By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Nottingham Forest 0
The Seagulls drew an exciting and rather wet encounter with former European Champions Nottingham Forest at the Amex this afternoon (Saturday 15 December).
The match was watched by a record crowd at the Amex of 26,684.
Will Hoskins started upfront against his home town club alongside Craig Mackail-Smith. And it was Hoskins who had the first chance of note, firing the industrious Wayne Bridge’s cross wide of the Forest goal.
Will Buckley was finding plenty of space down the right wing but Forest were dishing out some heavy tackles, former Albion full-back Dan Harding in the thick of things.
From one of the resulting free kicks Bridge looked to have nicked the outside of the post.
The Seagulls were taking the game to Forest and good work by Buckley and Mackail-Smith saw the ball fall for Inigo Calderon whose shot hit the post and bounced away to safety.
As in recent weeks the Seagulls were dominating their opponents, Buckley again the main orchestrator of most of Albion’s chances.
With half an hour gone Hoskins had a great chance on the edge of the six-yard box. Unmarked, the striker tried an audacious scissor kick but sent the ball flying over. A simple header may have been a better option.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, a former teammate of Albion boss Gus Poyet, was very busy on the Forest bench. And he was organising his troops as Andy Reid was played in by Billy Sharp but, with only Tomasz Kuszczak to beat, Sharp blazed well over.
Sharp was enjoying his own private battle with Adam El-Abd. The Brighton-born defender patted Sharp on the head a number of times and the Albion man appeared to leave the field with a ripped shirt.
As the rain poured down Mackail-Smith waltzed through the Forest defence but, with Hoskins free, he dragged a shot wide. The rain was fierce and if a player hit a long ball a sizeable puddle was visible.
Before half time Sharp got in a good position and flicked a shot with the outside of his boot. Kuszczak was stranded. Luckily for Albion it hit the angle of post and cross bar.
David Lopez and Andrew Crofts looked to be controlling the midfield and with Buckley eager to run at Harding it only seemed a matter of time before Albion broke the deadlock.
The rain bucketed down during an interval during which Gully’s Girls made what was rumoured to be their last appearance.
It was Forest who adapted best to the conditions in the second half. Dexter Blackstock had a chance from just on the edge on the D but Kuszczak got down well to hold his shot.
Forest had replaced Harding with Greg Halford at half time and it appeared he would try to do a job on Buckley.
However, the replacement left back was given a torrid time by the Albion man.
Mackail-Smith then just missed a Buckley cross and Calderon blazed well over when the loose ball fell to him.
The Albion weren’t finding the flowing football of the first half easy to come by in the conditions
The rain really came down in torrents around the hour mark and when Buckley did get a cross in Hoskins missed his kick at the back post.
Halford was dishing out some rough stuff to Buckley but the referee wasn’t offering much protection.
Kazenga LuaLua was introduced but was well shackled by Alan Hutton and at times Reid.
From a corner the ball fell to the Congolese man but his shot brought a fine save from Lee Camp, low down to his left.
Before the end Halford miscontrolled and let in Buckley. He raced away but, with only Camp to beat, his shot was saved by the Forest keeper and there was to be no repeat of last season’s last-minute winner.
The Albion stay eighth and entertain fellow contenders Millwall on Tuesday (18 December) at the Amex , a fixture brought forward from Boxing Day.
Albion will hope Christmas really has come early.
Albion: Kuszczak; Calderon, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge; Bridcutt, David, Crofts; Buckley, Mackail-Smith, Hoskins. Subs: Hammond, Dunk, Barnes, Dobbie, Harley, LuaLua, Brezovan.
Nottingham Forest: Camp; Hutton, Ayala, Collins, Harding; Moussi, Guedioura, Cohen, Reid; Sharp, Blackstock. Subs: Gillett, McGugan, Halford, Lansbury, Majewski, Ward, Darlow.
Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire)