Reds match report: Nottingham Forest 0 Barnsley 0

Luke Steele saves a Simon Cox header.
Luke Steele saves a Simon Cox header.
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BATTLING Barnsley somehow managed to return from the City Ground with a precious point after frustrating play-off chasing Forest.

Billy Davies’ side just couldn’t find a breakthrough and were thwarted by the woodwork on four occasions.

But that didn’t interest Reds boss Dave Flitcroft as his charges could have nicked a breathtaking win right at the death.

At the end of another dramatic day in the English second tier, results elsewhere mean there is still plenty of hope of a great escape with two games remaining.

The Reds couldn’t elevate themselves from their second-bottom position in the Championship table, but it remains so close that two wins from their final two games means that they could still conceivably end their 2012/13 campaign almost in mid-table.

Following some real backs-to-the-wall defending on a day when goalkeeper Luke Steele was in scintillating form, Flitcroft said: “Once again this team have shown an insatiable appetite for a clean sheet - and to get that against a top side like Nottingham Forest was just phenomenal.

“Despite all the pressure from Forest and the chances they missed, we’ve earned that point.

“I’ve had the belief since day one that we were capable of getting results like this against the top teams.

“We’ve shown it in recent weeks against Cardiff and Crystal Palace.

“Getting these draws keeps us in with a fighting chance. We’ve got to earn the right to be in the Championship and so far the players are doing just that.

“Hopefully we can pull it off over the next couple of weeks.

“Some of the other teams around us aren’t winning - they’re looking down rather than up and are looking over their shoulders at us.

“This battle for survival is really hotting up now, but we’re not scared of anyone. “We’ve not shown any fear all season and the players continue to build these fantastic memories.

“We’ve just got to try and regroup now and get ready for next week’s game against Hull.

“Forest have bombarded us, but we’ve had the bottle to deal with anything they’ve thrown at us so it’s on to next week now.

“We probably will have to beat Hull, of course, but we’re very capable of doing that and then it’s down to Huddersfield on the final day.”

Derby’s stoppage-time equaliser last Tuesday had been a potential killer blow, but Flitcroft kept faith at the City Ground as he made just two changes - with one of them enforced.

Bobby Hassell was out with a hamstring injury, so in stepped youngster Andrai Jones at right-back as he made his first Barnsley start.

Elsewhere Tom Kennedy returned following his one-match suspension, with winger Tomasz Cywka relegated to the bench.

It was always going to be a tough task for the Reds against a Forest side who were desperate to leap back into the play-off places after a blip of five games without a win, and barely 15 seconds had gone when the home fans were howling for a penalty kick.

Striker Simon Cox went down under Scott Wiseman’s challenge, only for referee Andy Haines to quite correctly wave appeals away immediately.

Cox then fired across goal from an acute angle as the hosts sought an early breakthrough, with the Reds’ first opportunity not coming until the 18th minute when winger Jim O’Brien scuffed a shot wide after latching onto Reuben Noble-Lazarus’s through-ball.

Then Forest hit the woodwork for the first time in the 28th minute.

It came from a simply-worked set-piece chance as Radoslaw Majewski’s corner-kick was headed against the outside of a post by former Arsenal youngster Henri Lansbury.

Noble-Lazarus broke through on another rare Reds’ surge forward, only to be denied by a superb-timed last-ditch-tackle from early substitute Danny Collins.

After the break Forest turned up the heat and Steele really came into his own with some brilliant saves.

Lansbury saw a bullet header superbly beaten away, then ex-Doncaster ace Billy Sharp was denied.

The woodwork came to the Reds’ rescue again in the 58th minute when the impressive Andy Reid skipped easily past Jones before crashing a low drive against the base of a post.

Steele saved from Sharp not long after, before the striker crashed a sweet volley against a post as the visitors escaped again.

It was looking as though it was a question of when Forest would score rather than if, but credit to the Reds as they roared back and had the better of the final 10 minutes.

Former Forest favourite Marlon Harewood received a warm reception from all around the stadium as he came on to replace O’Brien.

And the experienced striker was soon into the action as his shot was blocked by Forest skipper Chris Cohen.

Harewood then saw an effort deflected just wide off Lewis McGugan, before Davies’men struck the woodwork once again as the game was entering stoppage time.

Reid played in another superb measured cross towards the head of Sharp, and he watched on agonisingly as his effort looped over Steele and bounced out off the top of the crossbar.

The Reds were then denied the chance to snatch a scarcely -deserved victory deep into added time.

On the break Chris O’Grady charged at the heart of the Forest defence, but just as he was approaching the box Cohen crudely hacked down the frontman with a dreadful challenge and a free-kick was the result right on the edge.

Cohen was shown a yellow card, but on another day it could have quite easily been red.

The resulting free-kick saw Tom Kennedy’s deflected off the wall and fizz wide.

It was a frantic finish, but the Reds emerged the more happier of the two sides as the race to avoid the drop looks more and more like it will go down to the final day of the season.