Tom Cairney’s equaliser gave Fulham a creditable point on the road at Nottingham Forest this afternoon – but you left the City Ground with the feeling that it might have been more.
The Whites were pleased to head back to London with anything after falling behind to Nicklas Bendtner’s first Forest goal. The ex-Arsenal striker had signalled the danger he poses at Championship level when he cracked a 25-yarder against the crossbar before half time and looked the likeliest source of a home winner. Forest, just like Fulham, now haven’t won in five league games after what looked like an encouraging start to the campaign.
Philippe Montanier made six changes after his side were beaten at the death by Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and the hosts emerged full of adventurous intent. Danish international Bendtner could have given them the lead twice in the early stages. His first sight of goal saw him pull the trigger from long range, beat David Button with a venomous strike, and be denied by the woodwork. That was unfortunate, but he should have opened the scoring when found by Mustapha Carayol’s clever cross but a weak finish allowed Button to block with his feet.
At the other end, Vladimir Stojkovic was in immense form. The Forest goalkeeper pulled off a superb reaction stop to keep out a close-range header from Matt Smith. There was an even better left off for the Reds when Sone Aluko somehow missed from two yards out after Smith had flicked the ball into an area from where a goal appeared inevitable. Cairney lashed over from a good position, too, and Fulham were soon made to pay for their feeble finishing.
The provider was former Fulham midfielder Pajtim Kasami who whipped in an inviting ball from the left flank and Bendtner was afforded far too much time and space to break the deadlock with a fine right-footed finish from what looked like an acute angle. Ragnar Sigurdsson was culpable for letting the former Arsenal forward go, but it was a well-taken goal from the eccentric and mercurial striker.
The visitors thought they had equalised six minutes later but Aluko’s wonderful curling effort was disallowed for offside after an error by David Vaughan. Kasami nearly laid on a second when he lifted a lovely ball over the retreating Fulham back line only for Nicolao Dumitru to fail to touch it beyond Button with the goal gaping. That proved a profitable let off for Jokanovic’s men as they equalised in the 72nd minute.
The visitors produced a peerless period of keep ball, patiently working an open as Forest’s defensive line lost their discipline. Scott Malone supplied the cross from the left that an advanced Denis Odoi nodded down and Cairney stroked home from close range. The Whites might have pinched all three points after that with Smith seeing his finish after Stojkovic had saved from substitute Chris Martin ruled out by another offside flag. The Forest goalkeeper than pulled off a wonderful save to repel a fierce drive from just outside the box before Smith blazed high and wide with a good opportunity from what proved to be the last kick of the game.
But after Cairney side-footed in Scott Malone’s cross, Fulham pressed for a winner and came close to finding it, Smith having a strike ruled out for offside and substitute Chris Martin forcing another fine save from Stojkovic.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-3-3): Stojkovic; Lichaj, Fox, Mancienne, Perquis; Kasami, Vaughan, Osborn; Carayol (Lica 55), Dumitru (Pereira 72), Bendtner (Vellios 89). Subs (not used): Henderson, Mills, Grant.
BOOKED: Dumitru, Fox.
GOAL: Bendtner (60).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Button; Odoi, Malone (R. Sessegnon 81), Sigurdsson, Ream; Parker, Tunnicliffe; Aluko, Piazon (Martin 68), Cairney (Adeniran 89); Smith. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Madl, Johansen, Jozabed.
GOAL: Cairney (72).
REFEREE: Darren Bond (Lancashire).