Guest writer James Bolton reports from the City Ground on a night most Forest fans will want to forget.
Steve Cotterill named an attacking side for the visit of Leeds United as Paul Anderson and Andy Reid, who have impressed as substitutes in recent games, came in for Chris Gunter and Jonathan Greening who were both dropped to the bench.
Following the tragic death of Wales manager Gary Speed, both teams observed a minute of applause and the travelling fans of Leeds, the club where Speed started his career and made over 300 appearances, chanted his name from the 11th minute for 11 minutes.
Leeds boss Simon Grayson, a former teammate of Speed, clearly had his team fired up for the occasion and when Aidy White’s cut back to Jonny Howson was fired wide, the signs looked ominous.
Grayson’s men were closing down Forest and suffocated them, forcing them into misplaced passes and silly errors.
Michael Brown and Howson both tested Lee Camp with long range efforts as the first 20 minutes was played at a frantic pace. Reid was getting in the thick of things but Forest were unable to challenge Alex McCarthy in the Leeds goal.
Just as the Leeds fans’ chants for Speed were drawing to a close, Robert Snodgrass pounced on Guy Moussi, who dwelt in possession. The Scotland international fired a clinical left foot drive past Camp and Forest, for the umpteenth time this season, had shot themselves in the foot.
After the goal, Leeds firmly grabbed the ascendancy. Their passing looked precise, quick and accomplished. In contrast, Forest looked slow, void of ideas and very one-dimensional.
Moussi did, however, stop the score becoming 2-0 moments later. A long clearance up field following a Forest corner released Snodgrass again. Camp rushed out of his box looking to claim but his chest control ricocheted back into the path of Snodgrass and he was denied a second by a superb last ditch block from Moussi, as the ball dipped just over the empty net.
Forest’s best and only chance of the first half fell to Robbie Findley but he could only head wide after being picked out by a superb Reid cross. A wasted opportunity for the American which accompanied a series of dreadful touches in a poor first-half display.
Leeds did double their lead before half-time as no one attacked a looping cross-field ball and it was collected by Leeds skipper Howson, who thundered home a tremendous volley; a goal that Speed certainly would have been proud of.
At half-time Ishmael Miller made his return following a month out with a hernia and replaced the unbelievably Findley. But Cotterill’s half-time team talk clearly had little effect as the teams took to the pitch.
It was well and truly game over four minutes into the second half, as Leeds made it 3-0. Danny Pugh dummied Luke Chambers and Reid with ease before laying the ball off for Michael Brown. He crossed, unchallenged, into the Forest six-yard box and Luciano Becchio simply flicked the ball into the far corner. It was yet another case of déjà vu as Forest conceded from a header after a cross.
Forest did get the ball back but Leeds’ incessant hustling and harrying just forced the Reds backwards. Marcus Tudgay found Anderson on the right-hand side of the box who dinked the ball in, but Miller couldn’t generate the power to trouble McCarthy in the Leeds goal.
Greg Cunningham, who endured a poor night despite previous signs of promise, and Lewis McGugan — who looked bored, slow and disinterested yet again — were replaced by Gunter and David McGoldrick.
Six minutes after the hour mark, Leeds made it 4-0, and the horror show was complete. The ball was given away to Howson who ran, near enough unchallenged, into the Forest box only to be denied by a good save from Camp. However, Camp couldn’t gather his parry and after a series of comical failed clearances, Adam Clayton pounced on the loose ball to fire past two men on the Forest line.
Joel Lynch hit the bar with a cross-cum-shot and McGoldrick forced a good save from McCarthy with a 30-yard effort. But things went from bad to worse for Forest when Reid, already on a booking, lunged in late on Aidy White, and was rightfully sent off. Other than that, Reid had been probably Forest’s best player, albeit the best of a very bad bunch.
Leeds saw out the game with minimal fuss, with Ross McCormack and Ramon Nunez both going close before the full-time whistle.
This Forest performance was nothing short of abysmal. Yes, Leeds were fired up and looked every bit the top six side, but this was a flashback to the Steve McClaren era — probably even worse. Forest’s 11th defeat of a campaign just 19 games old already equals the total losses during last year’s play-off campaign. Cotterill has some serious work to do, as do the players.
Less than one year ago, Forest brushed aside Crystal Palace 3-0 at the City Ground. Those days seem a long time ago. Sorry for the doom and gloom but, leaving the ground, I couldn’t help thinking: “where has our Forest gone?
James runs the View From The Mainstand blog.