KEY FOR FOREST, INSISTS DAVIES
Darius stars in the late show
THE LAST time Nottingham Forest beat Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, in May 1999, it was a Premier League fixture.
Now, 14 years on, Forest are desperate to return there and Darius Henderson’s stoppage-time winner gave Billy Davies’ promotion hopes an early boost.
In a game of few chances, neither side looked like breaking the deadlock until Jamie Mackie beat goalkeeper Jake Kean’s challenge to provide Henderson with an open goal, which he gratefully fired in to.
Having beaten Huddersfield Town by the same margin last week, it is first time since 2006 that Forest have started a league campaign with back-to-back victories.
And after watching his side register their second consecutive clean sheet in the process, Davies believes his side are showing the defensive qualities needed for a promotion push.
“I think we’ve got to be strong defensively,” he said. “I’ve been very proud at Preston, Derby and Forest that clean sheet records were made and then broken.
“I think it’s something that we’ve got to do. We’ve got to be difficult to beat away from home.
“I thought we deserved to win. We always knew at the start of the season every game would be a very close encounter and this was.
“They are a difficult side to play against but overall I think we got what we deserved. I think Henderson got what he deserved with his performance and I’m delighted.
“All in all I think it’s a very good three points and a very good victory. It’s a very tough place to play Ewood Park.”
Chances were at a premium all game, but Rovers could have led as early as the sixth minute when Chris Cohen did just enough at the back post to keep out Alan Judge’s deep free-kick.
At the other end Radoslaw Majewski’s curling right-foot effort was comfortably parried clear by Kean on 20 minutes, while Jamie Paterson shot wide just past the halfhour.
Jordan Rhodes headed wide from Judge’s cross on 36 minutes, while the Irishman was the provider again when Scott Dann’s header was saved.
The hosts were grateful to Tommy Spurr’s header off the line from Majewski’s powerful strike on the stroke of half-time however.
Rhodes had two penalty shouts turned down on the hour-mark, first feeling he was pulled at a corner before going down under Jack Hobbs’ challenge.
At the other end, substitute Matt Derbyshire almost struck against his former club, seeing his 71stminute shot deflect wide after Karl Darlow’s long kick.
Andy Reid, otherwise subdued on his 300th career league start, also went close eight minutes later as he drove a 20-yard free-kick just wide.
Another substitute, Greg Halford, saw his ambitious overhead kick drift wide on 88 minutes but Forest’s pressure paid off with Henderson’s composed late winner.
Having experienced the highs of Leon Best’s late equaliser in their opening day draw at Derby County, Blackburn boss Gary Bowyer was left despondent by their dramatic defeat this time around.
However, Bowyer believes his side had plenty of positives to take from a battling performance.
“It’s very much galling,” he said. “It wasn’t a classic of a game of football but I thought we showed fighting qualities and we’ve pushed Forest as hard as we possibly could – in my opinion they’re one of the favourites.
“There is a lot for us to take from it and also to build on still. The fans will know we’ve not played as well as what we did last week.
“But what they can’t fault is the effort and fight and the battles.You can’t knock the players for that – they gave everything.
“We’ve got to go game by game and see where that takes us. I think whenever you’re playing a game you’ve got to try and win it and see how far you can go and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
CHALLENGE: Blackburn’s Chris Taylor takes on Forest’s Henri Lansbury