Six games without a goal, one point from 18 and still in the relegation zone… Things aren’t looking good. James Bolton reports from the City Ground.
I’m going to start this match report at the end. The song that played from the Tannoy was Stop Me by Mark Ronson – the lyrics are “Stop me, stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before” – which seemed rather fitting.
This is the third or fourth match report with the same start, the same middle and the same frustrating and worrying conclusion.
Guy Moussi started the game at centre-half with the absence of Joel Lynch and Wes Morgan. There was no place in the match day squad for Brendan Moloney and post-match Steve Cotterill revealed that he will be out for around six weeks with a knee injury.
The game’s first real event came after six minutes. Forest suffered another injury set back as Paul Anderson tweaked a hamstring and had to be withdrawn, replaced by Garath McCleary.
Lewis McGugan forced a great save from Joe Lewis after 10 minutes. Jonathan Greening spread the ball to Chris Gunter, whose cross was cleared to McGugan who dummied round his man and curled a left-foot shot towards the top corner.
McCleary then stung the palms of the Peterborough goalkeeper as he cut inside from the right-wing and unleashed a fierce left-foot drive. Forest were well on top and it looked like they had met another goalie in great form.
But, after 20 minutes, the inevitable happened. A Forest corner was cleared and Peterborough broke at speed with Craig Alcock and Paul Taylor. The ball came for former Forest-loanee George Boyd who was given an age to pick his spot and curled the ball into the top corner round Lee Camp.
For rest of the half, Forest’s heads dropped. They went from total ascendency to a bit of a mess. Camp made a good save from Taylor and McCleary’s cross-cum-shot landed on the roof of the net. Forest had had the best of the early play but disintegrated as the half progressed.
In the interval, Andy Reid replaced the invisible Radi Majewski, who had not been in the game at all.
Peterborough had the first chance of the second period, as another former Forest player Emile Sinclair ran at Moussi as part of a Posh counter-attack. He found Daniel Kearns who ignored the overlapping run of Taylor and shot himself, but his effort was saved by Camp.
Forest’s best chance of the game fell to McGugan, who again looked largely disinterested and pretty lethargic. His made a direct run into the Peterborough box and was picked out brilliantly by McCleary. However, McGugan fired over as Lewis made himself large and possibly put the midfielder off. It was the sort of chance he would have buried this time last season.
Matt Derbyshire then came on for Marcus Tudgay, as Forest’s final substitution. Despite swinging in plenty of crosses, particularly through Reid, it was all too easy for the Peterborough defence as our strikers were forced to feed on less than scraps. Posh headed away crosses and got hold of the second ball, surprising for a team that had only kept one clean sheet all season.
Taylor whistled a shot over Camp’s bar and Tommy Rowe forced a save from the Forest keeper from a tight angle, both chances coming from counter-attacks.
Forest created a final three chances, all through crosses from Reid. A deep cross found Dexter Blackstock and his header back across the box was met by McCleary, but he couldn’t twist his leg round his defender enough to get a clean contact, so Joe Lewis saved with relative ease. Luke Chambers then headed just over, and Blackstock had his header clawed off the line by Lewis.
The final whistle blew and it was met with a chorus of boos. Despite bossing the game for long periods, Forest have now gone six games – 567 minutes – without a goal. They have taken just one point from a possible 18.
Forest remain in 22nd, but are now five points adrift of Millwall in 20th, putting them in a cluster of four teams involved in the relegation battle (Coventry City, Doncaster Rovers and Bristol City).
Worryingly for Cotterill and Forest is, how do you change it? The players simply aren’t available for us. Aside from promoting youth players into the first team set-up, there is no way to mix things up.
January will be a tough month. He may have a reputation as a ‘wheeler-dealer’ but Cotterill has a job on his hands to sell our ‘assets’. McGugan has looked nowhere near as good this season. Who really wants a lazy and sluggish luxury player who once in a blue moon can do something sublime? If we don’t, no one else will.
The threat of relegation is now very real amongst Forest fans, and the trapdoor feels like it’s slowly creaking open beneath us.