In a game that would have closed the gap on the top six, Nottingham Forest failed to take the initiative as the Reds lost 3-0 to Watford. Scott Eley offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground.

I was really looking forward to, arguably, the biggest game of the season so far. Despite a change of manager, season’s priorities, chief executive and playing staff over the past month, Alex McLeish had seemingly got the players focused and looking a more resolute outfit.

How ironic then that Watford, who ultimately ended Sean O’Driscoll’s tenure back in December, would destroy us again without getting out of fourth gear. The biggest criticism aimed at O’Driscoll was that he never knew his best team. One month and a massive throw of the dice later, we still are nowhere near to answering the very same question.

Back in October, I laughed at Watford’s Italian recruitment policy as they struggled in the Championship, thinking Zola was out of his depth. Funny how faith in the manager pays dividends in the long run.

Watford simply had what Forest have been crying out for all season. At the heart of the defence, a no-nonsense, ugly approach in the form of Nyron Nosworthy. Similar to Milwall’s Danny Shittu, he was on the end of everything, marshalling the defence to effect. Up front, Troy Deeney held the ball and constantly looked to link with his strike partner. In Vydra, they have this season’s Adel Taarabt, a match-winner with real quality.

Every time Vydra picked the ball up it, panic shook the Forest defence. Danny Collins has been off the boil for some time now and I did question his return to the side last week at Derby (given the performance of Halford and Ward against Peterborough). Playing without confidence, Collins was muscled off the ball too easily on a number of occasions. Poor headers, clearances and positional play, Collins had a shocker today. His performance was so bad it became contagious, affecting Elliott Ward and Karl Darlow’s kicking as the match progressed.

Stick Greg Halford back there, for me a player who isn’t afraid of a battle with the opposing number. It simply was a case of very, very poor defending today. In my opinion, our defence was as generous as Fawaz’s new four-and-a-half-year contract offer to Dexter. Collins, Jara and then Ward all at fault for the three goals.

As for Blackstock, sporting new white boots, his performance was well below par for a man who had just been rewarded by the club. He was everything Deeney wasn’t. His glaring miss just before half-time was the game changing moment. We might have been back in it at 2-1 as he cushioned the ball down into his path on the edge of the six-yard box… I’m not sure what his new contract is worth but he simply isn’t the answer up front. Radi showed just how good he is as Simon Cox, a regular international and £2.5 million signing, failed miserably at upstaging him playing behind the front two. Majewski makes Forest tick.

As for McLeish, he got it completely wrong today. No arguments. He made a bold move in going for three up front and it didn’t pay off. The only positive was that Henri Lansbury completed 90 minutes and still had plenty in the tank towards the end. His best position however remains a mystery.

As I trudged across Trent Bridge at the end, completely underwhelmed would just about sum it up. I wondered what next week might bring before the transfer window closes. If I’m honest, Henderson, Jara and Khalid are not the reinforcements I expected to justify Fawaz’s drastic change in management. Back to the drawing board again I’m afraid.

Watford looked like a well-organised side, capable of mixing it up physically and playing a dangerous counter-attacking game to perfection. Take note Fawaz, continuity and perseverance is the right formula.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @29Eley

Image courtesy of nuttakit/

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