A excellent first half display from Nottingham Forest winger Oliver Burke helped his side progress to the 4th round of the FA Cup. The 18 year old was a real hand-full for Queens Park Rangers and set up the only goal of the game after 24 minutes. An exquisite touch on the right wing set up the chance as he crossed for Jamie Ward to bundle home at the far post.
Rangers struggled to create going forward with Gabriele Angella the only man to go close for the visitors but his header was tipped over by Dorus De Vries in the Forest goal. R’s manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink posed a frustrated figure in the dugout as he still searches for his first win as manager of the West London club.
Forest manager Dougie Freeman made 7 changes to the side that drew 1-1 away at Charlton last weekend. Only Dorus De Vries, Jack Hobbs, Michael Mancienne and Ben Osborn kept their places in the starting 11. Chris Cohen was handed his first start in 15 months after making his comeback last weekend, Jamie Ward played just behind Dexter Blackstock in attack. While recent loan signing Gary Gardner partnered Robert Tesche in midfield with Oliver Burke on the right.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made 8 changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Hull on New Years Day. The only men to retain their place in the starting 11 were: Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall and Gabriele Angella. Clint Hill slotted in at left back while recalled midfielder Ben Gladwin was handed a start. Jay Emmanuel Thomas started up top with Forest old man Jamie Mackie starting on the right.
In the opening period, neither side were able to grab a foothold on proceedings. Forest adjusted better, trying to pass the ball around nicely however miss placed passes were a constant theme throughout. Forest manager Dougie Freeman has used winger Oliver Burke sparing this season but after a goal against Cardiff at Christmas, Burke has pushed his way back into the side.
Freeman was encouraging the youngster to push himself wide, creating an option for his side in possession. Burke was the man to watch as he ran at Clint Hill at pace every time he received the ball. It was clear to see that QPR veteran left back had no answer to Burke’s speed and trickery on the ball.
The opening goal came on 24 minutes and who created it… you guessed it that man Burke. Following a QPR corner, Blackstock hit a ball to the right touchline, Burke’s exquisite touch put the ball in front of him. Running at the QPR goal, Burke looked up and put the ball on a plate for Jamie Ward to bundle home at the far post.
Burke’s energy on the right wing was causing QPR problems with Hill avoid of any idea how to stop the 18 year old. Hasselbaink was forced to change the shape of his side as Forest were dictating play in central midfield. The change didn’t seem to help his side going forward as they failed to force De Vries into a save. Michael Toszer did strike a free kick well wide but the Forest defense remained untested.
Neither side made any changes at the break but it was clear from Hasselbaink’s body language that a change was imminent. Tjaronn Chery replaced Ben Gladwin 8 minutes after the break with the former Swindon man failing to show why he was recalled from his recent loan spell.
Burke was still the man to create for the home side in attacking areas but after he drifted inside to receive the ball, the youngster’s exuberance saw his shot fly wide. Chery’s introduction behind Emmanuel-Thoma put the away side on the front foot as the Dutchman linked with QPR’s front man. A neat passage of play from the visitors saw Chery and Emmanuel Thomas combine but Michael Doughty could only send his shot off target.
Forest were sitting back, trying to absorb the QPR pressure and looking to hit Rangers on the break with the pace of Burke and Jamie Ward. Hasselbaink introduced Michael Petrasso in place of Jamie Mackie who still continues his comeback after a 3 month lay off with a hamstring injury. Freeman brought on Henri Lansbury for Gary Gardner who joined on Friday from Villa and looks far from match fit but put in a good shift for his side.
QPR did go close with 24 minutes remaining when Gabriele Angella’s header was tipped over by Forest keeper Dorus De Vries. Rangers were playing some nice, neat football but were rarely penetrating Forest’s back-line. Massimo Luongo and Chery combined well down the right but the cross into the box evaded the Hoop shirts and the ball was cleared.
James Perch replaced Clint Hill at left back as Rangers continued to search for the equaliser. The home crowd were getting more anxious with Forest sitting deeper and deeper. Bojan Kovic came off the bench for the hosts after joining on loan from Villarreal on Friday after Henri Lansbury fell awkwardly on his ankle.
With a long stoppage in play due to Lansbury’s injury, Chery was next to try his luck from distance but it was an easy save for De Vries. 8 minutes were added on at the end and Forest were able to hold out for victory and book their place in round 4.
That’s now 9 unbeaten for Freeman’s Forest who looked to be upwardly mobile right now. The return of Chris Cohen is a massive boost for the club especially with the extent of Lansbury’s injury currently unknown. In truth Freeman would have been happy with his side, they were rarely tested defensively but when they were, they dealt with QPR well.
Dexter Blackstock was the only disappointment for the home side as he looked disinterested throughout and failed to hold the ball up for his side Freeman has spoke about the need to bring in a new attacking option and on Blackstock’s performance today, it is easy to see his thinking.
However the performance of man of the match Oliver Burke was the standout yesterday. Always a threat when in possession and a willing runner off the ball. QPR had no answer to the 18 year old in the first half and the assist for Jamie Ward’s goal was excellent. Freeman spoke post match to nffc.co.uk about managing Burke right and keeping his feet on the ground. But performance levels like yesterday, Forest fans certainly have something to be excited about.
Hasselbaink still searches for his first win as Rangers boss but his side were very disappointing in the first half. No cutting edge in the final third and that only improved when Tjaronn Chery was introduced off the bench. The team lacks goals in attacking areas something which the return of Charlie Austin can help. But Ranger have two touch away trips to Blackburn and Rotherham this week, first half performances like this, you will find it hard to see Rangers picking up any points.
Forest face Birmingham at the City Ground on Tuesday night before hosting Bolton next Saturday. With the midlands club now 8 unbeaten at home, Freeman will be looking for his side to make the City Ground a fortress until the end of the season. Forest sit only 10 points off the playoffs, a late surge in the second half of the season, you never know what can happen.