A Lewis McGugan penalty in the 97th minute ensured Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten run stretched to nine games on Monday with a 1-1 draw at Burnley, writes Shaun Wheatcroft.
In a first period that saw neat passing spells from both sides it was the two goalkeepers who were called into action to make some key saves, keeping the game level as the teams went into the break.
However, following the interval at Turf Moor, it was Burnley who took the lead courtesy of a deflected goal from Junior Stanislas - before a late surge from Forest ended with McGugan’s penalty, snatching a dramatic point for the Reds.
Billy Davies made six changes to his side before the game with the Reds facing their second match in as many days. The most notable of those was a start for the in-form McGugan, coming in to replace Radi Majewski after scoring four goals in four as a substitute.
The Reds are top of the Championship’s form table and showed why early on when McGugan’s delivery found Billy Sharp – the striker’s header was only stopped thanks to a stretching save from Clarets’ keeper Lee Grant to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Sean Dyche’s men had only won one game in their last 11 outings ahead of the meeting in the North West, but nearly caught Forest out with an early attack. Striker Sam Vokes finding fellow frontman Charlie Austin – but the man who has scored 28 goals so far this season fired his effort into the stands.
McGugan looked to be revelling in his first start for the visitors since December and did well to tee up midfielder Henri Lansbury 25-yards from goal after 18 minutes. The former Arsenal man’s effort forcing a good save from Grant.
At the other end Burnley were denied a goal of their own thanks to a fine stop from Karl Darlow in the Reds’ goal – winger Stanislas cut inside on the right after a good ball from midfield but Darlow made himself big, diving down to his left clearing the ball to safety.
Both teams continued to tussle for possession and McGugan came close to breaking the deadlock when he found space to shoot from the edge of the box. However, the Long Eaton-born midfielder’s effort was kept out well by Grant.
And before the break Clarets’ defender Kieran Trippier broke down the right hand side to find a cross which Greg Halford could only clear as far as Ben Mee who, fortunately for the away side, blazed over the bar.
After the players emerged from the tunnel for the second period it was Burnley who looked to catch out Forest immediately. Austin beating Halford before hitting a tame shot from 30-yards that was easily collected by Darlow.
Neither side showed much fluency in their passing as the game seemed to hit a dull patch before the hour-mark and both sides struggled to really get a foothold in game.
But it was the hosts that took the lead on 68 minutes when on loan Reading defender Joseph Mills found a ball which broke for Stanislas – the winger’s effort taking a huge deflection off Andy Reid before settling into the net.
And they nearly doubled their lead with Mills involved again soon after – the defender hitting a left-footed rocket which was only inches off the target, although Darlow looked to have it covered.
Davies’ men soon created their own spell of pressure as they looked to get back into the game - coming close to an equaliser when the bright McGugan’s corner picked out Halford whose header was just tipped over the bar by Grant.
And late in stoppage-time there was controversy as the visitors bombarded the Clarets’ defence with a string of attacks - referee Nigel Miller giving the home side a goal kick when a corner should have been awarded.
But justice was done for the Reds in what proved to be the last kick of the game in added time. Lansbury was brought down in the box and the referee pointed straight to the spot.
It was McGugan who clutched the ball under his arm, placing it on the spot before slotting home his fifth goal in as many games, sending the keeper the wrong way and rewarding Davies’ faith in him with a vital goal.
Forest remain in 5th position in the Championship with 62 points. In their next outing the Reds will be back at the City Ground as they take on Paul Ince’s Blackpool on Saturday 6th April. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Burnley: Grant, McCann, Austin, Wallace (Ings, 71), Shackell (c), Vokes, Bartley, Mee (Mills, 60), Stanislas (Edgar, 90), Long, Tripper.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Jara, Ward, Halford, Cohen (c), Moussi, Lansbury, McGugan, Reid (Majewski, 76), Blackstock (Henderson, 73), Sharp (Cox, 73).
Man of the match: Lewis McGugan.
Referee: Nigel Miller.