Nottingham Forest managed to lose further ground on the play-off places as they lost 2-1 to Millwall. Scott Eley offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…


Despite an improvement at Ipswich, we have been disjointed and unsure of ourselves in recent months. As a consequence of those factors, it’s not a surprise what we’re being subjected to at the moment; and having to pay through the nose to witness it entitles everybody to their opinions. So here are mine…

The atmosphere was strangely flat given the importance of the game and the attendance of just over 20,000 reflected this. There were a few half-hearted ‘Psycho’ chants but that was about it. Not for the first time, the long-suffering City Ground faithful waited for the players to give them something to shout about but it was a long time coming.

Matters weren’t helped by a toothless frontline in Mackie with Paterson supporting. How many times have we played into the hands of towering centre-halves this season? Despite last week’s improvement, we haven’t imposed ourselves on the opposition more than enough this season (even when we’ve had the full pick of players). Gary Brazil has a thankless task so I won’t be too critical about him, but a lone striker without presence hasn’t worked at home for about a year now. The lack of width was a disappointment too, particularly with Lee Peltier initially being deployed on the right-hand side of the diamond.

The first-half was well below expectations. It was to be the same old story, going forward there was absolutely no threat followed, of course, by the recurring defensive lapses to give the opposition all the encouragement they needed. The first goal summed things up: Halford missed his header and, as the defence backed off their player, Malone hit a hopeful cross/shot which got a deflection off Jara and flicked inside the near post. Typical. The Millwall fans gleefully sang ‘How **** must you be, we’ve scored a goal’. Not one but two nonetheless.

The second goal before half-time was the killer. Again, Halford got himself in a mess and we backed off, allowing Lee Martin to score with a pretty routine goal. Terrible goal to concede from a defensive point of view. Halford was replaced and couldn’t wait to get down the tunnel. Yes, Halford had been in the wars but as a seasoned professional there’s no excuse, considering the importance of the game.

I thought Halford’s head had gone after that initial mistake leading to the first goal. Halford has been behaving like this for much of the season. I haven’t got time for these hot-and-cold performances anymore. Only God knows what Stuart Pearce would’ve made of that. I’ve seen Psycho play on with a broken leg at West Ham. I don’t think there’s any coincidence that Roy Keane described Halford as “a disaster” at Sunderland.

Lansbury showed exactly what we’ve been missing for the last 10 games or so when he came on at half-time. An instant impact until he faded in the final 10 minutes. The same could be said for Kelvin Wilson, who didn’t put a foot wrong. Wow, players not putting a foot wrong… Lansbury was showing what a player he is, in terms of galvanising the team single-handedly. Henri decided he was going to pick a fight with 6′ 8″, giant of a man, Stefan Maierhofer for a kick off. It was like watching Scrappy Doo in action, comical given the difference in stature between the two players. In danger of losing his head in the battle of the induced Lansbury mind games, Maierhofer was quickly withdrawn by a concerned Holloway. You’d want Henri in the trenches with you, that’s for sure…

The team were clearly lifted by Lansbury. Osborn’s endeavour and neat footwork allowed Jamie Paterson to head home Harding’s cross to get us back in the game. Mackie had a chance to square moments later after a good run but couldn’t find the decisive pass. The crowd were now lifted but after 10 minutes or so of huffing and puffing, the message to stay calm and play didn’t come from the bench. We fell right back into Millwall’s game plan, launching needless, unproductive long balls and that was about it.

The performance of referee Mark Brown was baffling. Sometimes I’m unsure if I get too carried away with the emotions of the game to offer rationale on a referee’s performance but I’m certain Mr Brown was absolute dross yesterday. So bad, in fact, he turned into a pantomime villain as the game wore on. Failing to count out the correct yardage from a Forest free-kick was the highlight, given his John Cleese-esq walk to do it so dramatically. Besides that though, we can’t blame the ref. Forest didn’t trouble their keeper throughout the 90 minutes and, again, it’s nothing new. One shot on target says it all.

Ben Osborn did reasonably well, his lack of experience showed at times but on the whole, he was tidy with the ball and did very well to have a hand in Paterson’s goal. I’m hopeful that Osborn will stay involved until the end of the season. He deserves his chance over the several felines who’ve used up their quota of nine lives. Osborn’s got a nice touch, good movement and can beat a player. His youthful determination to win the ball back was a big plus yesterday given the lack of urgency amongst one or two of his colleagues.

Our fringe players have had chance after chance to not only fill a void but also stake a claim to keep hold of the shirt. There are a lot of players on big money at Forest but when push has come to shove this season, these players have either shirked the challenge or simply not been up to taking us forward. Consistently inconsistent to the last, content to tread water. The players who have had to step in during this spell have ultimately signed off their Forest careers in my eyes. Many of these players are making a series of basic mistakes in each match at the moment. It’s simply not good enough for players of their alleged quality.

Frustration is what I’m feeling. I found myself having to bite my lip at some of the drivel being spouted from the Upper Trent End. Everybody is frustrated and it’s interesting to see people reactions. Forest are people’s lives. It’s emotional and it’s hard work supporting at times. The current players aren’t reciprocating that, the price of the modern game. As a fan base, I think we’re completely divided at the moment. Darlow and Jara are the latest scapegoats and with Djebbour and Abdoun being cast out as unsubstantiated egotists, Dan Harding must be delighted he’s off the top of the charts as Forest fans No.1 boo boy.

Character to perform under pressure has been the biggest disappointment for me and for this reason alone, it is time to say goodbye to a number of the current squad. Players may say the right things in press interviews but they’re not showing it where it matters most, on the pitch. The statistics don’t lie. Current squad players have had more than enough opportunities to keep our promotion chances ticking over. Some players have had four or five seasons of these opportunities with the same inevitable result, not good enough. You’d have thought with a new gaffer coming in, one or two might’ve raised their game yesterday. Even if it was in hope of hoodwinking the new man that they could be part of his plans. For many, they offered nothing to the new manager yesterday.

There is a big job ahead for Stuart Pearce in the summer to reshape the squad and unite the fans. Nottingham Forest does not owe professional footballers a living. The sooner Stuart Pearce gets that message across the better.

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