James Garner: Priceless free-kick sends Forest on their way to victory over QPR


On January 30, Nottingham Forest were held to a goalless draw by Barnsley at the City Ground. It saw the Reds drop to 21st in the Championship, just three points above the drop zone.

It was a disappointing afternoon for the Reds, but it could be argued it was a day that would help change the outlook of their campaign. Forest had announced they had signed Manchester United youngster James Garner until the end of the season.

Garner had started the season at Watford, but following the appointment of Xisco Munoz in December he had been left out of the side and subsequently had had his loan spell cut short by his parent club.

It has been a move that has benefitted Forest, the Reds have improved in form which has seen them move up to 15th in the League, away from the relegation dog fight.

The on-loan United man has been essential to their upturn in results and league position, he had played in all 13 of Forest’s matches, starting 12 of them. Garner had also scored twice prior to the match with Queens Park Rangers, helping the Reds to a point at fiercest rivals Derby County, as well as victory at Cardiff on Good Friday.

And on Easter Monday, Garner once again played a pivotal part, scoring a stunning free-kick in a 3-1 victory over QPR.

The visitors had set up in a 3-4-2-1 formation and were very conservative in how they approached the game, but this would work to Garner and ultimately Forest’s advantage.

In the 12th minute Forest were awarded a free-kick, Filip Krovinovic almost picked out Worrall, but it was headed away for a corner. Garner, put in a menacing corner which found the head of Ryan Yates, but was then cleared off the line. Yates then retrieved the ball and played it back to the 20-year-old, it was another good cross into a dangerous area, but this time it was to be saved by Rangers’ keeper Semi Dieng. It would set the tone for the problems Garner would create that afternoon.

Just three minutes later, the East Midlands side won another corner, once again it would be the on-loan United man who took the set piece. It eventually found it’s way to Sammy Ameobi on the edge of the area who had his strike blocked.

In the 42nd minute, Garner put in a well executed through ball into the path of Krovinovic, however, the Croatian put his effort well over the crossbar.

It was looking as if the game was going into the interval goalless, but with a minute of the first-half remaining Forest got the breakthrough. After the Reds won a free-kick in their own half, Joe Worrall played it long to Sammy Ameobi. He hunted down Yoann Barbet for the ball and tussled it off him in the box. Ameobi played it across the face of goal and found Alex Mighten who tapped it home from six yards.

Chris Hughton’s side had two really good chances ten minutes after the break to double their advantage, once again the youngster Garner was involved and once again it was from set pieces. The first was from a free-kick from 25 yards, it was a well-struck free-kick that was curling into the top corner, but Dieng punched it away in what was a fine save.

From the following corner, Garner played it to the back post, where it was met by his midfield parter Yates, but his effort was blocked, denying Yates for a second time.

QPR had made very few chances in the match, with the best coming from Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen in the first-half. It resulted in manager Mark Warburton making a sub which saw Lyndon Dykes come on for Dominic Ball. It also led to a change in formation, which saw Rangers go to 3-5-2.

The change would open up the Super Hoops even more and just after the hour mark, Forest doubled their advantage. The Reds stopped a QPR attack and broke out on the counter themselves.

Krovinovic led the charge forward and could have laid it off to Yates who was unmarked by the 18-yard box, but he instead played it to Lewis Grabban who dropped deep to collect it. He took two touches which got the ball away from two Rangers players and opened up some space for himself. Feeling ambitious, Grabban, went for goal from the outside of the area, and brilliantly curled it into the top corner.

Garner had been threatening from set pieces all day, and not long after Grabban’s pearler, he would add his name to the scoresheet after Mighten was bodied by Rob Dickie by the corner flag, an opportunity which of course the youngster would take.

From a tight angle you would expected Garner to attempt to pick out someone like Worrall, Scott McKenna or even Grabban for his second, but instead he went for goal, and found it. He caught Dieng off his line, lobbed it over him and put it into the top right corner to make it three. His first goal at the City Ground.

It had been a remarkable performance for Garner, rounding off what has been a really good weekend for the United youngster after his impressive display in South Wales on Friday.

Garner is no doubt a player that would help improve Forest next season, but whether the Reds will be able to bring him back to the club remains unknown. In an interview with Nottinghamshire Live, Chris Hughton stated the Reds would, “see what happens.”

Garner was one of many impressive performances that afternoon. Krovinovic was one who created many chances for Forest that afternoon, in truth it could be argued he should have put his name on the scoresheet, after he had a curling effort punched away by R’s keeper Dieng midway through the first half.

Alex Mighten also deserves a mention too. Starting on the wide left, he came inside on a few occasions and got himself into some good goalscoring positions, in particular the opener on the stroke of half-time.

Grabban was also impressive too, he found himself dropping back a few times to help with some defensive work and even laying off to his team mates. If you cast your mind back to their match in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season, Grabban had missed a few chances to put his side on the scoresheet, but he made amends on Easter Monday, his hard work helped his side to a well earned victory.

The back four deserves credit too, they were near enough faultless that afternoon, holding out their attacking threats of Chair and Austin. They would be disappointed not to come away with a clean sheet after Lyndon Dykes headed in a consolation in what was virtually the last play of the game, but nonetheless it was still a good afternoon.

Forest will now turn their attention to Saturday, where they travel to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City. QPR meanwhile take on Sheffield Wednesday at the Kiyan Prince Foundation stadium.

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