An abysmal display saw Nottingham Forest lose 5-0 to Derby County at the iPro Stadium, the worst defeat since 1898, as the Reds slipped out of the play-off places.
Abject. Embarrassing. Disgraceful. Awful. Woeful. Shameful. Forest fans online and offline didn’t have a good word to say about yesterday’s performance. And who can blame them?
The worst defeat to our arch rivals in 116 years; a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of a former manager and player; and a manager who still refuses to acknowledge or speak to the fans.
At the point of the season when we should be united behind the club, ensuring a place in the play-offs and hoping to hit some kind of form, one man is dividing fans and, it appears, irking the owner who has invested so much of his time and money to achieve the goal we all dream of.
Twitter was quick to dismiss the team selection, as it often is, but on this occasion was proved right quicker than many would like to have been. Rafik Djebbour and Djamel Abdoun remained conspicuous in their absence, although Rob Kelly later explained that Djebbour had an ankle injury and Abdoun a “sickness virus”.
Attempting to match Derby’s 4-3-3 made sense — despite the continued call for two up front — but McClaren’s dynamic, pacey, attacking side would probably have run rings around any formation we opted for.
There’s no denying injuries have severely affected our performances since January — the loss of Reid, Lansbury and Hobbs has proved how dependent we’ve become on the drive, leadership and vision of those three players. But the squad has a wealth of international, Premier League and Champions League experience — any of today’s first XI should be comfortable in any other Championship side, form permitting of course.
Why we haven’t brought in any loan players is anyone’s guess. Davies’ answer (“in the hands of other people”) in stark contrast to Fawaz, who said on Thursday: “I am sure if Billy found somebody who was interesting for Forest, we would let him come here. I told him he can do anything he wants. He can bring in any player he wants.”
You knew it was going to go wrong in the sixth minute when Craig Bryson waltzed past six red shirts to put the Rams ahead — their first goal for over 370 minutes.
It quickly became apparent that we had none of Derby’s energy — while we played a high line and dominated possession in the opposition’s half at the start of the season, we now drop back and invite pressure. The home side’s front three harried and harassed us into mistakes, quickly switching from defence to attack. And with the middle of the pitch packed with midfielders, we showed little of the host’s composure or movement.
Forest’s response was to release Jamie Paterson and Jamie Mackie down the flanks when possible — and, later, pointless long balls — but while Pato offered a threat with his pace, there was little end product. Mackie ran and ran, as he always does, but neither had very little support. And when Guy Moussi and Gonzalo Jara began bickering in the 24th minute, the frustration was palpable.
To be fair, after half an hour — and a good spell of possession — it could’ve still gone either way when we registered our one and only shot on target, courtesy of Majewski. But then Bryson popped up with his second in the 32nd minute, again running through without being picked up, and it was already looking a feat too much.
And it was game over when Jeff Hendrick made it 3-0 five minutes later after Derby broke quickly from a Forest corner; Patrick Bamford supplying the killer ball.
The second-half saw Henderson on for Moussi, a chance to chase the game with two strikers? Or surrendering the already overrun midfield?
It turned out to be the latter as we conceded again, less than 10 minutes after kick-off, as Johnny Russell took advantage of the red shirts backing off and fired Derby’s fourth past Karl Darlow’s outstretched hand.
Withdrawing Paterson for Greg Halford with half an hour left did little to change things before Darlow crudely tripped Bamford, allowing Bryson to step up for the penalty and his hat-trick. 5-0.
Losing to Derby by such a margin is one thing. But doing so with no apparent gameplan, passion or guile in a match so important for the rest of the season? You can blame the players but there’s only one man ultimately responsible for these kind of results.
Billy Davies might have earned our patience if he’d show some class, some dignity, some respect… But, as Daniel Taylor eloquently addressed in the Observer recently, he’s dragging our reputation through the mud. And worse, while his battles with the media mattered little to some, he’s losing the respect of many fans — no acknowledgement at the end of today’s game and still no press conference during his self-imposed silence (as advised by his “legal team”, ie. Jim Price).
Whether he goes now, after the imminent FA hearing or at the end of the season, only Fawaz can decide. But what is clear to many that his time is up. And having slipped out of the play-off places today, our fate is no longer in our hands — Wigan and Reading have now overtaken us while Brighton sit a point behind us with a game in hand; Ipswich just three points behind. To think, just a month ago we had Burnley in our sights.
Eight games without a win, bottom of the form table and just 10 points from an available 30 in the last 10 games; the 14-game unbeaten run seems a long time ago now. And this time last year we had, as we do now, 57 points from 37 games. Progression?
“You never know what will happen this season. We have to give him all the support until the end of the season,” said Fawaz this week. “Then we will say if Billy stays or Billy goes.”