Sat 29 Nov 14
at 16:50 PM
The Report: Blues 2 Nottingham Forest 1
Rejuvenated Blues recorded back-to-back league wins for the first time in 20 months as Paul Caddis’ dramatic last-gasp penalty sealed a terrific home victory against Nottingham Forest.
Guest of honour Trevor Francis led out the teams and received enthusiastic applause from the biggest St. Andrew’s crowd of the season on the day that he received his Birmingham Walk of Fame star. And the tenth minute goal that gave the hosts the lead was a strike that even the former playing legend would have been proud of, David Cotterill curling home a lovely effort from 20 yards.
There were few other chances of note during the next 75 minutes of a fiercely competitive encounter but then came an incident-packed finale. Firstly, Forest looked to have rescued a point on 84 minutes courtesy of Britt Assombalonga’s far-post header but the visiting striker went from hero to villain for his team as he handed, quite literally, a late match-winning opportunity to Blues by palming Michael Morrison’s goal-bound header off the line. Ice-cool Caddis kept his nerve to emphatically convert from the spot and clinch victory.
Blues’ first effort came on seven minutes after Clayton Donaldson did well to win the ball and tee up Demarai Gray. The teenager weaved his way past two Forest defender before unleashing a fierce shot that fizzed just wide of the post.
It served to fire up the home side and from another attack just three minutes later Rowett’s side edged in front with a goal-of-the-season contender. Cotterill collected the ball a few yards outside the area, cut inside and curled a delightful shot that crashed against the underside of the upright before bouncing over the line.
Gray came to the fore again on 19 minutes when he broke from the halfway line and forged towards the visitors’ area. He had options to his right and left with Andy Shinnie and Donaldson, opting for the latter and from a narrow angle the striker saw his shot palmed away by Karl Darlow.
In the 21st minute a round of applause rang out around St. Andrew’s in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Birmingham pub bombings when 21 people lost their lives.
Blues almost doubled their advantage just after the half-hour mark when the woodwork came to Forest’s rescue. It would have been rather unfortunate on the visitors as Caddis’s in-swinging cross took a wicked deflection off Danny Fox to wrong-foot Darlow but their luck was in as the ball bounced off the top of the bar and away to safety.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between during the middle chunk of the game but there was plenty to admire from a Blues perspective right across the park. Paul Robinson and Morrison were continually in the right place at the right time to cut the ball out whenever Forest threatened to break through. The industrious and combative duo of David Davis and Stephen Gleeson covered every blade of grass whilst Andy Shinnie’s neat footwork continues to catch the eye.
Morrison rose highest inside the area to head just over from a corner midway through the second-half in a rare effort on either goal. Meanwhile, Darren Randolph was mostly a spectator courtesy of the sterling work being done in front of him by all ten outfield players. Rowett opted to freshen up his troops by bringing on Callum Reilly and Lee Novak as they replaced Gray and Shinnie.
Donaldson stung the fingertips of Darlow with a fierce drive from the right side of the area whilst the Forest keeper was hurriedly backtracking moments later when he was almost caught out by a David Beckhamesque effort from Cotterill. The winger noticed Darlow off his line and hit an audacious effort from just over the halfway line that only just dipped over the bar.
Randolph was called into the action to make a low save from Antonio as Forest looked to unlock a resolute Blues defence. And the home backline was eventually breached six minutes from time. Jamie Paterson’s flick-on was headed past Randolph by Assombalonga from six yards. The Blues players appealed in vain for offside but the goal stood.
But far from letting their heads drop, Blues rallied and went in search of a winner. Novak’s tremendous turn and volley was turned around the post by Darlow but it was only a brief let-off for the visitors. With just three minutes remaining Morrison again rose to meet a corner. The on-loan defender’s header beat Darlow but was clearly turned over the bar by the hands of Assombalonga. The referee initially gave a corner, prompting understandable protests from the home players. After consulting with the fourth official the correct decision was finally made and Blues had the opportunity to clinch victory from the penalty spot.
There was a long delay as first Assombalonga was shown a red card for his actions and then it seemed to take an age to get all the Forest players outside of the area to enable the spot-kick to be taken. But Caddis kept his composure to hammer a low shot into the bottom right corner and spark scenes of unbridled joy from the banks of Blues fans behind that Tilton Road goal.
The home fans had to survive a few scary moments during the six minutes of injury-time, notably when Tom Ince saw his header from Antonio’s long throw-in clip the fingertips of Randolph and then subsequently hacked off the line by Robinson. But the home side saw out the game to extend the unbeaten run under Rowett to five games and move up to 17th in the Sky Bet Championship table.