Nottingham Forest 2-1 Blackpool: Injury-hit Seasiders lack an attacking threat as they lose their unbeaten run
Blackpool’s four-game unbeaten run came to a halt at the City Ground against a resurgent Nottingham Forest side.
Goals from Brennan Johnson and Lewis Grabban condemned the Seasiders to a defeat on their first return to action since the international break.
A Jerry Yates goal - his second in as many games - sandwiched in-between the two Forest goals briefly gave Neil Critchley’s side hope.
But they were unable to level matters for a second time, as the injury-hit Seasiders bemoaned a lack of an attacking threat without a host of key first-team players.
Critchley’s depleted troops were forced into making a number of changes from their last outing, the 2-1 win against Blackburn Rovers before the international break.
Of the three players that came off injured during that game, only Richard Keogh was fit enough to start again having recovered from a groin injury.
Number one goalkeeper and captain Chris Maxwell, as well as top goalscorer Shayne Lavery, meanwhile, will be longer-term absentees.
Daniel Grimshaw was given the nod over Stuart Moore in goal, making his first league appearance for the Seasiders, while Jerry Yates came in for Lavery.
Jordan Gabriel came in for Dujon Sterling, who was missing through illness, to face his former side, while Kevin Stewart replaced Kenny Dougall, who was only named on the bench having travelled back from Japan during the week.
Anderson was the fifth and final player to be missing from the Blackburn game, the winger absent from Blackpool’s squad altogether.
In Maxwell’s absence, it was Marvin Ekpiteta who was given the captain’s armband in the centre of defence.
In total, Critchley’s side were without nine players - Maxwell (torn quad), Sterling (illness), Daniel Gretarsson (concussion), Reece James (foot), Matty Virtue (ACL), Grant Ward (achilles), Anderson (unknown), CJ Hamilton (foot), Lavery (hamstring).
There was better news regarding Owen Dale, who featured in a Blackpool match day squad for the first time since his arrival on transfer deadline day.
Forest, who had won two of their last three under new boss Steve Cooper, named an unchanged side from the 3-0 win at Birmingham City before the international break.
Pool looked as though they were going to be hit by another injury blow after just four minutes, when Gary Madine went down and required treatment.
Despite Demetri Mitchell being readied on the sideline, Madine opted to soldier on and, barely two minutes later, looked to have been wrestled to the ground inside the penalty area.
It started with a good cross from Josh Bowler, who had started brightly, delivering a dangerous cross which Madine looked odds on to reach, only to be hauled to the floor by Tobias Figueiredo. But the referee allowed play to continue.
Tyreece John-Jules, playing out on the left, was found in some promising positions early on, but his touch was found wanting.
Truth be told, it was a bit of a tame opening to the game, with neither side able to create anything of note.
That all changed on 22 minutes when the home side took the lead with a goal out of nothing.
It was a well-worked effort from Forest’s point of view, but the Seasiders will feel it was soft.
Jordan Gabriel was caught out by a long diagonal, allowing Max Lowe to cross to Brennan Johnson at the back post, who had the simple task of slotting home.
For the next 10 minutes or so, Blackpool failed to break down a stubborn Forest side, who looked well-drilled and well-coached under their new boss, who has only been at the helm for a few weeks.
Josh Bowler did well to get Blackpool up the pitch with a trademark forward run, but his cross to Ryan Wintle was intercepted.
Other than that, the visitors were really struggling to offer much of an attacking threat.
That changed two minutes before the break though, when the Seasiders couldn’t have come much closer to levelling matters.
It came after Madine had headed Luke Garbutt’s corner towards the danger area, where his strike partner Jerry Yates looked odds on to force the ball over the line. But somehow the hosts survived and hacked clear.
A corner on the other side a minute later fell kindly for Ryan Wintle on the edge of the box, but his low shot was well blocked.
The Cardiff City loanee went close again in the opening exchanges of the second-half, firing just wide from 20 yards out.
Forest returned with a good chance of their own though, as Johnson almost turned provider by putting the ball on a plate for Lewis Grabban from point-blank range.
But Gabriel atoned for his earlier error by making an excellent recovery to intercept the ball just as Grabban was set to double Forest’s lead.
Just seven minutes into the second-half, Blackpool’s fans were sent into a frenzy - reminiscent of those scenes back in 2010.
They were celebrating because Jerry Yates had levelled for the Seasiders, firing home his second goal in as many games.
It came after goalkeeper Brice Samba had flapped at Bowler’s lofted cross, leaving an empty net for Yates to fire home into.
Just before the hour-mark, Pool’s fans housed behind the goal felt their side should have been awarded a penalty when Tyreece John-Jules went to ground having latched onto Yates’ through-ball, but the appeals fell on deaf ears.
Replays showed there was no contact on the ball from the Forest defender, which made things feel even worse when the hosts restored their lead three minutes later.
Lewis Grabban was the man to add Forest’s second, tapping home on the rebound after Grimshaw had done so well to deny Joe Worrall’s initial effort.
Kenny Dougall entered the fray with 20 minutes to go, replacing Kevin Stewart who had required treatment. Fingers crossed that’s not another injury blow.
Pool were given a let-off when Philip Zinckernagel escaped a couple of challenges to get to the byline, only to fail to pick out a couple of his teammates who were in space crying out for the ball at the back post.
Critchley’s last roll of the dice saw Sonny Carey enter the fray for his first league appearance in tangerine, replacing Madine.
With Pool pushing men forward in the latter stages in a bid to get back in the game, that opened up gaps for the home side to exploit.
They almost did exactly that in the 83rd minute when Max Lowe stung the palms of Grimshaw with a powerful effort from inside the box.
The game should have been dead and buried three minutes from time, when Joe Lolley pulled the ball back from the right into the path of Lewis Grabban, who fluffed his lines and failed to make the right contact on the ball, which ended up bobbling straight into Grimshaw’s grateful arms.
As the fourth official indicated for four minutes of stoppage time, Lowe wasted another golden chance for Forest as he curled wide after surging through on goal.
It made no difference though, as Blackpool were unable to muster a response and get what would have been a dramatic last-ditch equaliser.
Forest: Samba, Spence, Figueiredo, Worrall, Colback (Garner), Yates, McKenna, Zinckernagel (Mighten), Lowe, Johnson (Lolley), Grabban
Subs not used: Horvath, Carvalho, Bong, Taylor
Blackpool: Grimshaw, Gabriel, Keogh, Ekpiteta, Garbutt, Stewart (Dougall), Wintle, Bowler, John-Jules (Mitchell), Yates, Madine (Carey)
Subs not used: Moore, Connolly, Husband, Dale
Referee: Kevin Friend
Attendance: 27,946 (1,795 Blackpool)
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