A 5-2 loss against promotion-chasing Queen’s Park Rangers effectively ended Nottingham Forest’s season, as they slipped to 11th in the Championship. Martin Tuttlebee offers a fan’s eye view from Loftus Road…
Despite having lived in the south all my life, QPR was one of the few London grounds I hadn’t had chance to visit following Forest, so I headed off to Shepherd’s Bush at least knowing I can tick another ground off the list if nothing else.
The day started well. Upon turning up to the local ‘Spoons for some early morning belief enhancer, I found my fellow Reds slumped quietly round a table. “They’re not serving until 11am.”
I looked at the watch. 10.15am. Grim.
Forty-five minutes of sipping a coffee passed before the bar was deluged by thirsty football fans.
Suitably rehydrated, we headed off to the game. Loftus Road is one of your traditional old-school stadiums, nestled in among the houses and streets of west London.
After negotiating the Colditz-style security system, we found our seats just as the Hillsborough silence started. Regardless of your views on the cause of the disaster, it is always a moment of clarity to think that we could quite easily have been housed in the badly-managed Leppings Lane end 25 years ago.
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We didn’t have too long to dwell on this, however, as Forest conspired to gift the home team a goal after 90 seconds. Hoilett cut in from the right, past a statuesque Halford, and his shot was well saved by Darlow. But the reluctant rebound was watched by Danny Fox like the floating plastic bag in American Beauty, allowing Benayoun to sneak in and score.
Pretty damn poor start. The following half an hour followed a similar pattern with Forest repeatedly exposed down their right-hand side. I’m at a loss to explain how this could be, seeing as Brazil had started a 4-2-3-1 formation containing three right-backs in Peltier, Jara and Halford. Sadly, the worst right-back of that trio is Halford and he was the one actually playing right-back.
Further protection was supposed to be granted by Jamie Mackie ahead of him but he seemed more interested in applauding QPR fans every five minutes.
Somewhat against the run of play therefore, a Lansbury corner was powerfully headed in by young Lascelles. Forest had a lifeline and an instant bit of zip about their play. Lansbury in particular, playing a freer role in midfield, was putting himself about to good effect and had a shot well saved by England liability Rob Green.
However, as is seemingly inevitable with our confidence-bereft team, we were caught out again down the right-hand side with a neat one-two leaving Hoilett the opportunity to slip the ball in for a second.
So, 2-1 at half-time and we went and crammed ourself into the tiniest of rat runs behind the seats to grab a drink. At this point I saw four Forest fans actually ask a steward to let them leave. It had been bad, but not that bad.
Most of the second-half was tit for tat with neither side showing much creativity and, with us missing Reid and Pato, nobody to play a killer pass.
Greening and Osborn came on after the hour for a tiring Lansbury and the anonymous Jara, who seems to be more concerned with the tournament in Brazil than playing for Gary Brazil.
Our final change after 74 minutes saw Cox, who had been playing out wide, replaced by Henderson. Whether bringing on this lump provided a distraction for the corner that immediately followed, I don’t know but Derbyshire rose from nowhere to power in Osborn’s excellent delivery. 2-2.
Droopy-faced professional quote-giver Harry Redknapp dug into his bench and brought on Kranjčar and Zamora – a clear show of the strengths of our respective squads at this time.
We looked to be holding on for a respectable point until the 85th minute when failure to fully deal with a corner lead to Onohua finishing far into Darlow’s left corner.
The side’s heads dropped instantly. The game had gone and there seemed no desire to fight it back. Just into injury time, Wilson showed the tiredness you’d expect on his otherwise composed return as he was outpaced by Zamora. His cutback found West Ham-outcast Ravel Morrison, who cut back to place a shot into the net.
As I was making my way to go we felt the need to let them have another. Zamora this time.
QPR’s solitary fan, a bizarrely-dressed Moroccan wearing a sombrero went crazy. Some of the otherwise silent QPR fans even felt like having a little cheer.
So, it wasn’t really a 5-2 in terms of competitiveness but another reminder of the task that Pearce (watching from the directors’ box with McGovern and a very grumpy Fawaz) has to take on in the summer.
QPR themselves should probably also face up to a big summer restructure too. Of the four teams currently in the play-offs, they’re by far the weakest from what I’ve seen. Throwing money at the problem seems not always to be the answer.
Still, it was a nice sunny day and now we can enjoy the rest of the season safe in the knowledge we won’t have to deal with those play-off things that we’re not very good at. Every cloud and all that.