A dire 0-0 draw with Preston North End sees Nottingham Forest into the 5th Round draw of the FA Cup tomorrow, but with a replay at Deepdale to come. Joe Rolfe offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
If ever a football match could bear a resemblance to weather, last night’s 93 minutes of football was mirrored perfectly by the biting cold and the consistent drizzle raining down on the pitch. Preston adopted a game plan, which they played to near perfection. Forest didn’t have the tactical shrewdness or skill to break them down, albeit given the conditions it wasn’t the most straightforward task.
As is becoming an all too familiar feeling, the pre-game ritual of fishcake, chips and curry sauce from the Radcliffe Road chippy was probably the highlight (unfortunately, not for the first time) of a particularly sorry evening. It was evident on the amount of people milling about en route to said chippy that the attendance would be above average, so credit to the commercial side of the club for the ticket pricing, but there ends the positivity.
With only a handful of changes made by Forest, most notably Majewski coming in for Lansbury, there was quite a hopeful atmosphere in the ground, with both sets of fans in fine voice from the onset.
Forest started with Cox in the lone striker role and, apart from a clever turn and shot in the first 10 minutes, that was very much his only contribution. What has happened to the Cox from Swindon? What is it with Forest and strikers? If you could answer that, you could sell the secret for millions (or simply release it on a free transfer).
Shortly after, Jamie Mackie managed to stumble past a challenge and fire high and wide from an acute angle, which was fairly predictable. So predictable in fact than many alongside me in V1 didn’t even stand up, not expecting to see the net ripple. Majewski and Reid were in magnanimous mood, gifting possession back to Preston on many occasions. Even the simplest of passes were going astray, which you could argue was a consequence of the ‘torrential’ rain.
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Realistically, there wasn’t much more of note to discuss in the first-half in terms of chances created (for both sides). Preston offered very little, usually having 10 men behind the ball and not closing our defenders down. Joe Garner was being the player we remember – going down for the smallest pushes from the centre-backs and generally moaning to the referee, which usually fell on deaf ears. They did have a few token efforts towards the end of the half, which drew gasps and the chant of ‘Yellow! Yellow!’ from the travelling fans. The only real highlight of the first-half was the majestic run from Paterson in the corner, where he beat two players and managed to nutmeg a defender before being dispossessed.
The half-time whistle was greeted with optimistic applause, as if to say “Billy will sort this out, we will be too much for them in the second-half”. In by no means am I negative Forest fan, I understand the highs and lows of the game and don’t get too emotionally involved, but the second-half was possibly the worst and most frustrating 45 minutes of football I have seen at the City Ground.
The half started much the same, with Preston defending deeply and not pressing very high up the pitch – their game plan. The inevitable substitutions came, with Cox and Mackie being replaced by Henderson and Abdoun. This was then followed by Derbyshire on for Majewski. Forest huffed and puffed in the second-half, pretty much dominating the possession but with absolutely nothing on the end of it. Preston showed glimpses of quality on the counter attack, but this was mainly due to Forest losing the ball in dangerous positions. Possibly the brightest moment (excuse the pun) of the game was when an array of camera phone flashes starting appearing in the stands, reminiscent of a Westlife concert; if Westlife couldn’t remember how to sing and were outshone by the support act.
If the game needed summing up in one moment, it would be when Paterson flicked the ball through to Henderson who was through to the right-hand side of the goal – the perfect position to take a deft touch and lash it in with the left foot. Henderson’s first touch was okay, but then he seemed to take another touch with what looked like his knee or shin, that took it towards the by line. The attack then fizzled out, like they all did that night. The potential for the night to go beyond ‘bad’ and reach the level of ‘terrible’ was close to being accomplished when Preston received a slightly dubious free-kick in the 92nd minute. The free-kick was smashed in, but Darlow was on hand to parry the ball to safety.
Overall, it was a fairly miserable night, made worse by an abject Forest performance, where for me, and many others, Billy got the tactics wrong. Giving a man of the match would be a slight misnomer, but if I had to pick one it would be Vaughan in the centre; a player who we definitely need to sign up. Credit to Preston though, they came and executed a good game plan and significantly thwarted Forest’s efforts to get the win. Simon Grayson showed once again the tactical genius he is (ahem).
Onwards and upwards, it’s only the FA Cup anyway. Who cares about the cup, really?
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