The weather was the winner as Cardiff and Forest carved out a 0-0 bore draw with fewer incidents and less excitement than watching unedited live coverage of 'I'm a celebrity get me outta here'.
The weather didn't help but shouldn't be used as an excuse for Cardiff's poor and lacklustre home display. They were, though, quite appalling conditions. Most football below the top two divisions was postponed and this match was played in a gale. Driving rain and gusts topping 70mph at times, it severity hitting home as we tried keeping our balance walking down Sloper Road afterwards. It was good business for the club shop though. They sold plastic sheet rain macs at 50p each. The wind had the ball swirling unpredictably, the shutters blew over the top of the big screen whose usual appalling live pictures packed in altogether. The screen was only able to display Happy Birthday messages, the weather did one good thing. The floodlight between the Bob Bank and Grange was swaying during the strongest gusts. That's how tough it was so I guess it is a credit to both sides that they managed to play any football at all.
What does rankle though is that Cardiff - the division's second leading scorers - failed to register any effort on goal in the entire 90 minutes. Had it not been for Martyn Margetson's brave man of the match goalkeeping combined with some unlucky and some poor Nottingham finishing, we would not have earned the point as only the visitors ever threatened to win the game. Forest clearly bossed midfield, marshalled superbly by Andy Reid, the type of player who would improve and transform City without hesitation. As a result, it was an afternoon of struggle for City.
Sometimes however, you still have to pinch yourselves at where we are today. Exactly three years ago this weekend, we had the dullest of nil-nil home league draws to the super power of football .... Rochdale. Drawing 0-0 to a Forest team whose reactions at final whistle was one of pure delight has to be a privilege by comparison. Had the bloke next to you at that game told you that City would be playing successive league matches against Nottingham Forest, Derby County, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland, West Ham United and Coventry City 3 years on, you would have moved swiftly away from the psycho.
Yet here we are and not only that, we still have random thoughts of a Premiership lay-off spot whilst Nottingham Forest, former European Champions and a major British football side whilst we were in the doldrums and dungeon, are now fighting for their lives to avoid dropping into Division Two.
The rain forest is struggling but Nottingham Forest look even more endangered. They made the Premiership play-offs last season with some exciting young prospects but whilst some argued they over-performed to do that, they are undoubtedly under-performing this term. Most of their best talents - Dawson, Prutton and Harewood have been sold - but the players they have are far better than a relegation side and they showed that today.
They have great support too, crowds approaching 25,000 for most home games and they brought a rowdy 1,500 to Ninian Park but they're following a team who have forgotten how to score, never mind win a game. This result ended a desperate run of five successive league defeats but they still have the small problem of having gone tow months and over nine hours of playing without netting a league goal. .
The Forest team were Welsh international Darren Ward in goals, Louis-Jean-Walker-Doig-Oyen, Reid-Williams-Sonner-Bopp, Taylor-King. Des Walker at 38 was outstanding, still fit, fast and class. Earnie, looking sharper than of late, still came off second best. Forest reportedly turned down a £2.4M bid from the Premiership for Reid but its odds on that he'll be playing there in the not too distant future.
The strike force who can't buy a goal were Welsh international Gareth Taylor and Marlon King, recently bought for £950k from Gillingham, whom City fans may remember from Barnet. Both were strong and tried but neither hit the target and well shepherded by Vidmar and Gabbidon. Gabbs looked very impressive as his form, which dipped over Christmas, was back.
As for City, there was an enforced change from the side that won the last outing at Bradford a fortnight ago. Gray Croft, harshly awarded a straight red card, his first ever sending off, also failed to have the referee reconsider so must serve a 3 three ban. Chris Barker was recalled in his place but with no new signings despite plenty of paper talk, it was business as usual for Margetson, Weston-Vidmar-Gabbdion-Barker, Langley-Kavanagh-Boland-Parry, Thorne and Earnie.
City made a promising start before a crowd of 17,914, the second best this season. Pushing on, it looked only a matter of time before Earnie and Thorne caught out Des Walker and Co playing a dangerous game with the offside trap which caught out City 4 or 5 times in the opening 15 minutes. Forest had an even greater scare on 3 minutes when Louis Jean passed back, failing to notice Earnie who was denied only by Ward smartly reacting to just about win the 50/50 challenge.
A couple of minutes later, City got bogged down playing too much "to me, to you" short passing football going nowhere in the own half, Barker underhit a pass, King intercepted but his effort was blocked. Crossing was difficult for both sides but Forest coped far better. An early Reid cross saw Taylor, Gabbidon and Margetson rush to meet it. Margetson was brave, got there first and punched clear but the game stopped for almost three minutes for their thankfully not-serious injuries to be treated. There was a couple of stoppages and Forest players were also warned for time-wasting yet we had only 1 minute of added time. Also, why did Danny have to leave the pitch after treatment until the ref called him back on but Margetson was allowed to remain on anyway?
Cardiff had some major escapes as Williams' left sided cross found Gareth Taylor unmarked at the far post but he floated his header over the bar, a golden opportunity wasted. Just after the half-hour, Williams was in the action again as he somehow wriggled his way a little too easily through City's left sided defence and hit a low shot across goal than cannoned away off the far post.
In between those efforts, Paul Parry managed City's first effort of the match. Cutting inside, he left his marker but screwed his effort wide of the near post. Parry again looked good, his footwork being a touch above the rest in those conditions. He whipped over a couple of good crosses and tried sending early balls in whenever possible. Parry loves to hug the touchline and cause real danger but City's midfield failed to provide him with enough service. The longer the game lasted, the more he disappeared because of it. The "benefits" of two weeks professional training with Cardiff and Lennie's safety first approach seems to be working. Not so many individualistic runs at players but a lot more short passes inside and backwards. Oh great, great, great, just we need.
Cardiff woke up in the closing stages of the half. Thorney's scissor kick was blocked for a corner and from that, the ball squirted across goal, Thorne not quite quick enough to react at the far post so the ball bounced off his ankle when it was there to be steered home. Earnie and Thorne shook off their markers but Kav's through pass was just cut out denying wither a clear run on goal. And on half-time, another excellent Parry cross just evaded Earnie. In the middle of that, City created their own problems though as Weston had a free-kick awarded against him. He back heeled the ball away in frustration earning a needless card, Forest free-kick was advanced 10 yards which Reid met unmarked but put his header over.
Half-time: CITY 0 FOREST 0
Forest put Cardiff under the cosh right from the restart and we had three major heart flutters. Reid got the ball wide left and cleverly tried to hit it wind-assisted over Margetson, the keeper reacting superbly to finger tip it away and then doing likewise as Reid tested him again with a vicious effort from a corner. Rhys Weston nearly committed hari-kari as he back passed for no good reason from the touchline,. King got there first, slipped Vidmar and his low shot along the floor heading inside the far corner was superbly stopped by Margetson. Weston had a rollicking from the crowd, other players and even Lennie screaming out from the bench. Being the confidence player that he is, Weston's game fell apart and he was happy to pass the ball as soon as he saw it for the rest of the match.
Earnie was twice denied by Walker as he threatened to latch onto knockdowns, Thorne was denied by a whisker as he was ready to pounce at the far post from a Barker cross but the ball skimmed past off the smallest of Forest defensive deflections.
There were some incidental laughs. Kav hit an outswinging corner that the wind caught and blew straight behind. Langley, not at his best but faultless for effort and commitment, nearly broke though and slipped in the area with the ball at his feet so, sitting on the floor, he clutched it between his ankles looking for someone to lay it off towards. I haven't played 'crab football' since junior school.
Forest's threats were getting lesser although Bopp shot over and Reid whipped a free-kick towards goal that evaded everyone and flew inches wide with Margetson looking on, I prefer to believe he really was that confident it was going wide. Margetson also did a "Billy The Fish" racing out of his area to win a three man chase and nod the ball away but getting a boot in his head for his bravery.
Lennie made a positive change bringing on Alan Lee for the final quarter (for Earnie) who fired up the crowd and City's attack signalling his intention within seconds as he charged a Forest player to the floor and went on several exciting runs, one which dummied two Forest defenders was terrific but his intelligent play to almost thread Richard Langley on goal was his best moment. Lennie also made a bewildering change as he removed Parry, the only player likely to create for Lee and Earnie, for Gareth Whalley. Andy Campbell was also the final 10 minutes in place of Earnie.
However the game faded into nothing for the closing stages, some City fans starting drifting away early to dry out, the Forest following had given up singing. Rhys Weston hit a shot as the game went into added time than Andy Campbell got in the way of it. The Bob Bank were convinced it was goalbound but those in the Grandstand could see it was curling wide anyway.
A game to forget. The abiding memory for me will be Des Walker, who's been there and seen it all, for club and country going mental when the final whistle blew, it looked at one stage as if he was going to jump into the Grange End with the Forest support. Mind you, I can imagine getting a 0-0 at Cardiff City was one of the biggest highlights of anyone's career. It's better than having to admit that he played for England anyway!
City dropped a spot to 11th, remain five points off a Premiership play-off place although we look a million miles short of being anything like a Premiership side. They should however take comfort from the second successive clean sheet (and their first in nine Ninian matches), the defensive effort and a couple of individual performances.
Whilst defence and attack still seem to occupy the comments of club management and many in the media, I still can't help thinking City's main problem is midfield who are looking increasingly ordinary. It's been a long while since they dominated or controlled a game, whether the weather was good or bad. Langley, Kav, Boland and Parry & co are all great individually but it's never quite clicked as you would expect it. They seem to lack forcefulness, invention and certainly aren't contributing enough goals. In fact, their play is quite laboured - you know, short passes, backwards and across, nobody making runs at the opposition or bursting into opposition penalty areas - with safety high on their agenda.
John Robinson is sorely missed, how he would have loved getting stuck in and sliding about today. A goalscoring, combative midfielder in the mould of Reid would really make a huge difference to City. We have one, Kav, but he is sacrificed for the team in the job he is asked to do. Sooner or later, and I'd far prefer it to be much sooner, Lennie really has to address it if the team are going to push on.
Report from FootyMad
Forest never looked like a bottom-three side as they held the Bluebirds to a 0-0 draw at Ninian Park.
Driving rain and a strong wind made playing football very difficult but it was Forest who adapted to the conditions the best, fully deserving a share of the points.
"We worked very hard and are one point better off now than we were this morning," said Forest coach Ian Bowyer.
"If we can win our next home game it can only be good for our morale. The back four were very solid today and Des Walker, considering his age, did very well against Robert Earnshaw and Peter Thorne who are two quality strikers.
"You are never sure of getting a point as all it takes is one kick, and this will not make us over-confident in any way.
"We showed good spirit to come from Cardiff with a point as it is a difficult place to play at any time.
"Although we are a side noted for playing football, we need all aspects of our game to be working to move up the table to safety."There were few moments of incident as the rain and wind made life difficult for the players.
The nearest either side came to a goal was in the 32nd minute when Forest midfielder Gareth Williams almost broke the deadlock. He evaded a half-hearted challenge from Richard Langley and drove a low shot skimming across the turf, but it struck the far upright with City keeper Martyn Margetson beaten.
City's keeper sported a lump over the eye and a grazed cheekbone after colliding with his own defender Danny Gabbidon in the first half.
"It was a bit of a bump, but in those conditions I had to keep my wits about me," he said.
"It was a hairy moment when the ball came off the post but generally we defended very well. In few of the conditions, it was a point gained as it was always difficult playing in that wind.
"They have some decent players in their side and, although we wanted to take all three points, we have to be satisfied with the one.