Blues extended their unbeaten run to seven games after an exhilarating goalless draw against promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest at St. Andrew’s.
After a slow start, Lee Clark’s unchanged troops really got into their stride and provided plenty of excitement and chances to warm the hearts of St. Andrew’s biggest crowd of the season. Visiting keeper Karl Darlow pulled off two terrific first-half saves to deny Tom Adeyemi and Chris Burke. Arguably the best chance of the game fell to Nikola Zigic but he was unable to convert Burke’s dangerous cross. Forest survived the late dismissal of Darius Henderson to eke out a point but Blues can take great heart from another gutsy display.
The visitors enjoyed the better of the early proceedings but only had a tame shot from winger Djamal Abdoun to show for their efforts. It was Blues that came closest to open the scoring when Adeyemi let fly with a fierce drive from 20 yards. Karl Darlow did well to fingertip the ball around the post, although referee Robert Madley somehow failed to see the keeper’s contact and awarded Forest a goal-kick.
Billy Davies’ side engineered their first notable opening on 16 minutes when some neat interplay inside the area teed up Andy Reid with a chance and, although it was a difficult angle, the Forest captain should really have done better than crash his shot into the side-netting.
Adeyemi went close again for the hosts on 21 minutes. Paul Robinson lofted a dangerous ball into the area and, under pressure from Dan Burn, Darlow could only punch clear as far as the former Norwich man who headed the bouncing ball back over the Forest keeper but unfortunately it drifted narrowly over the bar and onto the netting.
Blues continued to look a threat on the breakaway and, from one such attack, Burke won his side a free-kick after being tugged back by Dan Harding. From Jesse Lingard’s resultant set-piece, Kyle Bartley headed the ball goalwards but Darlow was able to clear the danger.
Burke has been Forest’s nemesis in the past and the Scot again caused the City Ground men plenty of problems. At the end of another twisting and turning run, he curled in a delightful shot from fully 25 yards that Darlow did well to divert over the bar.
The former Cardiff City winger could and probably should have claimed an assist for the opening goal on 36 minutes. Burke’s trickery came to the fore again as he created the room for a cross that flew dangerously across the six-yard box. Zigic looked perfectly placed to head home but the Serbian was sadly unable to get the decisive touch as the ball fizzed past him.
Zigic may not have been able to make the vital contact to put his side in front in the first-half but soon after the restart he was in the right place to ensure Blues remained on level terms. Forest came out on the front foot following the break and Greg Halford looked to have put the visitors ahead as his header flew past Darren Randolph but Zigic was lurking on the post and cleared the ball off the goal-line.
Blues’ lofty number 19 had the hosts’ first goal-scoring opportunity of the second-half when he met Burke’s looping cross from the right but his header dropped a couple of yards over the bar. The same pair almost linked up again when Zigic flung himself at Burke’s whizzing centre but wasn’t able to make the required contact.
The game continued at a hectic pace but with few clear-cut chances. Then, on 82 minutes, came a potential late turning point. Paul Robinson was brought crashing to the ground by a dangerous lunging tackle by Henderson. The Blues captain was understandably aggrieved and got up to remonstrate with the Forest sub. Robinson was shown a yellow card for his actions but only after Henderson had been given his matching order by the official.
The ten men didn’t sit back and Mackie won a race for the ball with Randolph out by the touchline. The Blues keeper was booked for a foul on the Forest striker but the free-kick came to nothing.
Blues mounted some late pressure but were unable to claim that long-awaited St. Andrew's victory and back-to-back successes that their performance had probably merited. Clark’s men can still go into the busy festive schedule with a spring in their step having thoroughly entertained the close-on 20,000 home fans.