Fearless Forest Rebuff Rangers
QUEENS Park Rangers wilted to back to back defeats with Greg Halford and a controversial Andy Reid goal handing Nottingham Forest the three points.
Still rocking from their weekend defeat against Leicester, a sluggish Rangers side ambled into defeat without striking stalwart Charlie Austin.
Bobby Zamora and latterly Andy Johnson were scant replacement for the top scorer as Forest opened the scoring via a fine Halford header.
Rangers picked up significantly in tempo in the second period but with little in the way of cutting edge Forest were able to double their lead with a controversial second.
The linesman flagged for offside but the referee overruled his assistant with the defence now static. Andy Reid able to run through and slot home to the evident chagrin of the visiting defence.
The goal stood and Rangers offered little in riposte as they slipped to a second successive defeat, sitting three points off the pace at the summit of the SkyBet Championship.
Harry Redknapp made three changes from the side that we defeated at home by Leicester City. Gary O'Neil (ill), Joey Barton (suspended) and Charlie Austin (hamstring) were ruled out with Karl Henry, Jermaine Jenas and Bobby Zamora coming in.
Rob Green started behind an unchanged defence of Danny Simpson, Richard Dunne, Clint Hill and Benoit Assou Ekotto. The midfield comprised of Matt Phillips, Niko Kranjcar, Tom Carroll, Henry and Jenas behind the returning Zamora.
Forest lined-up with Karl Darlow behind a defence of Eric Lichaj, Jamaal Lascelles, Jack Hobbs and Gonzalo Jara. Henri Lansbury and David Vaughan played in the heart of midfield with Jamie Mackie, Andy Reid and Djamel Abdoun playing behind Greg Halford.
KICK OFF: NOTTINGHAM FOREST v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Given the way that Rangers lost out against Leicester on Saturday, it was hammer blow that Rangers needed to react to - but without top scorer Charlie Austin and dragging Bobby Zamora back from the wilderness it was going to be a challenge.
And so I proved from the off - Forest dominating chances and possession in a nervy opening stanza. Defensively Rangers were caught sleeping twice in close succession. First Greg Halford lifted the ball over the bar from close range when well placed.
Moments later it was David Vaughan that saw his effort trickle wide of Green's upright - but certainly Rangers were struggling with the tempo of the hosts. The best chance to date came on the 15 minute mark with Halford key tormentor once more.
Once again it was Rangers who were architects of their own downfall - squandering possession in midfield Djamel Abdoun laid through for Halford who found Green in fine form to deny the Forest utility player.
Moments again it was those two once more and the latter spurned a glorious chance by placing over Green's bar from just outside the six-yard box. Rangers managed to break the dominance with a counter attack of their own.
The ineffective Bobby Zamora received the ball down the left and his centre found former Forest midfielder Jermaine Jenas - he in turn tried to place his shot low and was blocked at point blank range. Assou-Ekotto followed up with a fine drive that was well held high to his right by Karl Darlow.
Rangers were wasteful in possession and were helped little by their returning target man Zamora. The forward was evidently struggling to work the channels effectively and hold up play for the glut of midfielders at Rangers' disposal - serving to highlight the chasm left by Charlie Austin's absence up front.
Lansbury sent a daisy-cutter wide of the left-hand upright before the playmaker Abdoun saw his effort blocked at close quarters. It was that man Abdoun once again that ultimately decided the difference between the two teams as the half wore on.
His work down the left with Lichaj saw him measure a fine far post cross for GREG HALFORD
who crept between a slumbering Clint Hill and Richard Dunne to nod past a hapless Green.
The workhorse Mackie rather made a mockery of Rangers depleted front-line with a display of commitment and passion that tired Zamora just watching on. He took a punt from a Lansbury pass that was well-fielded by Green once more.
Rangers once again had a positive chance on the break - and it was carved out and nearly taken by Niko Kranjcar. He burst through from midfield and worked the ball onto his right foot before placing disappointingly wide of the right hand upright.
The two sides rounded off the half with Forest retaining the ball and Rangers looking beleaguered, confused and without purpose or direction - work most certainly to be done and changes to be made.
HALF TIME: NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers made two changes for the second period. Karl Henry rather unfortunate to be withdrawn where as Bobby Zamora cut a very desperate figure indeed. Junior Hoilett and Andy Johnson their replacements - cue an immediate improvement.
The side looked rejuvenated and refreshed with Phillips surging from midfield only to rifle over from the edge of the area. Moments later Carroll nearly got lucky when his sliced effort looped towards Darlow's target - the keeper playing safe and tipping over.
Hoilett wandered in from the left across three markers before seeing his shot canon back at point-blank range. Once again though Rangers were asleep at the back and it was a deep cross that caught the visitors napping.
Reid this time from the left saw his deep cross find Halford. The sizeable front-man was rather stretching and could merely loop his effort over Green's right hand post. Another chance gifted to the hosts by some tentative defending.
Carroll - who gave the ball away for Forest's goal - was putting every set-piece down the throat of Darlow, but was seemingly unchallenged for corners with the players seemingly not willing to try something a tad different.
Another deep cross, this time from Mackie, caught Rangers napping. From the right, the former QPR man delivered a deep searching cross that Halford could only place right at Green - a guilt-edge chance for the home side.
The chances were drying up for Rangers, with Forest replacing Vaughan with Nat Chalobah and Reid rather uncharacteristically putting a guilt-sedge chance into the stands. The writing appeared on the wall despite QPR showing a tad more spirit.
A couple of quick fire efforts saw Jenas have his effort blocked when laid back by Hoilett before Dunne looped a header towards the top right-hand corner for Darlow to claim ably. Time was running out for the visiting side.
Disappointingly Matt Phillips was withdrawn - the only likely outlet for a Rangers goal. Yossi Benayoun came on to play centrally, meaning there was a considerable number of players in behind Johnson, but very little in terms of width.
With ten minutes to go the game was decided, but in rather controversial circumstances. Abdoun's through pass was seemingly flicked on by Halford and with the linesman putting his flag up ANDY REID
cheekily carried on unchallenged rounded Green and scored.
To the horror of the visitors the flag went down and a goal was given. The official overruled his assistant before holding a lengthy conversation. He gave the goal latterly established by virtue there wasn't clear contact by Halford onto the flick on.
To overrule the decision there must have been a degree of certainty but with the flag up and players halted it was unfortunate at best that the referee elected to take matters into his own hands and allow Reid to carry on while all players on both sides had stopped.
In the anarchy Forest replaced Abdoun with Jamie Patterson and Mackie was withdrawn minutes later to a good reception from all sides - Matt Derbyshire came on in his stead. The fixture had rather been killed by the dubious second strike.
Hoilett sent a couple of rather pointless far post crosses beyond Darlow and all those waiting for something of note to be elicited from his underperforming boots. Kranjcar was the one to round off proceedings with a curling shot - much like that in the first half which drifted harmlessly wide to Darlow's left.
A game that passed Rangers by and asked more questions than provided answers as the visitors sit three points of the pace at the summit of the SkyBet Championship.
FINAL WHISTLE: NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
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