Nottingham Forest remain unbeaten after a 0-0 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion but dropped to second in the Championship. Scott Eley offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
My usual write-up curse presided over the City Ground yesterday. A friend told me before the game that he preferred three-word match reviews. I could probably sum up the Brighton game in three words or less, so take your pick…
3 words: Waiting for God.
2 words: Below par.
1 word: Flat.
Now I’m not sure if there is a great deal to say about the game itself. I thought we were perhaps a bit unfortunate not to go in a goal up at half-time. We mustered a few half-chances and their keeper made a good save to stop a deflected Tesche effort. The second-half started poorly and it didn’t really improve. Mancienne had a decent chance at the end but he’s not quite up to Vincent Kompany standards… just yet. Brighton probably had the better chances and, on another day, we’d have lost this game.
Pearce said the performance was mixed and the home games so far this season have certainly felt like that. It’s not been overly convincing, even when we’ve been winning. We appeared to lack belief yesterday that we are, justifiably, the best team in the Championship. You can’t argue with the results but performance-wise, I’ve not seen better than 7/10 so far. There is much more to come from this team.
The obvious concern is: has the Stuart Pearce factor started to fizzle out? We seemed to have settled on a 4-5-1 formation but the over-reliance on Michail Antonio to be match-winner was never going to be sustainable. My brother likened him to Paulo Wanchope and he had a point. He’s an enigma is Michail and he’s done fantastic so far but it would be unfair to expect this massive contribution in every match.
Assombolonga looks a frustrated figure up top on his own as a result. I wouldn’t even go as far to say he was feeding off scraps yesterday. Crumbs? Possibly. What’s clear to me is that we’ve barely played to his strengths all season. Considering the goals he’s scored, that’s testament to him but Championship defenders are now playing against him with a plan. Rough him up it seems. The same could be said of Antonio. Yesterday was the first time I’ve seen a team ‘double up’ on a Forest winger since Gary Crosby attracted the attention of Gary Ablett and John Barnes in the 1988 semi-final at Hillsborough.
In my opinion, the problem lies in midfield. Without Reid, the replacements haven’t produced the same creativity. Reid has not been at his best so far but he’s a big miss when he’s absent. Lansbury has been tried in the hole but so far it hasn’t worked. Lansbury needs to be involved from the first minute and the role he’s playing at the moment is doing more harm to his game (and Forest’s) than good. Even Lansbury himself looks lost. Paterson deserves a go there or even Osborn.
The funny thing is, this is hardly a revelation. It’s more stating the obvious judging by what I’ve read on the #nffc Twitter timeline. I’m not sure how much Pearce saw of Forest around the Christmas and February period last season but in this time, Lansbury was coming in to his own as a robust and dynamic central midfielder. Paterson is desperately unlucky to find himself having to convince the manager of his talents in warranting a first team place. Either Lansbury goes deeper or he comes out of the team at the expense of somebody chomping at the bit to play the role. Henri’s not been himself yet this season and I must question the Chairman’s desire to go public with his FIFA 15 demolition over our No.10 hours before kick-off… He’s a sensitive boy Fawaz.
The 23,000 crowd was a bit disappointing. Maybe the performances haven’t quite convinced the fans that they’re ready to part with their money every home game. Yesterday’s entertainment would have endorsed that theory. I imagine the Lower Bridgford Boys were disappointed with no Eric Lichaj to belt out — the best chant since ‘Number one is Brian Rice’. I’ve been trying to teach my four-year-old daughter the Lichaj song but she’s not having any of it. Even the cat got chased up the stairs with a rendition yesterday morning. At least nobody got past or got by…..
I do think though that, as supporters, we’ve got our part to play this season and against Derby and Fulham, the crowd have lifted the team into winning positions. Patience is required over the season and we need to keep it together as a fan base too. The 49th minute was greeted by a cry of ‘You’re rubbish Forest’ from the back of the Trent End. People might moan about ticket prices but if that’s your attitude, you can pay £60 in my opinion.
In truth, I found more positives in the post-match lamb shish over at Trent Bridge Spice. That said, we’re still unbeaten and it’s another clean sheet; and Mancienne was man of the match again. As a sign of progress since the ‘couldn’t win a game for love nor money’ period last term, a woolly mate of mine had left me a message from the Reebok at full-time; ‘Bubble’s burst’, ‘Pearce out’, etc. Some might question my ethics but the Derby win contributed to a winning accumulator. They always seem to cheer me up when Forest can’t…
And if Henri needs a pick-me-up, I’m happy to go toe to toe with him on FIFA 15 because I’m crap at it. Kick Off 2 would be another matter entirely.