Cardiff force Forest to battle for play-off spot

Nottingham Forest 0 Cardiff City 0
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Nottingham Forest missed the chance to set a club record as play-off rivals Cardiff ended their run of consecutive home wins at 12 yesterday but the crucial statistic was the one that enabled Newcastle to begin their promotion party before kick-off against Sheffield United. By limiting third-placed Forest to a point, Cardiff ensured the Magpies cannot finish lower than second.

A few weeks ago, Forest still had thoughts of automatic promotion themselves before a run of seven away defeats. The question now is whether they have the nerve to win the play-offs.

Forest need only four more points to be sure of a top-six finish but Cardiff similarly would regard failing to make the shake-up at this stage as a catastrophe, particularly after taking seven points from their last three games, all against immediate rivals, having beaten Leicester and Swansea last week.

"If this was a dress rehearsal for the play-off final I'd be very happy," said the Forest manager, Billy Davies. "Cardiff are a strong, well-organised side but we had some good chances in the first half and I felt we dominated the second. Considering we were battling relegation this time last season, it shows how far we've come."

Much of the early running was set by Cardiff, who forced six corners in the opening 12 minutes and had a clear chance from one, when a Darcy Blake header thumped into the turf and over the bar. Yet the best opportunity of the opening phase fell to Forest when Blake failed to make a routine clearance and allowed Rob Earnshaw to scamper off towards goal. The Welsh striker, who began his career at Cardiff, should have put his former club behind but his left-foot shot lacked power or precision and David Marshall saved easily.

Forest twice might have scored on the counter-attack. But Nathan Tyson failed to connect with Guy Moussi's low cross, then Chris Cohen could not convert as Tyson turned supplier.

In the second half, the game suffered through indiscipline. Forest striker Dexter Blackstock was rightly booked for a nasty challenge on Mark Kennedy; then referee Chris Foy had tempers to calm when Ross McCormack took out Chris Gunter unnecessarily, while Marshall and team-mate Anthony Gerrard looked set to come to blows before other Cardiff players intervened.

"I was disappointed we did not score but it was our third game in seven days and we showed a lot of energy," said the Cardiff manager, Dave Jones.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Camp; Chambers, Morgan, Wilson, Gunter; Cohen, Moussi, Majewski (McLeary, 65), Tyson; Earnshaw (McGoldrick, 83), Blackstock. Substitutes not used: Perch, McGugan, Garner, Boyd, Smith (gk).

Cardiff City (4-4-2): Marshall; Matthews, Gerrard, Blake, Kennedy; Etuhu (Wildig, 74), McPhail, Ledley, McCormack; Bothroyd, Chopra. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Morris, Capaldi, Rae, Feeney, Magennis.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).