NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2 (McGugan 67 P, Tyson 80)
BARNSLEY 2 (Hill 19, Gray 50)
Saturday January 1, 2011, KO 3.00pm
A CONTROVERSIAL penalty decision by referee Dean Whitestone handed Nottingham Forest a route back into a game that had slipped far, far, far away from the home side after a sensational performance by a brilliant Barnsley.
To be honest it all felt like a defeat in the end as the Reds were simply exceptional at the City Ground but had the wind knocked out of their sails by a shocking penalty decision that lifted what had been a hopeless Nottingham Forest.
Away games do not get any harder in the Championship at the moment than a trip to the City Ground. Nottingham Forest have not been beaten at home since September 2009 - that's a run of 30 league matches - and the Reds will have their work cut out ending that outstanding sequence of results on a cold New Year's Day afternoon. The defeat by Swansea City last Tuesday meant Barnsley boss Mark Robins rang the changes with Diego Arismendi and Matt Hill coming into the side. Out went Jim O'Brien and Hugo Colace.
Forest made three changes from the side that demolished Derby County here on Wednesday night. Out went on loan Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, Nathan Tyson and Ryan Bertrand while Chris Cohen, Lewis McGugan and Garath McCleary came into the starting eleven.
The home side started quickly with Rob Earnshaw winning a very soft free kick from Jason Shackell inside the first minute. Lewis McGugan smacked his low shot into the wall. Forest midfielder Radoslaw Majewski was then a little lucky to escape a caution on five minutes for a crude two-footed challenge that left Nathan Doyle in a heap on the field.
Stephen Foster was then left in agony on eight minutes after Marcus Tudgay's over the top attempt to win a header pole axed the Reds defender. With Foster receiving treatment off the field it was always going to leave the visitors short at the back and McGugan threaded the ball through to Chris Cohen on eleven minutes but the full back drilled a low shot into Shackell and away. Foster was back on the pitch though moments later after having his head stitched.
Goran Lovre broke well from the middle of the park on 17 minutes to shoot but his effort skipped wide of the mark. Barnsley split Forest wide open seconds later as Adam Hammill knocked it across the park for Kieran Trippier to cross and Andy Gray beat his marker but was denied by Lee Camp's fine, fine save.
Barnsley were in front though on 18 minutes and it was a moment of stunning brilliance from an unlikely source in defender Hill. The on loan full back charged down Tudgay on half way and burst through the heart of the Forest back line before racing in on Camp and hammering the ball past the helpless keeper into the net.
Another soft foul - this time against Hill for a foul on Gunter - gave Forest the chance to put the Reds under pressure on 28 minutes. McGugan's free kick was good but Wes Morgan made a complete mess of his far post header and nodded the ball high over the bar.
Forest should have been down to ten men on 39 minutes as Lovre knocked the ball through and had a clear run on goal but was cynically checked out of the action by Luke Chambers. Chambers was only shown a yellow card and Hammill could not find the top corner with his deflected free kick.
Forest were a constant threat. Earnshaw got in between the Barnsley defence on 43 minutes to race in on Luke Steele but the Reds keeper was quickly out to make a very good save.
Majewski was then a little lucky to escape a caution when he threw himself to the ground in the area under Foster's challenge. The Pole received a reprimand from referee Dean Whitestone when it could have easily been a card.
Barnsley started the second half brightly. Hammill brought a save from Camp on 48 minutes before the Reds shocked the City Ground three minutes later with a second goal of real quality. The goal came from the industriousness and determination of Trippier down the right hand side. The Manchester City loanee did wonderfully well to dig out a cross and Gray was in the right place to power a fine header past Camp and into the back of the net.
Barnsley were well on top. Hammill broke through the Forest ranks again on 52 minutes but was denied by Camp's great save.
Forest were simply all over the place. Earnshaw volleyed high over on 56 minutes when Hammill blazed over at the other end three minutes later. It was almost three on 59 minutes as Hill fired in a great cross to give Gray a tap in but Morgan was in the right place to make a great block.
Barnsley were rocked on 67 minutes when referee Whitestone handed Forest a lifeline with a shocking penalty decision. Gunter broke past Hammill and raced towards the area only to go to ground very, very easily under the slightest of contact. Whether it was a foul was certainly debateable. Whether it was even in the area was even more questionable but McGugan strode up and smashed the penalty home to give his side a lifeline they simply did not deserve.
TV replays later showed that the foul - if there was one at all - was at least a yard outside the box and that the Reds could and should feel very, very hard done to.
Substitute Nathan Tyson did well on 72 minutes to break to the byline and find Earnshaw but the Welshman could only find the top of the stand from 18 yards. Bobby Hassell picked up a yellow card for a foul on McGugan on 73 minutes but thankfully nothing came from the free kick.
Morgan then scythed through Hammill from behind seconds later but escaped censure from referee Whitestone, who was quickly becoming public enemy number one to the 925 Barnsley fans inside the City Ground. Hammill took the free kick himself but was denied brilliantly by Camp.
Forest completed an undeserved comeback on 80 minutes as Dele Adebola barged his way into the area and Tyson was on hand to scramble home the loose ball from 12 yards as the Reds struggled to clear.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST: Camp, Gunter, Morgan, Chambers, Cohen, McCleary (Tyson 51), Moussi, Majewski (Ramsey 51), McGugan, Tudgay, Earnshaw (Adebola 75).
Subs: Smith, Wilson, Lynch, Ramsey, Anderson, Tyson.
BARNSLEY: Steele, Hassell, Foster, Shackell, Hill, Trippier, Doyle, Arismendi, Hammill (O'Brien 87), Lovre (Colace 90), Gray.
Subs: Preece, Hayes, Butterfield, Bennett, Neumann.
Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire)
Steve Cook (Derbyshire) and Paul Marsden (Lancashire)
Stephen Ross (Lincolnshire)
Attendance - 22,179
Away Attendance - 925
Match Report by Rob Knowles.
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