FULL MATCH REPORT, RATINGS AND GALLERY: Nottingham Forest 2 Ipswich Town 2
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town twice threw away the lead as Michail Antonio’s last-gasp header gave hosts Nottingham Forest a share of the spoils in a scintillating 2-2 draw at The City Ground yesterday.
Daryl Murphy’s fifth and sixth goals of the season, either side of the break, twice gave the visitors the lead, but Robert Tesche pulled Forest back into the game, before Antonio’s late leveller.
It was a kick in the teeth for Town, and Murphy in particular, after he struck with a stunning first-half drive (19 minutes) then a powerful second-half header (63 minutes).
However, just like at Hillsborough on Tuesday night, the Blues uncharacteristically conceded from set-piece situations.
Forest’s goals were almost identical, both coming from left-wing inswinging corners and being netted in almost an identical position at the back post.
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In the end, the Blues, so impressive in the first period, were hanging on at the end, having come under a barrage of second half pressure that forced Dean Gerken into two wonderful saves from Britt Assombalonga.
Despite his heroics, Gerken may well be disappointed with his efforts for the equaliser though, the former Colchester ‘keeper going for Henri Lansbury’s high cross but failing to collect the ball.
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Town boss Mick McCarthy made one change from the side that drew 1-1 at Sheffield Wednesday, with goalscoring hero that night, Jonny Williams, replacing Teddy Bishop, who dropped to the bench.
The hosts, looking for their first league goal in four games, after three straight goalless draws, brought back Matty Fryatt into the starting line-up, manager Stuart Pearce sacrificing midfielder Ben Osborn, from the team that earned a point at Wigan, and pushing Antonio back on to the left wing.
After going six games unbeaten, winning four and drawing two, Town started confidently and Murphy forced Karl Darlow into an early regulation stop, the striker’s penalty box header lacking power.
Four minutes later, Forest went mightily close with a header of their own, the ball skimming off Fryatt’s head from Antonio’s left-wing cross and hitting the post.
Town weathered the early storm and after David McGoldrick’s initial shot was blocked, Conor Sammon then found Murphy in the box but, with the angle tight, the 31-year-old scooped a close-range right-footed shot over the bar.
The in-form striker wasn’t to be denied in the 19th minute, however.
After picking up a ball forward from Cole Skuse with an exquisite touch, the big striker cut inside Kelvin Wilson and unleashed a classy finish from the corner of the penalty box that flew across Darlow and into the bottom right-hand corner.
Wilson had suffered a difficult start to the game and was replaced with exhaustion after just 29 minutes by the highly-rated Jamaal Lascelles.
Luke Hyam suffered a similar fate four minutes later, pulling up with injury and being replaced by Jay Tabb.
Tabb slotted into the midfield three with McCarthy continuing his policy of playing three strikers in attack. That policy was working well, Sammon causing a real nuisance with his work-rate and determination down the left.
At the other end, Town left-back Tyrone Mings was having a stormer, making three perfectly-timed tackles, two in the penalty box to deny Assombalonga and Lansbury chances on goal.
Forest had stalled in recent weeks and were generally scrappy in the first half.
From one passage of play, Lansbury’s weak back pass was seized upon by Williams, but the midfielder couldn’t break clear and was denied a shot by Michael Mancienne.
Seven minutes into the second half, Mings made his first mistake of the game, after trying to take on one too many players in the Forest box, but the Blues’ defence eventually cleared the danger after Chambers had kept upwith the pacy Assombalonga on the break.
Forest squandered a golden chance to equalise on 59 minutes as they began to heap pressure on the visitors.
Hunt surged down the right and cut the ball back for Antonio, whose shot, six yards out, was palmed away for a corner by Gerken.
Forest did equalise on 62 minutes. Parr cleared for a corner after mis-reading a Chambers’ pass and Burke’s set-piece was floated to the back post where Tesche nodded home through a crowd.
Forest were building up a head of steam and Antonio flashed a shot wide, before Burke’s shot missed by inches.
It was something of a surprise when Town then scored against the run of play.
Mings and Tabb combined down the left, before the former floated over a cross to the back post.
Standing there was Murphy who powered home a stunning header that flew past Darlow.
Forest hit back immediately and after Berra had scrambled Antonio’s effort off the line – the winger having rounded Gerken –the Blues’ keeper fabulously tipped over Assombalonga’s follow-up.
Berra made a headed clearance as Forest caused a melee in the Town box, while there were strong appeals for a penalty when Assombalonga tumbled in the box.
After Antonio flashed an effort over the bar, it looked as though his luck was out, but the winger wasn’t to be denied in injury-time, side-footing home Lansbury’s deep cross to send the City Ground wild.
Forest: Darlow 6, Hunt 7, Mancienne 7, Wilson 5 (Lascelles, 28, 7), Lichaj 6 (Harding, 81, 6), Tesche 8, Burke 6 (Weldwijk, 75, 6), Lansbury 6, Antonio 7, Fryatt 6, Assombalonga 7. Subs not used: Paterson, De Vries, Grant, Osborn.
Town: Gerken 7, Parr 7, Chambers 7, Berra 8, Mings 8, Hyam 6 (Tabb, 33, 6), Skuse, 7, Williams 6 (Bishop, 60, 6), Sammon 7, McGoldrick 7 (Smith, 75, 6), Murphy 8. Subs not used: Bialkowski, Bajner, Bru, Henshall.