BHappy: The headlines coming into this one related to the non-availability not only of Ismaïla Sarr but also of Philip Zinckernagel, both of whom picked up knocks at Rotherham in midweek. Sarr’s absence ahead of a two week break no great surprise – a “minor” hamstring problem we’re advised. Stepping back and considering the various options and realising that they were all pretty good limited any anxiety about the absence of perhaps our least replaceable weapon in Sarr, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see Isaac getting the nod. Two years since his last League start which is remarkable in itself, perhaps only as remarkable as the fact that he’s clearly not out of last chances just yet. As previously, I’m pleased about that… if he can mobilise his quality and physicality, pull the strings around the parcel a little tighter then we suddenly have a new £12million signing, as my brother pointed out at the outset.
Sky Sports: Chile international Francisco Sierralta opened the scoring with his first goal in English football and further efforts from Ismaila Sarr and Ken Sema put Xisco Munoz’s men firmly in the ascendancy at the break. After Michael Smith had a penalty saved for the Millers, Freddie Ladapo pulled a goal back in spectacular fashion but Dan Gosling swiftly responded to extinguish any hopes of a comeback.
BHappy: At the centre of much of it, and critical to all three of the first half goals, was Philip Zinckernagel. The Dane’s startling record in Norway came with the caveat that, you know, it was in Norway; a slight concern that he’d left Denmark at the age of 24 without having pulling up any trees. He’s shown flashes of quality before now, but this was a startling performance… for the first, he cut back onto his right foot and dropped a cross onto Sierralta’s head. The Chilean held off his marker to dump the ball past Blackman, stranded on his line, spent a couple of seconds recovering his senses and then rose with what is becoming a trademark two-fisted bellow.
Sky Sports: Cardiff had resisted wave after wave of pressure in the second period and looked to have held out for a point after Francisco Sierralta’s early own goal was cancelled out by a solo strike from Nathaniel Chalobah.
BHappy: Heaven knows we’ve come not to expect too much from free kicks. Five years and so on and so forth. There have been likelier candidates to break our duck in the interim than Adam Masina. Roberto Pereyra perhaps. Tom Cleverley. Zinckernagel. Troy, even. As he lined it up I was hoping for a touch off the bodies flying across the face of the goal. As he ran up it occurred to me that if this went in we were definitely going up. Masina absolutely smacked it straight at the keeper but Phillips was distracted with bodies running at and past him. The shot went straight through…
Sky Sports: Adam Masina scored the only goal of the game with a fizzing drive after Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba had struggled to deal with a cross from Ismaila Sarr (17) and, while Lyle Taylor had a late strike ruled out for offside, the visitors could not mark their second-half improvement with an equaliser.
BHappy: Sarr flayed Bong on the right, Samba beat Gray to his cross but the deflection fell to Masina who slammed a shot between the recovering Samba’s legs and in from the edge of the area. The left back had been abandoned by his marker… I was watching Hive with Jon Marks’ comms, but reports described Sky’s commentator exclaiming “Where’s Knockaert?”, for pundit Keith Andrews to reply “He’s cheating!”, two words which elevated his popularity in Hertfordshire to levels he didn’t achieve during his brief loan six or seven years ago.
BHappy: The other eye-catching addition to the eleven was Andre Gray, starting his first game for almost a month in the absence of the suspended João Pedro. Not a given that he’d get the nod I don’t think, but fourteen minutes in he made a mockery of his meagre form this season by clinically finishing off a move that, like so many, rolled down the right wing via Kiko and the irrepressible Sarr. No surprise, I guess, that a striker should enjoy playing in a confident attacking side creating plenty of chances more than he does the constipated Watford team that he struggled in front of for much of the season, but nonetheless. Surprising how easy he made it look, suddenly. In common with our best moves at the moment, particularly down that flank, we looked mercilessly precise.