Nottingham Forest rue missed penalty in 0-0 at Sheffield Wednesday
Nottingham Forest boss Chris Hughton was left to rue a missed penalty as his side were held to a 0-0 draw at relegation strugglers Sheffield Wednesday.
Striker Lewis Grabban saw his effort saved by Owls goalkeeper Keiren Westwood with the last kick of the first half as the Reds were left, once again, to rue missed chances.
Hughton said: “It was a good save and it changes the game.
"At 1-0 down at half-time, their game has to change in the second half and they have to come out a bit more, and maybe that would give us an opportunity to increase the lead and it is a big moment for them, particularly just before half-time as it gives them a lift.
“It would have been a different game, their mindset is different, perhaps they throw an extra body up front, and the game would open up, it would have to.
“It would have been a half when the opposition is throwing everything at you, but the spaces would have been bigger and perhaps we would have capitalised on those spaces.”
Forest dominated possession in a poor game, but were indebted to a fine save by goalkeeper Brice Samba late on to keep the scores level.
Hughton said: “Over the 90 minutes, I felt we were the team more likely to score, this is a team fighting for their lives and you could see that, but I thought we were the better side.
“I was disappointed we got to a stage towards the end of the game where we got into good areas and had to rely on Brice to make a fabulous save to keep us in the game.
“My biggest disappointment was we got to a stage where we are having to rely on that, but this is a team that is fighting and in general circumstances, you come away from home and can be happy with a draw but we came up against a Sheffield Wednesday team that, although they were competing, the areas that we got in we could have made more of than we did.”
The short trip up the M1 to Hillsborough would normally see thousands of Reds make the journey to support Forest – even more so for the final away game of the season – but for the second successive season, the game was behind closed doors.
Last season’s game was the first on the resumption after football shut down during the first wave of coronavirus – and the Owls’ last-minute equaliser was a portent for how the end of Forest’s season was going to fall apart.
However, this year, it was the Owls who were under pressure, desperately needing points to avoid relegation, possibly at the expense of Forest’s East Midlands rivals Derby, meaning, for possibly the first time, many Forest fans were split on whether they wanted victory for the Reds.
Forest dominated the opening 10 minutes, but it was the Owls who created the first chance. Cafu slipped in the Wednesday area and the hosts broke quickly, Josh Windass drove forward before passing to Kadeem Harris, but his shot was easy for Samba.
The visitors were dominating possession, but, in a fairly uninspriing game, were struggling to break down Wednesday, with Lewis Grabban looking isolated against the Owls’ three centre backs and Filip Krovinović struggling to make an impact on the left wing.
However, the game spring into life in the last five minutes.
First Krovinović missed a glorious chance to put Forest ahead in the dying minutes of the first half. Cafu’s right wing cross found the Croatian unmarked at the back post, but he miscued his volley back across goal and wide.
And there was still time for more drama as Forest were awarded a penalty.
Adam Reach’s back header was shot, Anthony Knockaert raced on to it and was clattered by Westwood as he touched the ball past him. Referee Tim Robinson had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, despite Westwood’s protestations that he had not touched the Frenchman.
Forest skipper Grabban stepped up and shot low to Westwood’s left, but the goalkeeper pulled off a stunning save, palming the ball away as the half ended goalless.
Grabban then seized on another Owls defensive error early in the second half as Julian Börner’s pass back was too short, but Westwood forced him wide and Grabban could only shoot into the side netting.
But it was a different Wednesday side after the break as they upped their tempo and pushed further up the pitch, with substitute Jordan Rhodes – who scored a hat-trick in Wednesday’s 4-0 win at the CIty Ground last season – heading straight at Samba from a left-wing corner, before just failing to get a decent contact on Windass’s inswinging right-wing cross.
Forest were not without threat, with Knockaert croweded out as he cut inside to shoot with his left foot, while James Garner missed a great chance as he swivelled and fired wide from Yuri Ribeiro’s low cross.
Samba then pulled off a stunning save, a strong left hand diverting WIndass’s rocket over the crossbar after he outpaced Scott McKenna down the right wing.
Wednesday were throwing men forward in desperation as they searched for the breakthrough and the three points they needed, but Adam Reach firing across goal when well placed was the only clear chance as the Forest rearguard, marshalled superbly by Joe Worrall, stood firm.
Forest: Samba; Christie, Ribeiro, Worrall, McKenna; Yates, Garner; Knockaert, Cafu (Mighten, 66) Krovinovic; Grabban (Taylor, 74). Subs not used: Smith, Jenkinson, Bong, Mbe Soh, Dawson, Colback, Murray.