For­est ease blues af­ter a bat­tle

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Colin Hen­rys

NOT­TING­HAM FOR­EST stood firm at Mid­lands ri­vals Birm­ing­ham to end a run of five con­sec­u­tive de­feats – a pos­i­tive un­der-fire boss Philippe Mon­tanier was keen to em­pha­sise.

De­spite the pro­posed takeover of the club col­laps­ing overnight, Mon­tanier’s side put in a backs-to-the-wall de­fen­sive per­for­mance to record only their sec­ond clean sheet of the sea­son.

It was a re­sult which suited nei­ther team, with Gian­franco Zola still search­ing for a first win in charge of the Blues, but Mon­tanier left the hap­pier of the two man­agers.

And with the takeover saga now over, the French­man is keen to get started with strength­en­ing the squad as he bids to pull For­est away from rel­e­ga­tion trou­ble.

“It’s a pos­i­tive point, a clean sheet and we needed this point to break the bad run,” he said.

“The team showed great char­ac­ter, great men­tal­ity and a great de­fen­sive at­ti­tude.

“We now know [about the col­lapse of the takeover] and that’s im­por­tant – es­pe­cially for me, be­cause we are in the mid­dle of the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow.

“We need to strengthen the squad, and for that we need to make the de­ci­sions now. It’s more dif­fi­cult with­out the in­vest­ment, but if I know ex­actly what I am work­ing with, I can plan and I can de­cide.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to at­tract top play­ers, but you can at­tract good play­ers with a good men­tal­ity.”

Mon­tanier also in­sisted he was not wor­ried about his job, adding: “The role of the man­ager is al­ways in dan­ger – it’s a part of my job. The most im­por­tant thing is For­est and the team, not my po­si­tion.”

Henri Lans­bury was miss­ing from For­est’s line-up, though Mon­tanier in­sisted he had no news re­gard­ing the mid­fielder’s fu­ture, and both teams started cau­tiously.

For­est cap­tain Matt Mills missed a great chance to score on the quar­ter-hour, fail­ing to keep his free header down af­ter meet­ing Matty Cash’s cor­ner un­marked.

At the other end it was Che Adams caus­ing the most trou­ble, and the winger’s right-footed shot flashed wide across goal on 21 min­utes.

Four min­utes later Lukas Jutkiewicz’s pull-back fell kindly for Maikel Kieften­beld but Eric Lichaj threw him­self in the way of his low shot.

Chances, how­ever, were few and far be­tween and the game con­tin­ued in the same vein af­ter the break, de­spite the re­turn of Birm­ing­ham fans’ favourite Craig Gard­ner fol­low­ing his trans­fer from West Brom.

Jutkiewicz got in on 66 min­utes as Birm­ing­ham broke with pace when Britt As­som­ba­longa gave the ball away, but his low shot was de­flected wide by Mills. And the Blues were to re­main frus­trated as the game ended in a stale­mate, though Zola in­sists a win is not far away.

“Frus­tra­tion is ex­actly the word,” he said. “They were de­fend­ing deep, and didn’t al­low us to find any spa­ces.

“We re­ally need this win, it will be so im­por­tant for the morale of the play­ers.

“In the sec­ond half, when Craig Gard­ner and David Cot­ter­ill came on, they in­jected qual­ity and good crosses. We cre­ated more.

“I know the fans need to be lifted, and I think – when Craig came on – it made the at­mos­phere alive. The play­ers felt that and gave some­thing extra.”

PIC­TURES: ProS­ports/Alan Franklin

NO WAY THROUGH: Not­ting­ham For­est de­fender Michael Man­ci­enne leaps to block Birm­ing­ham for­ward Che Adams

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