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N Forest 1-1 Fulham Cham 10 1617 - Nottingham Post

last updated Wednesday 28th September 2016, 11:16 AM

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Nottingham Post

Nottingham Forest (0) 1-1 (0) Fulham

It was New Year's Day 2014 when Nicklas Bendtner last scored on English soil. The striker will hope his first for Nottingham Forest will signal a different kind of new beginning.

An unsuccessful spell in Germany with Wolfsburg came between that goal for Arsenal, against Cardiff, and the instinctive, precise strike that put the Reds ahead against Fulham.

The Danish international might have made the breakthrough before that, had a rocket of a 25-yard strike dipped just a little more, instead of cannoning back off the bar early on.

But, in the end it was another foreign import for Forest, in Vladimir Stojkovic, who played just as big a role in securing a point for the Reds, with the keeper making a string of saves - one of which, from Matt Smith, was truly world class.

The Serbian was beaten once, by a far post effort from Tom Cairney, that denied Forest their first clean sheet of the season.

Nicolao Dumitru, Bendtner and Mustapha Carayol all had chances to find the net for Forest – and Bendtner was denied by a superb save from David Button. But, in truth, either side could have snatched three points.

Philippe Montanier maintained his habit of shuffling his pack, making six changes to his starting line-up. One was enforced, with Henri Lansbury missing through suspension, having picked up his fifth booking of the season at Hillsborough at the weekend.

But Matt Mills, Chris Cohen, Hildeberto Pereira, Jorge Grant and Apostolos Vellios were all relegated to the bench, as Danny Fox and Damien Perquis returned to the back four, with Fox at left-back and Eric Lichaj switching back to his favoured right-back position. Michael Mancienne also retained his place in the heart of defence.

David Vaughan and Pajtim Kasami formed a deeper midfield duo, having been brought back into the starting line-up, while Dumitru was also restored, as part of an attacking midfield trio alongside Ben Osborn and Carayol.

The final change saw Bendtner make his first Championship start for the Reds, having been handed his full debut against his former club Arsenal in the EFL Cup last week.

And he almost started it in style, as he threatened to conjure up a spectacular goal almost out of nothing. When he collected possession at least 25 yards out, he looked up before hitting a thunderous shot that moved wickedly through the air, before bouncing away off the top of the bar, as Fulham keeper Button looked on anxiously.

Forest were looking lively, with their attacking front four all rotating fluidly, with Bendtner coming deep to get on the ball and Dumitru and Osborn both taking on more central positions, giving the Fulham defence something to think about.

Fulham's first meaningful effort on goal came in the 15th minute, when Sone Aluko found the space to let fly from the edge of the box, but rolled his shot well wide. Cairney came a little closer a few seconds later, when he sent a dipping effort narrowly over the angle of post and bar.

The visitors had suddenly found their threat, with Aluko following up a flurry of sharp passing with a crisp strike that, thankfully for Forest, was always bending away from goal.

And it was only the brilliance of Stojkovic that denied the Cottagers the lead, as giant Fulham striker Smith attacked a Cairney cross from the right with a powerful close range header. It seemed an almost certain goal, but somehow the Forest keeper got down to his right to pull off a breathtaking stop, pushing the ball away off the line.

A clever Scott Parker cross into the box had a few Forest fans looking on nervously, as it dropped wide of the post, but Stojkovic looked to have it covered. At the other end, Button had to be alert after Lichaj had darted into the opposition box, but the full-back's effort was deflected high over the bar.

Forest were looking dangerous when they did get in the final third, but Fulham were creating the greater number of opportunities, as they enjoyed a short spell of dominance, which saw another effort from Smith – this time a low, first-time shot – blocked.

The Reds still almost took the lead, as Bendtner threatened again – but saw Fulham keeper Button match Stojkovic's earlier brilliance with a superb save of his own. Bendtner looked certain to score when he attacked a cross from Dumitru, but saw Button block with his legs, having initially dived the wrong way.

Like Smith, Bendtner will feel that he should have scored, regardless of the quality of the save.

Bendtner kickstarted the move as Forest threatened again, holding the ball up well before feeding Lichaj on the right. His cross found Osborn in the centre, where he cleverly laid off the ball for Carayol to shoot, with his effort flashing across the face of goal and wide.

The 0-0 half-time scoreline did not reflect what had gone before, with both sides having spurned good chances. It was even more of a surprise that it remained goalless two minutes into the second half, when Aluko fired over from only a few yards out, spurning a fine chance for Fulham.

Montanier looked to his bench in the 55th minute, bringing on Lica in place of Carayol, as Forest looked to find a breakthrough.

When Lica drove the ball across goal with one of his first touches, the ball cannoned off Osborn and rolled temptingly towards the far post, where Dumitru was just unable to get the vital touch.

But the goal was coming and when Kasami delivered a cross from the left side it found its way through to the far post, where Bendtner kept his composure to lash a low shot back across goal and inside the upright.

The big striker's relief and delight were obvious, as he surged off to celebrate.

Aluko thought he had levelled for Fulham but saw his own celebrations immediately cut short by an offside flag.

Forest should have made it 2-0 when Bendtner lifted a defence splitting pass over the top for Dumitru but, with Button quick off his line to close him down, Dumitru completely fluffed his lines, failing to make contact with the ball.

And it proved to be a pivotal moment as, with a few minutes, Fulham were level. Denis Odoi headed the ball across the face of goal and Cairney had timed his run perfectly, arriving to apply a simple, but emphatic far post finish in the 72nd minute.

Dumitru, who had not been the quickest to track back in the build-up to the goal, was immediately replaced by Pereira.

Fulham again thought they had scored, after Stojkovic had made another impressive stop, to deny on-loan Derby man Chris Martin, with Smith firing in the rebound from an offside position. Lica then thought he had snatched it for Forest, but saw an angled effort deflected wide for a corner. Bendtner had another effort charged down.

It was an end-to-end finale, with Martin bringing the best out of Stojkovic again, as the keeper dived full length to his left to push away a rising effort from him.

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