Nottingham Forest 2 - Pompey 1

Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

Steve Cotterill spun around and trained his eyes on the directors' box.

While Nottingham Forest players embraced and pumped the air with glee, Pompey's boss had his sights elsewhere.

If looks could kill.

Not that those lasers could find any targets to pierce. The visiting side of the directors' box was essentially empty.

No David Lampitt – he was laid low by tonsillitis – no Balram Chainrai, no Levi Kushnir, no Deepak Chainrai and no Ashok Patel.

Rumours have it one-half of the joint-owners, Kushnir, is currently in the country. Whereabouts and inclination unknown.

According to the rumour mill, Chainrai is set to join him in the next few days with a return to Fratton Park for the Leeds fixture pencilled in.

En-route, perhaps they can pop into the Eastleigh training ground for a cup of tea and chat with the manager to muse over their Blues vision.

Don't hold your breath.

Cotterill clearly isn't, after Saturday's 2-1 defeat he admitted he does not anticipate meeting those who own the club anytime soon.

In the meantime, matters on the pitch are continuing to unravel. And at an alarming rate.

A diminishing playing squad, shattered players and a substitutes' bench containing four players for the third time in four matches.

Adding to Cotterill's woes following the Forest fixture, John Utaka has another hamstring problem and Aaron Mokoena is now suspended for two matches.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Billy Davies' men came back from the dead to claim victory.

And leading the charge was his substitute Lewis McGugan.

Just like Hull a few weeks ago, an opposition bench was to prove the trump card.

No wonder Cotterill so angrily turned his focus on the directors' box within seconds of the final whistle.

Except if he was hoping a point was made to the Fratton Park hierarchy, there was no-one there to acknowledge it.

No doubt plenty of words have been fired into Lampitt's ears from a frustrated Cotterill in his tireless battle for recruits.

Such a shame then there was no-one holding the purse strings in attendance in Nottingham to see at first hand what is glaringly obvious.

Of course, the Blues boss' next move was just as noticeable.

Making his way towards the 1,200 visiting fans, he made a point of generously applauding their support.

For some of those present, it represented a farewell gesture, the actions of a manager who has had enough.

Cotterill played down the significance of those actions after the match.

Yet clearly all is not well with Pompey's manager as he continues to struggle in his attempts to turn this football club's on-field fortunes around.

In truth, who could criticise the former Burnley man for throwing it all in and storming out of the Fratton Park exit.

He, the players and the fans are here for football. The owners are not.

And it is the off-the-field problems which continue to hinder what happens on it, much to the frustration of everyone.

Saturday should have been an eye-catching triumph, a remarkable feat to make the rest of the Championship sit up and take notice.

Nottingham Forest, unbeaten on their own patch for 31 league games, were heading for a shock defeat.

Kanu's 26th-minute goal was destined to be the decider as a defence – superbly marshalled by Ibrahima Sonko and containing new loan signing Ritchie de Laet – comfortably soaked up everything slung in their direction.

Then it all went wrong.

With three minutes remaining, some of the City Ground crowd had started to make their way to the exits.

The majority of those that remained spent their time praying for divine intervention amid the grumbling.

But not even the most optimistic of Forest fans could have anticipated the finale which was to occur.

McGugan was one of three substitutes used by Davies in a desperate attempt at forcing his side back into the match. And ultimately he turned out to be their match-winner as they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

On 87 minutes, McGugan swung in a cross from the right and – under pressure from another substitute Ade Adebola – Sonko could only divert it past his own keeper.

It was a dagger in the heart of Pompey and Sonko, in particular, who had been immense – only for that painful misjudgement to blot his copybook.

The much-maligned former Reading defender was outstanding in the air and was often on hand to mop up behind Mokoena.

Yet suddenly the fight was on for Cotterill's men to bag a point as they scrambled around attempting to fend off the resurgent hosts.

With Utaka off injured and Kanu exhausted, the Blues boss had already thrown Hermann Hreidarsson and rookie Tom Kilbey on.

It was, however, that man McGugan whose introduction was to be pivotal once again.

With the match four minutes into time added on, he clipped the ball into the ever-congested Pompey penalty area.

And there was Marcus Tudgay to rise highest and head the ball past Jamie Ashdown into the net. A cruel, cruel ending to a match which should have served as another defiant reminder of the Blues' against-the-odds battle this season.

Certainly, Kanu's first goal since March last year was worthy of settling any contest.

What seemed like an eon before the cruel climax, David Nugent took advantage of Chris Gunter's slip to sprint clear before squaring to the veteran striker.

He took the ball around Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp and, after what seemed like an eternity, crashed the ball home through defenders on the line.

It was a wonderful goal and appeared destined to decide the fixture.

Then came Forest's late, late show to break those Pompey hearts.

Cotterill cut an emotional and angry figure while conducting his media duties post match, his words as strong as ever.

Let's just hope the Fratton hierarchy are listening – they certainly weren't watching at Forest.