Forest ease blues after a battle
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.”
NO WAY THROUGH: Nottingham Forest defender Michael Mancienne leaps to block Birmingham forward Che Adams