RUDY GEST-HEADS ROVERS HAT-TRICK
But boss fumes as lead lost each time
BOTH Blackburn and Nottingham Forest are constrained by transfer embargoes, yet all the talk after this draw was of the players each club needs this summer, and others they may struggle to keep.
Neither side have much left to play for besides a top-ten finish, but they served up a feast of goals at Ewood Park, with Rudy Gestede heading Blackburn in front three times, only for Dougie Freedman’s visitors to hit back on each occasion.
And Rovers boss Gary Bowyer made no attempt to disguise his frustration, having seen his side surrender the lead five times in their last two games.
“To score three at home and not be talking about an impressive win, you have to understand my frustration and disappointment, especially after going through similar on Tuesday night at Birmingham,” he reflected.
“If I was Rudy Gestede I’d be absolutely fuming with my teammates, because he’s scored a hat-trick, and we aren’t talking about how that hat-trick won us the game.”
And Bowyer admitted the failure to see recent games out has prompted him to look for leaders in the summer, where Rovers’, like Forest, will be restricted to loan signings and free transfers.
“To score late on to go 3-2 up, it’s a case of seeing the game out,” Bowyer added.
“That’s when you need people to stand up there and really make sure that you see the game out.
“Leadership is something that we’ve certainly looked at over the past couple of weeks.The embargo that we’re under limits our ability to go out and get leaders, but it’s something that we’ve certainly identified.”
Gestede put Gary Bowyer’s men ahead after two minutes, nodding the ball over Karl Darlow after getting the better of a hesitant Jamaal Lascelles.
Forest replied swiftly, with Michail Antonio heading home a Modou Barrow delivery four minutes later.
Gestede restored the hosts’ lead when he arrived at the far post to head a well-shaped cross from Craig Conway into the bottom corner. But Forest levelled again shortly before half-time, when the outstanding Antonio squared for Henri Lansbury to stroke past Simon Eastwood.
Ben Marshall came close to making it 3-2 shortly after the hour when he arrived at pace in the box to meet another cross from Conway, but his header came down on the wrong side of the line after rattling the crossbar.
And when Gestede completed his hat-trick with another far post header eight minutes from time, it looked as though Bowyer’s FA Cup quarter-finalists had done enough to secure all three points.
That was until Antonio struck again with two minutes remaining, this time driving a 25-yard shot beyond a helpless Eastwood.
Freedman admitted his defence had no answer to the aerial prowess of Gestede, but was impressed with his side’s attacking display.
“Our approach play was fantastic, it’s the best we’ve played since I’ve been here,” the said.
“Defensively we couldn’t cope with Gestede, but in their box, we’ve had five or six great chances to win this game.”
“We were too hot to handle. The spirit’s there, the quality’s there, we just need to make sure we’re a bit better in both boxes.”
But the former Crystal Palace boss acknowledged that it may be difficult for Forest to keep hold of Antonio, who now has 15 goals for the season.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” he added.
“I’m the coach. Every single player has a price on their head, and I’m just hoping no one reaches that value for Michail, because he’s a massive part of what I’m trying to do.”
BATTLE: Jordan Rhodes (left) and Modou Barrow look to win possession TREBLE: Rudy Gestede celebrates scoring the second goal of his hat-trick
STAR MAN MICHA