After the shenanigans last time out at Bristol, the pack got shuffled allowing young Tyler Walker to orbit Nelson Oliveira up front like a small, waspish moon. Eric Lichaj returned from suspension meaning that Danny Fox took his place once more on the bench. Few tears were shed regarding this particular move.
The visit of Burnley meant Sam Vokes and Joey Barton - either of which you wouldn't bet against notching a tree-esque carving on their bedpost - gracing the City Ground turf. Fortunately, the eyesight challenged George Boyd was unfit so Forest had a fighting chance of a clean sheet. Also returning to the City Ground as a VIP guest was the tall and rangy Gareth Taylor.
A sombre crowd saw Burnley carve out perhaps the slightly better chances in a so-so first half. Andre Gray bundled the ball into the net after Joey Barton's deflected effort rebounded off the post but the assistant referee deemed him to be returning from an offside position. Ben Mee nudged an effort just wide and Vokes did likewise when presented with a free header. It wasn't all one way traffic though and chances were created yet left on the table at the other end.
It was a solid if rather unspectacular performance from Dougie Freedman's team thus far but after the opening passages of the Bristol game, this was welcomed with open and loving arms. Doris De Vries was though, once again, shaping up to collect another man of the match award as referee Stuart Attwell blew for half time oranges. It was feared that if Burnley's nous was equal to that of Hull City's or Middlesbrough's, the points would be going back up north,
But the openness of the second half suited Forest and Lichaj's surge down the right flank lifted everyone. Slow to get started, he accelerated past 14 Burnley players as he hugged the touchline and drove forward with the might of an Ice Road Trucker before turning in a somewhat disappointing cross - Nottingham Forest's season in glorious microcosm. But the hitherto City Ground awoke from its collective slumber.
Jamie Ward won the ball in midfield and Jamie Warded the ball high and wide from 35 yards out. Nonetheless, things were starting to look better. It was all going alright. In the blink of an eye, it got even better.
Lichaj, invoked the spirit of Willy Wonka while on the freaky ride down the river of chocolate and after 81 appearances for Forest suddenly decided that quite simply, enough was enough and that it was time to 'stop the boat' and score a goal. Encouraged by his earlier lung bursting foray, he swung his left foot at the ball from the edge of the penalty area and found the bottom corner.
USA! USA! USA! USA! Goddamm.— In The Top One (@InTheTopOne_) October 20, 2015
The roof came off the City Ground.
But this is Forest and two minutes later Henri Lansbury went in for a challenge and came out with the ball and a red card for his troubles. This was a strange one: initially, everyone wondered what the fuss was about. Later, still images of the tackle brought new meaning to the term 'two footed challenge'. Even later still, watching again in real time, it didn't look so bad. Regardless, the team shot itself in the foot while in the ascendency and a late equalizer was most definitely on the cards and in the air.
The pack once again got shuffled with Chris O'Grady and Dexter Blackstock brought on to lumber around and Jorge Grant to bolster the midfield - bringing home the depth of the current and never-ending injury problems. Lansbury takes his place on the naughty step next to Robert Tesche, Ben Osborn, Michael Mancienne, Chris Cohen and Andy Reid on the 'injured midfielder' step. A lot of shuffling up was required on this particular step.
Matt Taylor's 90th minute equaliser was as sweetly struck as Lichaj's effort and although it felt like a right old kick in the teeth, Burnley probably deserved a point.
On balance, the performance wasn't awesome and won't win any awards but it was a steep improvement on the previous performance and a point from a game many felt we would lose. Ryan Mendes bafflingly pocketed a man of the match award over David Vaughan and Eric Lichaj's sterling efforts. It goes without saying that De Vries was in with a good shout too. A brief note on Oliveira - he somehow manages to look both disgustingly talented yet outrageously clumsy at the same time...some achievement to be fair.
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Eric's goal though will live long in the memory.
Only took over 2 years but loved it! Shame we couldn't win tho. pic.twitter.com/UKu613K7rv— Eric Lichaj (@EricLichaj) October 20, 2015