A GOALLESS draw with Barnsley left Nottingham Forest two points adrift of the Championship play-offs on Saturday as an impressive Forest side were denied by the woodwork four times at the City Ground, writes Shaun Wheatcroft.
Goalkeeper Karl Darlow had little to do in a first period that was dominated by Forest. However, the home side were frustrated by a spirited Barnsley side and failed to open the scoring before the interval, despite Henri Lansbury striking the crossbar.
After the break Forest again took the initiative on the attack as the frame of the goal came to Barnsley’s rescue three times, during a second period that saw Tykes’ shot-stopper Luke Steele perform outstandingly in the Barnsley goal, making some important saves as the game ended a stalemate.
Reds boss Billy Davies made one change to the side that lost out away at Middlesbrough in mid-week – Radi Majewski retaining his place in the side at the expense of Lewis McGugan in midfield.
The game got off to a lively start with Forest on the attack immediately – Lansbury surging down the right before picking out Simon Cox who went down under a good challenge in the penalty area - soft appeals for a spot-kick were soon waved away.
The Reds turned the screw again on four minutes when Majewski’s corner led to the ball breaking for Cox after some good work from Elliott Ward. However, the striker’s angled effort towards goal was deflected wide of the target.
Forest continued to apply the pressure in the early stages of the match as Barnsley struggled to gain a foot-hold in the game. But the hosts were forced to replace Sam Hutchinson for Danny Collins on 22 minutes after the defender picked up a slight knock.
Forest were on the hunt for their first win in six, after falling two places and one point adrift of the play-off positions, and Davies’ men were denied by the bar just before the half-hour mark when Majewski’s corner found Lansbury who peeled away to crash a header against the woodwork.
David Flitcroft’s men were in the Championship relegation zone and just one point from safety ahead of the game. Yet, the visitors created some danger of their own when Reuben Noble-Lazarus bolted forward on goal before Ward stepped in with a well-timed tackle.
And at the other end Billy Sharp was also denied by Steele with his point-blank header on goal – the effort, Forest’s first on target with 36 minutes gone, came following a trademark long-throw from Greg Halford into the box.
Before the whistle went for half-time Andy Reid looked to have a chance to break the deadlock for the hosts as the ball dropped to Cox who teed up the winger on the edge of the box – however, although the veteran fired over, Cox was ruled offside anyway.
As the teams emerged from the tunnel for the second period the City Ground men looked to continue the trend created in the previous half. However, it was Barnsley who had the first effort when Jim O’Brien found Noble-Lazurus whose shot from 25-yards went wayward.
And the Reds came close to opening the scoring twice before the hour - Reid’s searching ball from the left picked out an advancing Lansbury, and the former Arsenal man’s diving header was kept out by a magnificent save from Steele before Reid struck himself from range minutes later, only to see his shot tipped against the post by Steele.
Reid looked sharp down the left and a neat trick to beat the last man saw him find another pin-point ball into the box soon after for Sharp – but the Southampton loanee’s effort was straight at Steele.
Barnsley then looked like they would score at the other end of the field as substitute Chris Dagnall ran forward into the penalty box on the counter. Yet, Ward was on hand to thwart the danger again but with a crucial tackle.
Lady Luck seemed to be keeping Barnsley in the game as Sharp was denied by the post again soon after following a good turn on the edge of the area – the frontman’s powerful shot, the third time the Reds had hit the woodwork in the game.
With 20 minutes left to play both Cox and Collins headed over the bar from chances inside the area and McGugan squandered a good opportunity as he failed to connect with a lofted ball from Reid.
And during four minutes of stoppage-time the hosts hit the woodwork for an astonishing fourth time as Reid picked out Sharp for a glancing looping header which bounced back off the top of the crossbar to leave Forest frustrated.
The Reds are now eighth in the Championship table and sit two points away from the final play-off spot. In their penultimate game of the season Forest take on Millwall at the Den on Saturday 27th April. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Cohen (c), Halford, Ward, Hutchinson (Collins, 22), Guedioura, Majewski (Blackstock, 82), Lansbury (McGugan, 66), Reid, Cox, Sharp.
Barnsley: Steele (c), Wiseman, Kennedy, Cranie, Noble-Lazurus (Cywka, 67) O’Brien (Harewood, 77), Mellis, Perkins, Jones, O’Grady, Scotland (Dagnall, 56).
Man of the match: Chris Cohen
Referee: Andy Haines
Attendance: 22,230 (away: 1,190)