscoring chances though.
In the 11th minute, Ryan Mendes dragged an angled shot across goal after Tommy Smith had been caught high up the pitch. It was to become a worryingly recurring theme of the half.
McCarthy was forced into a change in the 12th minute after Jonas Knudsen limped off to have ice applied to his right hamstring. He was replaced by Parr.
Forest gradually grew into the game and it required a fine double stop from Dean Gerken to keep the scores level just before the half hour mark.
Again, Smith’s failure to win the ball high up the field left a huge space in behind him to exploit. Mendes slipped the ball left to Trotter before the midfielder’s measured side-footed effort was brilliantly kept out by the strong out-stretched arm of Town’s keeper. Jamie Ward’s follow up effort may have been heading the wrong side of the post, but Gerken – not able to take a gamble – was quick to his feet to block that effort too.
Ipswich may have had their full array of creative talent on the field, but the closest thing they had to an attempt on goal – on or off target – arrived in the 30th minute when McGoldrick’s header at a corner was crowded out by defenders.
Forest, by contrast, had three more good openings before the interval.
First, Gerken did well to beat away Oliveira’s well-hit shot inside the area. That chance came after a goalkick was twice helped on and Mendes had danced his way inside from the left.
There were minor home penalty appeals in the 41st minute after Parr and Oliveira had wrestled at the far post as they contested Jamie Ward’s looping cross. It was six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Then, right at the end of the half, Forest broke at pace following Murphy’s terrible loose pass under zero pressure. Again, Smith missed his tackle high up the field and was booked for his troubles.
Moments later, Forest broke away after defending a corner and Mendes rifled a low shot just wide from the edge of the area.
Following a cagey start to the second half from both teams, Town created the first opening when, after working the ball from right to left, Parr’s powerful effort inside the area floored defender Kelvin Wilson.
Three minutes later, following a poor kick by keeper Dorus De Vries, there was no-one in a blue shirt there to attack Sears’ low cut-back.
Ipswich had been huffing and puffing, but, having waited almost an hour for a meaningful attempt on goal, two arrived in the space of two minutes to wake up the packed away end.
First, out of nowhere, Sears’ wicked dipping shot from long-range was pushed away by De Vries and, despite some sustained subsequent pressure, Forest survived.
Less than two minutes later, in the 58th minute, McGoldrick’s curling left-footed effort from the edge of the box was clawed away by the full-stretch De Vries and Murphy’s angled follow-up hit the near-post side-netting. Many travelling supporters, for a split second, thought the ball was in the back of the net.
Ipswich could not stay on top though and the momentum was soon back in Forest’s favour. First it required a fine block by Berra in the box to deny Trotter’s sweetly struck volley, then it was Skuse to the rescue, the midfielder racing back and getting a foot in following Luke Chambers’ air-kick.
That challenge saw Skuse aggrevate an ankle injury and he was soon replaced by Douglas.
Ipswich’s big moment arrived in the 75th minute after Bru’s cross from the right looped up in the air off a defender’s head. Parr – who was backpedaling – did superbly to guide a half-volley from the angle of the six-yard box back across the keeper and into the top corner.
Every single Town outfield player ran to celebrate in a group huddle in front of the jubilant 1,873 travelling fans. It said everything about the unity in the group and sense of relief.
It’s amazing what a goal can do for confidence and suddenly the visitors were very much on the front foot, McGoldrick and Murphy both firing narrowly wide from long-range.
Forest boss Freedman responded by introducing strikers Dexter Blackstock and Chris O’Grady from the bench, with McCarthy replacing Sears with defender Piotr Malarczyk.
The visitors were fairly untroubled for a long spell, but then came the sting in the tail. Gerken raced off his line and cleared everyone out in the process of trying to punch the ball away just outside of the six-yard box. His clearance lacked distance though, Jorge Grant’s crisp strike was brilliantly blocked on the line by sub Malarczyk and Trotter was there to convert.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-4-1-1): De Vries; Lichaj, Wilson (cpt), Hobbs (O’Grady 82), Pinillos; Ward (Blackstock 79), Trotter, Vaughan, Williams (Grant 67); Mendes; Oliveira,
Unused subs: Evtimov, Iacovitti, C.Burke, Walker.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-3-3): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen (Parr 12); Maitland-Niles, Skuse (Douglas 68), Bru; Sears (Malarczyk 86), McGoldrick, Murphy.
Unused subs: Bialkowski, Coke, Toure, Pitman.
Booked: Skuse (31), Smith (44), Parr (50), Berra (60).
Attendance: 19,616 (1,873 away)
Referee: Mr P Tierney