Nottingham Forest hungry for more success as they put Blackpool to the sword


Nottingham Forest were emphatic winners by the seaside as they put four past Blackpool in a convincing win over Neil Critchley’s men.

The win puts Steve Cooper’s men just a point off the top six as their impressive form continued in a comprehensive team performance returning after the international break and following their FA Cup Quarter Final disappointment against Liverpool.

Forest wreaked havoc in the opening half as they got off to a flyer at Bloomfield Road, finding themselves three goals to the good before the break. Philip Zinckernagel put Forest on the front foot after just 11 minutes after he had started the game brightly.

As the Dane received the ball from Brennan Johnson inside the box, he took a touch out of his feet before hitting a shot that took a wicked deflection off Jordan Thorniley before looping over the hapless Dan Grimshaw and into the far corner.

In the hosts’ goal, Grimshaw looked nervy following the early setback. Brennan Johnson almost capitalised on the keeper’s uncertainty just four minutes later, charging down his clearance. As the ball found its way to Keinan Davis, the Aston Villa loanee was crowded out by the home defence and could not get a shot away.

Forest, however, soon found themselves two goals up as they continued with their relentless pursuit. Some excellent link-up play between Johnson, Djed Spence and Ryan Yates led to the Welsh international’s first of his brace.

Being found inside the box, having latched onto Yates’ reverse pass, Johnson drilled a sublime low volley past Grimshaw and into the bottom corner.

The forward did not have too long to wait for his second of the afternoon as just six minutes later, he put Forest in complete control of their afternoon.

As Grimshaw hesitated at the back once more, the Forest youngster was alert to the danger in seizing the keeper’s stray pass with an improvised first touch. Still, with plenty of work left to do, Johnson drifted past Jordan Thorniley and into the box before delightfully chipping Grimshaw and planting the ball into the far corner for The Red’s third.

Blackpool, to their credit, were not deterred by the scoreline and continued to pose the Forest defence problems. Out of the traps in the second period, they should have pulled a goal back straight after the restart, but CJ Hamilton missed the target on the stretch, having been picked out by Josh Bowler at the far post.

Bowler was at the heart of everything good about the home side, and he almost claimed an assist on 54 minutes. His clever run and pass led to the ball finding its way out to Kenny McDougall in space, but Ryan Yates denied the midfielder a clear shot on target with a last-ditch block that epitomised his fully committed display.

Zinckernagel should have put the game to bed on the hour, but Grimshaw blocked his shot after being put clean through on goal by goal.

However, Forest wrapped things up on 82 minutes. The impressive Scott McKenna intercepted another careless pass out of defence from Dujon Sterling. The Forest centre back strode forwards with the ball before slipping substitute Sam Surridge through on goal with a precise slide-rule pass. The ex-Stoke City striker did the rest, taking a touch before confidently rifling past Grimshaw.

The only blemish on Forest’s showing was conceding an 89th-minute goal through Callum Connolly, but in fairness to Blackpool, it was just reward from their endeavours on the afternoon.

On reflection, Neil Critchley was not too disheartened with his side’s performance. The Blackpool manager felt that the outcome might have been very different on another day, enjoying equal possession and registering one more shot on goal than the visitors.

“In the end, we got a harsh lesson of what Championship football is all about. They were very clinical but they had some luck in their goals as well.

“But we had big moments, big chances, but it didn’t go our way. But we still went right until the end and deservedly got a goal and that’s the spirit we’ve got in the dressing room.

“For large periods, I actually enjoyed watching us play. But we’ve been punished today.”

In the opposite dugout, Steve Cooper was delighted with his side’s performance and their appetite for wanting to continue on the same trajectory, with games coming thick and fast.

“The most pleasing thing today is that everyone is obviously really happy with the result. But as soon as we’d said thanks and congratulations to everybody, the attitude was, ‘right, let’s get on to the next one’. I really like that.

“It’s easy to talk about the goals and the finishes and rightly so. But I think that everybody did really, really well today. From Brice (Samba) to the lads that came on from the bench. It was a good team performance.”

Scott McKenna, who had sustained a hamstring injury against Queens Park Rangers before the international break, returned to the starting line-up when his initial prognosis was that he would be missing for up to six weeks. The Scot once more showed his value to Cooper’s side as he and Tobi Figueiredo dealt with the physical threat of Gary Madine and Jerry Yates.

With The Tangerines trying to get back into the game straight after the break following a favourable reaction to being three goals down, McKenna superbly marshalled Yates inside the box as the striker threatened to get a shot away on goal.

Whilst Yates and the home support appealing for a penalty, McKenna remained composed, completing his defensive work with a well-timed tackle to thwart the danger.

“He has been really committed to it (recover). He hasn’t had any time off. Earlier in the week, the doctor said he was making good progress, we’ll see how it goes. Scott being Scott, he really wanted to play. Fortunately, he was fit, and he played well.

“He got an assist but the more pleasing thing for me was he jumped off his line and won it in what we call the fight zone. If you can get an assist after it, then great.

“Everyone knows how well Scott has done for us this year. He’s got to make sure he keeps his head down, keeps improving and keeps playing well.”

With Blackpool’s playoff aspirations quelled, Forest’s attention moves onto Wednesday evening with Coventry City coming to The City Ground.

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