Nottingham Forest's playoff bid undermined by travel sickness
Ipswich 1 Nottm Forest 1
Sky Bet Championship
Ipswich 1 Nottm Forest 1
Quaner 5 Nolan (og) 31
Story of the game
Nottingham Forest were left complaining after a legitimate Daryl Murphy goal was called back for offside but they were lucky to get a point from a match where visiting boss Martin O'Neill said his goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon "kept us in it."
O’Neill will not have been gushing at his goalkeeper and defensive unit on five minutes when Ipswich, following smart play down their right, took the lead through huge unit Collin Quaner.
It was the striker’s first goal since April 2017 as he took advantage of indecision in the Forest defence to end his 50-match goal drought.
Forest had created little bar a blocked Jack Colback shot until they equalised on 31 minutes through a Jon Nolan own goal with Molla Wague on hand to make sure the ball crossed the goal line following a wicked Joe Lolley corner.
Another set-piece created the big talking point as Murphy was incorrectly ruled offside when he bundled the ball in after Yohan Benalouane’s initial effort was kept out in injury-time.
The second half belonged to Ipswich with the impressive Trevoh Chalobah shooting just wide before Nolan somehow missed from six yards after being teed up beautifully by Alan Judge.
Matthew Pennington went close and Kayden Jackson was twice denied in one-on-one situations by Pantilimon before having a big late shout for a penalty turned down.
The bored Forest fans had spent most of the first half chanting at a portly Ipswich supporter to “get his tits out for the lads” which he duly did and they had precious little to excite them in the second period apart from when Ipswich keeper Bartosz Bialkowski was forced into a double save from Matty Cash and Murphy.
O’Neill started with a 4-1-4-1 formation but became more adventurous in the latter stages when he threw on club record signing Joao Carvalho and striker Karim Ansarifard.
Some Ireland fans complained O’Neill was a footballing dinosaur by the time he left the national team post and there was little evidence of a modern plan on show at Portman Road.
Forest created next to nothing from open play but always looked a major threat from set-pieces, through either Lolley’s dead-ball delivery or the long throws of Jack Robinson.
The left-back, with a towel stashed on the touchline, can reach the penalty box from near the halfway line and the Tricky Trees brought on another throw-in weapon from the right when Cash replaced Ben Osborn, who had arguably been their most creative outlet.
Pele held the team together nicely in midfield and Pantilimon’s second-half saves preserved a point.
Injured top goalscorer Lewis Grabban was missed as for all of Murphy’s honourable attributes he has notched only three Sky Bet Championship goals this season compared to Grabban’s 15.
However, even Grabban would have struggled for opportunities spearheading a side who created so little in open play. How Carvalho can’t get into the starting 11 is quite baffling and will once again lead to question marks against O’Neill, who prefers guile to craft.
Benalouane is paceless and seems to be more interested in trying to feign contact to win free kicks than defending.
The centre-backs – Benalouane and Molla Wague – go up for nearly all of Robinson’s long throws as well as corners and free kicks.
Neither scored at Ipswich but both went close, Wague initially being credited with Nolan’s own goal and Benalouane’s attempt was saved in the controversial scrubbing of Murphy’s late effort.
View from the camp
“I think 1-1 is a fair result. In the second half we did not create enough to win the game and you have to give Ipswich credit – they played very well.”
Forest, in 11th, are still only three points off the top six in a congested table but on this evidence they won’t be making the playoffs. They are winless in ten away league matches with six draws in that period and O’Neill’s style isn’t best suited to playing catch-up.
Rock-bottom Ipswich will soon be relegated, but they are arguably playing their best football of the season and seem to be enjoying the freedom of going into matches without pressure.
Paul Lambert’s team are showing enthusiasm and should not be considered a walkover having taken points off Derby, West Brom, Bristol City and Forest in their last seven matches.
Gwion Edwards and Alan Judge give the Tractor Boys nice width, and James Bree impressed at right-back but the real star of the show was Chalobah.
The on-loan Chelsea midfielder oozes class and would be a good short-term pick-up for any ambitious Championship clubs next season.
Ipswich 4-1-4-1: Bialkowski; Bree, Chambers, Pennington, Kenlock; Skuse (Chalobah 41); Edwards, Bishop (Nsiala 90), Nolan, Judge; Quaner (Jackson 59).
Nottingham Forest 4-1-4-1: Pantilimon; Darikwa, Wague, Benalouane, Robinson; Pele (Ansarifard 77); Lolley, Yates (Carvalho 64), Colback, Osborn (Cash 64); Murphy.
Next three fixtures
Ipswich: Hull (h), Bolton (a), Brentford (a).
Nottingham Forest: Swansea (h), Rotherham (a), Sheff Wed (a).
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