With Gary Brazil in charge, Nottingham Forest continued their woeful form as they lost 1-0 to Charlton Athletic. David Marples offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
With spring in the air and a cloud of optimism in abundance, spirits were high after recent events involving ‘he who shall not be named’. Daffodils waved happily at me from the roadside, season ticket stub number 1 was required and our fancy big screens had some new graphics of the players. All was set for the players to shed their shackles and express themselves.
The alternative to this was that we may just see one big group sulk. It’s seems fairer to say that in actual fact, we saw a group of players lower than a snake’s belly and utterly lacking in confidence. The usual decent start once again failed to yield a goal. Our 4-4-2 line-up featured the defensive-minded Jara and Greening operating in tandem and Mackie and Abdoun hugging the touchlines; this meant that there was a spectacularly big gap in the middle of the park, especially with Cox and Henderson lumbering around up top.
Consequently, it was difficult to play out from the back as no one seemed willing to move into the wide open space and demand the ball. Jara managed to misplace three reasonably simple passes in the space of about a minute and the tone was set: what happened to the scampering terrier like right-back of last season? What happened to the accomplished Xavi-like display against QPR recently? I want that Jara back, please.
It wasn’t all bad though and, with a little bit of luck, Cox’s effort would have gone in off the post rather than rebound out. But it didn’t and half-time finally arrived. I noticed that a chap called Brett Williams had got himself sent off for Aldershot: there’s a name for readers of a certain age…
I’d like to report that the second-half saw renewed effort with a bucket load of vigour and a dash of vim. But it didn’t. In fact, it got worse.
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Cox attempted the rudimentary task of controlling a ball played into his feet but somehow managed to deflect the ball into the path of a Charlton player so he could set his own team off into a counter-attack. Not to be outdone, Henderson deftly eased a defender out of the way in order to give himself a run on goal only for the ball to hit him on the back of his head and land perfectly for the aforementioned defender to clear.
Minutes later, the shepherd’s hook metaphorically hauled him off to be replaced by the lesser-spotted Djebbour. Sensing the kill, the Addicks strolled upfield after midfield dithering between Paterson and Lascelles, fashioned a chance and Jordan Cousins calmly slotted in after the post was rattled. Jara and Mackie invoked the spirit of David Batty and Graeme Le Saux and had a full-on spat in the middle of the pitch. We’re in this together….
The squabbles continued as Djebbour bought a free-kick on the edge of the box and virtually pushed Paterson put of the way to take it. Someone had a word and Paterson eventually did step up and skied it. He promptly got an earful from the murder of red shirts gathered in the box.
It is difficult to measure how bad it was. As bad as the Derby debacle? Well, we only conceded one. As bad as the epic goalless run under Cotterill? Not yet but it’s shaping up that way. As bad as the very dark days under David Platt? Not quite. But it wasn’t good and in the absence of a focal point at which to vent anger, the players took the brunt of it: Jara, Cox and Lascelles were at the front of the firing line.
To make it even more galling, results went our way tonight and unbelievably, despite our wretched form, we are still in with a shout of the play-offs. But that’s only theoretical as the reality is that we are a bit of a shambles at the moment and Charlton only really needed to be competent to snatch a valuable away win. At least all is well off the pitch though…
It’s funny how daffodils and other flowers bloom so quickly at this time of year only to shed their petals so soon after. It would be a painstaking task to stick all the petals back on but someone is going to need to pick them up from the floor and nurture them if we want them to bloom again.