Birmingham City 1-1 Nottingham Forest: FLW report as last-gasp Grabban penalty salvages dramatic point for Reds

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Lewis Grabban netted a 98th minute penalty to earn Nottingham Forest a dramatic late point in a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at St. Andrew’s tonight.

It was a lacklustre display for the large part with Marc Roberts heading Blues into a lead right after the half-time interval, but substitute Grabban salvaged a point for the visitors with a stoppage time penalty.

Chris Hughton warned in Tuesday’s pre-match press conference that Marc Roberts’ long throw would be a ‘wonderful weapon’ for his side’s opponents. The defender gave a taste of what to expect with only 39 seconds on the clock, with his delivery forcing Brice Samba to come off his line and prevent Lukas Jutkiewicz from connecting with the ball.

Blues’ first real sight of goal, though, came on 15 minutes, with Kristian Pedersen’s cross from the left-hand side finding an unmarked Scott Hogan inside the six-yard box. The striker was unable to make a proper connection and saw his effort fly well wide. Hogan was to pick up an injury moments later, forcing Lee Bowyer into a premature first change – Jonathan Leko replacing him up top.

What followed was a turgid affair between two sides edging closer to safety and looking to play out the remainder of the campaign with no real difficulties. Both sides were unable to use the ball wisely on a dry, bobbly St. Andrew’s turf, making for a drab first half.

Lukas Jutkiewicz’s physical presence was a clear threat, though, with the towering forward making a darting front post run and flicking Ivan Sanchez’s corner goalwards, but no takers.

Blues were to come the closest to breaking the deadlock on 41 minutes. Another floated, dangerous delivery from Sanchez was met by Harlee Dean, who forced Brice Samba into a goalline save from point-blank range.

Down the other end, Forest were presented with their first real opportunity of the contest. Patient build-up play culminated in Luke Freeman teeing up a cross from the right, with Ryan Yates rising highest to meet it, before crashing a header off the crossbar from six yards.

The half-time whistle blew to mark the end of a lacklustre 45 minutes, with both managers undoubtedly looking for more quality from their sides in the second half. Birmingham did show signs of making that improvement, and shortly after Ivan Sanchez forced Samba into a smart save with a long-range effort, the hosts took the lead.

It was their aerial threat which paid dividends, with another Sanchez corner finding Roberts at the back post. The defender used his strength to lose Cyrus Christie, meet the ball and head low and beyond Samba, giving Lee Bowyer’s men a 1-0 lead.

Forest went in search of an equaliser through James Garner minutes later, with the midfielder seeing his effort bounce just wide of the post. Just shy of the hour mark, Lyle Taylor – making his first league start in over four months – reacted quickest following Roberts’ poor header back to Etheridge, racing into the box before scuffing his effort straight at the goalkeeper.

Taylor picked up an injury in the process, leading to a triple change from Chris Hughton as he looked to get his side back into the game. Glenn Murray, Lewis Grabban and Anthony Knockaert replacing Luke Freeman, Filip Krovinovic and Taylor. Bowyer making his second change, with Riley McGreen being introduced for Sanchez.

But it was Blues who looked most likely to score despite the Reds freshening things up in the final third. A teasing cross from the right nearly led to a comical own goal, forcing Christie into turning the ball just around the post. From the resulting corner, Roberts nearly doubled his and his side’s tally for the night, once again rising highest to head straight at Samba after being left unmarked.

Cafu replaced Garner on 78 minutes as the Reds looked to gain some authority in midfield, but the visitors had a  final golden chance to wrap things up. Forest were the creators of their own downfall, giving the ball away far too easily from a free-kick, allowing the hosts to break. The ball eventually came to Riley McGree, who spun inside the area and forced Samba into another reactionary save.

Seven minutes were added on with Blues looking to see out the lead, but in the 97th minute, there was plenty of controversy.

Forest continued to apply the late pressure with a flurry of crosses. Their final one met the head of Scott McKenna, who had his header denied on the line by Etheridge. But much to the dismay of Lee Bowyer and his backroom staff, a penalty was awarded for a foul on the defender.

Lewis Grabban stepped up in the 98th minute, and despite Etheridge guessing the right way, the striker’s penalty kick had too much power, nestling into the bottom corner.

The final whistle blew almost immediately after play resumed, with Birmingham left to comprehend not only the decision, but how they had missed out on all three points.

Not a performance for Hughton to shout about, but a point apiece for either side as they creep closer to mathematical safety.