Nottingham Forest 1-1 Stoke City: The spoils are shared at the City Ground
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: Filip Krovinovic of Nottingham Forest battles for possession with Tommy Smith of Stoke City during the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and Stoke City at City Ground on April 24, 2021 in Nottingham, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Stoke City extended their winless run to five games after being held to a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Rabbi Matondo's first goal for the club since joining on loan from FC Schalke 04 handed the Potters the lead before the half an hour mark.

However, a close-range strike by Lewis Grabban a couple of minutes after the break meant that the points were shared.

Despite the two goals, it was a game of few clear-cut opportunities with neither side's goalkeepers having to be tested on too many occasions.

Story of the game

After a lively start to the encounter, the Potters were the ones to have the first half-chance inside seven minutes

This was when a Jordan Thompson cross from the left was unable to be caught cleanly by the arriving Steven Fletcher, with the home side then being able to snuff out the danger.

Only three minutes later, the visitors ventured forward again with Sam Clucas just not having the legs to latch on to a clever through ball down the middle, with Brice Samba being well on his toes to collect.

Then just after the quarter of an hour mark, with their first meaningful attack of the game, Forest really should have broken the deadlock.

A long ball failed to be brought down by Harry Souttar allowing Grabban through on goal, but his effort inside the area was dragged wide of the near post.

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With the home side starting to dominate the ball and the ones that were looking the more dangerous, inside 27 minutes on the counter-attack, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock.

Josh Tymon was found down the left-hand side, he spotted the late run of the 20-year-old, and thanks to a deflection, Matondo was able to poke the ball home. 

Six minutes later Chris Hughton's outfit were close to a leveller when a swinging free-kick from James Garner went all the way through and seemed to be a lopping into the top right-hand corner, but it landed narrowly adrift.

With the hosts looking for a way back into the game, they were sure they had a claim for a penalty when Grabban thought he was pulled back by Souttar, but the referee was not interested.

After the break, Forest restarted the game with a positive attitude as Joe Worrall saw an early second-half header sail over the crossbar.

A few moments later this decent beginning to the second period paid off as Grabban levelled up the affairs when he converted low past Adam Davies from point-blank range after he was quickest to react to a loose ball.

After the equaliser, neither side really managed to get a grip hold on the game.

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However, a loose pass out of defence, not long after an hour had been played, allowed substitute Jordan Brown in sight of goal, but Scott McKenna did well to get across and block the forward's effort.

A couple of minutes later, Tommy Smith found himself in shooting range, but his shot was deflected narrowly off target.

Then out of nowhere, the hosts went up the other end of the pitch and Davies did well to make a smart stop with his feet to prevent Grabban from getting his second goal of the game after he was found in room inside the area.

Two minutes later, full-back Cyrus Christie had a chance to test out Davies but after doing well to get away from a couple of players he completely mishit the ball and Stoke were able to clear.

After that, both side's found it difficult to break down the other with Thompson's late speculative chipped effort that sailed over the bar being the best that they both had to offer as in the end a point a piece proved to be fair.

Lack of creativity the problem for Forest

Despite dominating 62% of the ball, Hughton’s side failed to do much with it in terms of creating opportunities that would cause problems for the Potters defence.

Other than the goal, they only managed to test Davies on one other occasion with the former Barnsley number one doing well to keep the ball out with his feet.

Forest’s lack of creativity going forward has not only proved to be a problem today, but all season as with only 36 goals netted in the league all season, only three other teams have a current worst goalscoring record.

This is something that Hughton will have in mind going into the summer transfer window and it would not be a surprise at all if he recruited in some creative attacking midfielders and some more quality on the wing in order to try to resolve this reoccurring problem.

Potters poor away form continues

This result for Stoke now means that they have only won one of their last 14 away games which came at the start of the month in a 2-0 win at Bristol City.

In the same period, O’Neill’s side have drawn seven and lost five. Going into next season, the ability to be able to defend well while looking a danger and being clinical on the counter-attack is a message that the former Northern Ireland manager will surely be keen to bang into his player’s heads.

Going into difficult away games such as this one must be difficult without their most creative player Nick Powell, who was unavailable for selection today.

His absence was clearly felt as the Potters failed to create many opportunities at all and it was a rarity that they were able to break in behind Forest’s back four.

However, with the adding force of Powell, his energy and his quick play as shown a number of times this season allows Stoke to get in behind the line of defence on more occasions.

With this being the case, the fact that they did not have the 25-year-old as an option this afternoon is something that will frustrate O'Neill.

Star Player- Rabbi Matondo

The 20-year-old certainly added something different for the visitors as his energy and blistering pace from deep did on certain occasion make Forest’s defence drop back which allowed there at times to be more space in wide positions.

The movement for his goal is something that must be further credited as he did well to peel of the back Yuri Riberio, and he adjusted his body well to send Brice Samba the wrong way.

The Schalke loanee is someone who has struggled to get his feet off the ground since his arrival in January, but this goal and overall performance must be considered something that he can build upon going into the last two games against Queens Park Rangers and AFC Bournemouth