BIG ECK HAILS FOREST SPIRIT
N FOREST ........2 C PALACE ........2
NOTTINGHAM FOREST manager Alex McLeish praised his new side’s character after they came from behind twice to earn a thrilling point at home to Crystal Palace.
It looked like the former Scotland, Aston Villa and Birmingham boss was going to begin his reign at the City Ground with defeat until striker Billy Sharp pounced two minutes into injury time to give his new boss a boost.
And although McLeish met the players only on Friday following Sean O’Driscoll’s sacking on Boxing Day, the new manager says he has already seen enough to convince him Forest have what it takes to maintain a push for the play offs.
He said:“I saw a lot of fighting spirit among the guys and to their credit they went right to the final whistle.
“They could so easily have put their heads down after conceding an 81st minute goal but they fought right to the death and that is fantastic. It shows great character.
“There was a lot of quality out there, too. Andy Reid was amazing, what a game he had. He was instrumental in the two goals. We were aware of the threat of Zaha and Bolasie but I thought we handled them very well. It was a really good performance.”
The decision to sack O’Driscoll off the back of a 4-2 home victory over Leeds has been met with some controversy among Forest supporters. Yet, McLeish is hoping the fans can get behind him for the second half of the season.
“I can understand how the fans must have felt this week,” admitted McLeish.
“But it is not down to me why Sean has lost his job. It’s just the nature of the business that we are in.
“What you are looking for from the understanding fans is that they get right behind the new manager because that will help the team and will create a good atmosphere at the club.”
McLeish’s reign got off to the worst possible start when the high-flying Eagles went ahead after just nine minutes. And there were no prizes for guessing who, as hot-shot Glen Murray bundled home left-back Dean Moxey’s low cross at the far post for his 21st of the season.
However, his half-time teamtalk was made slightly easier thanks to a wonderful strike from Andy Reid.
The winger picked up a pass from Chris Cohen 20 yards from goal and unleashed an unstoppable left-foot drive into the bottom corner with only seconds of the first half remaining.
Both sides created more chances in a thoroughly entertaining game that looked to be heading the way of Palace when Murray popped up again nine minutes from time to send a looping header over the stranded Lee Camp following great skill from Yannick Bolasie.
But two minutes into five added on, Sharp pounced on a Dexter Blackstock header to slot home at the second attempt after his first effort came back off the post and fell kindly.
Palace manager Ian Holloway said: “75 per cent of the time we looked a decent side – the other 25 per cent was just before half-time when Forest scored.
“But, typical of the way things are going for us at the moment, we got ourselves into a winning position and let it slip.
“It’s very disappointing, the lads are gutted because that is the way it’s been going for us but as their manager I am very proud of them.
“Unfortunately, I should be sat here with three points, but I only have one and I thought our performance deserved all three.”
FIGHTING SPIRIT: Billy Sharp scores late on to earn Forest a point
CLASS ACT: Andy Reid scores for Forest