|Nottingham Forest 3 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Sunday, 7th May 2017 Kick-off 12:00
Nottingham Forest 3-0 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Sunday, 7th May 2017 14:03
Nottingham Forest saw themselves to Championship safety with a 3-0 final-day victory over the Blues at the City Ground. Britt Assombalonga put the home side in front via a 43rd minute penalty, skipper Chris Cohen made it 2-0 on 57 then, having missed a second spot-kick, Assombalonga added the third in the 69th minute. The defeat, the third in a row without scoring, sees Town finish 16th, their lowest league position since the ending the 1958/59 campaign in the same position in the old Second Division.
Danny Rowe and Dominic Samuel came into an otherwise unchanged Town side for the injured Tom Lawrence (ankle) and David McGoldrick (neck).
The Blues, who hadn’t won at the City Ground since December 1999, lined up in a 4-3-3 system with Samuel in the centre and Rowe on the right with Freddie Sears on the left.
Town named second-year academy scholar Flynn Downes, a central midfielder, among their subs for the first time, while centre-half Adam Webster returned to the 18 for the first time since injuring his ankle in January.
The home side went into the match fourth from bottom but ahead of Blackburn in 22nd by a goal difference of just one.
Rovers were at Brentford, while Birmingham, who play Bristol City away, are one place and two points above Forest with a significantly poorer goal difference.
The home side made an explosive start to the game, with a Jamie Ward cross from the right deflecting off Christophe Berra, who could well have been playing his final game for the Blues, in the opening seconds but just beyond Britt Assombalonga, who netted after only 17 seconds of Forest’s 2-0 win at Portman Road earlier in the season.
The East Midlanders kept up the early pressure with the Blues pinned back inside their box and with Grant Ward and skipper Luke Chambers both blocking strikes before Jamie Ward curled an effort not too far wide of Bartosz Bialkowski’s left post.
But Town, wearing their white away shirt and blue home shorts, quickly got into the game and began to control possession. On seven, Rowe cut in from the right and hit a shot through to Forest keeper Jordan Smith.
Two minutes later, Grant Ward brought the ball in from the left and hit a powerful 20-yard shot which Smith did well to save down to his left. Samuel was unable to get to the rebound.
As the game moved into its 10th minute, news that Blackburn had gone a goal in front at Brentford filtered around the City Ground as the home side again began to threaten, Bialkowski coming off his line quickly to head away in front of Assombalonga.
Forest were forced into a substitution in the 14th minute when Zach Clough took over from Mustapha Carayol, who had suffered a knock.
Two minutes later, the home side were hit by a further double blow as Blackburn doubled their lead at Griffin Park and Birmingham went in front at Bristol City.
As the game approached the half-hour mark Town enjoyed a long spell of possession but without creating an opportunity before Forest’s danger man Assombalonga was twice found inside the area, Berra crowding him out the first time and Kenlock forcing him wide the second.
Forest created what was the best chance of the half up to that point in the 34th minute when Jamie Ward crossed from the left and Eric Lichaj got ahead of Kenlock but slammed over from a few yards out with the Town backline claiming he was offside.
It was Forest’s turn to appeal to the officials a minute later when Assombalonga claimed he’d been manhandled as Berra beat him to another Ward cross from the left.
The Blues came within an inch or so of going in front in the 37th minute when Rowe’s deflected shot fell to Samuel on the edge of the box. The on-loan Reading frontman hit a well-struck shot but Smith reacted superbly to tip a ball he had no right to save on to the bar.
Six minutes later, the home side took the lead from the penalty spot. A long throw from the right was sent in from the right, Bialkowski came to punch but was beaten to it by Jamie Ward, who hooked goalwards. Jordan Spence cleared off the line but referee Andy Davies pointed to his spot as the Blues keeper had collided with Ward having missed the ball. It looked a spotkick not too many officials would have given.
Assombalonga took the kick and smashed it into the roof of the net to transform the mood at a previously downcast City Ground. It was the former Peterborough striker’s 13th goal of the season and his third against Town.
Town weren’t far away from getting on terms in the remaining minutes of the half after Rowe won a corner on the right with a strong run. Huws sent over the flag-kick and Berra won it but failed to make enough contact with his header and the ball bounced wide.
Soon after, the whistle ended the half with Forest out of the relegation zone ahead of Blackburn on goals scored.
The scoreline was a touch harsh on Town who had ridden Forest’s early spell of pressure and had then been on top for long spells and but for Smith’s remarkable save from Samuel they would have been in front.
However, they were made to pay for poor defending - the throw which led to the rather soft penalty should never have been allowed to reach Ward - and the home side left the field at the break with the atmosphere around the City Ground far more positive and significantly less nervous than it had been minutes before.
Town switched Kenlock for Josh Emmanuel ahead of the start of the second half and it was the Blues who were first to threaten when Rowe curled a shot into Smith’s arms.
The home team, however, quickly began to look the more dangerous side with Spence doing well to outmuscle Assombalonga after the striker had been found in space in the area.
Moments later, with the Blues having switched to 3-5-2 with Rowe the left wing-back and Emmanuel on the right, Jamie Ward shot over.
And in the 57th minute the City Ground was sent wild by their side’s second goal. The ball was played wide to Chris Cohen some way out on the left and the home skipper hit a shot which deflected off a Town defender and past Bialkowski’s left hand.
That goal, and Brentford pulling one back against Blackburn moments earlier, meant Forest were now very much outsiders for the drop and home fans tentatively started to get into a celebratory mood.
Match Gallery: 4 photos
In the 66th minute Forest were awarded their second penalty of the afternoon when Emmanuel bundled over Ward as he chased back with the former Sheffield United man in on goal, the Town sub picking up the game’s first yellow card.
Assombalonga again took the spot-kick but this time Bialkowski palmed his shot, which was high to his left, over the bar. Two minutes later, Town swapped Sears for Kieffer Moore.
Despite the missed penalty, Forest’s third goal of the afternoon and Assombalonga’s second of the afternoon wasn’t too much longer in coming. On 69 the striker brought the ball past his man on the left of the area and hit a powerful shot into the roof of the net from an angle.
The City Ground was by now very much in party mood with their team now playing with great freedom and creating chances regularly. On 73 Assombalonga hit a low volley straight at Bialkowski from Ward’s right-wing cross.
On 81 Assombalonga smashed a shot over from distance having cut in from the left before Berra was replaced by Webster. The 32-year-old looks set to return home to Scotland over the summer after four years with the Blues and was warmly applauded off by the Town away support.
Webster slipped into the left-sided central defensive role alongside skipper Chambers, the Blues having switched back to 4-4-2 following Forest’s third goal.
Samuel claimed he should have been awarded the game’s third penalty after a Matt Mills as the game moved into its final minutes - and he might have had a case - but referee Davies was unmoved.
Forest finished the game with 10 men after Ben Osborn was forced off with an injury all their subs having been used.
Despite the deficit, Town kept pressing in the final moments of injury time and Moore headed Ward’s cross from the left into a defender but there was to be no consolation for Town.
The match ended with a huge roar and a pitch invasion from the home support, their Championship status confirmed for another year. Blackburn went down despite their 3-1 win at Brentford, while Birmingham’s 1-0 victory at Bristol City saw them to safety.
It was a fairly typical end of season game with the Blues having shaded the first half until the contentious penalty.
But with their tails up in the second half there was only one team in it and the second goal all but sealed it with the third calming any remaining Forest nerves. Town never looked like getting anything back into the match.
The Blues' season has ended disappointingly with three defeats without scoring, completing a frustrating campaign in which Town have never looked like competing for a play-off place and briefly flirted with the relegation zone without ever really looking in any serious danger of going down.
The summer ahead seems certain to be one of much change if the Blues are to be a more competitive force next season.
Nottingham Forest: Smith, Lichaj, Mancienne, Mills, Cohen (c) (Cash 85), Assombalonga, Osborn, Carayol (Clough 14), Ward (Brereton 79), Vaughan, Worrall. Unused: Evtimov, Tshibola, Lam, Vellios, Cash.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers (c), Berra (Webster 81), Kenlock (Emmanuel 46), Skuse, Huws, Ward, Sears (Moore 68), Samuel, Rowe. Unused: Gerken, Pitman, Dozzell, Downes. Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire). Att 28,249.
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