A third 0-0 in a row saw Nottingham Forest go joint-top of the Championship after gaining a point away at Wigan Athletic. Michael Shaw offers a fan’s eye view from the DW Stadium…
The Championship is a slog — 46 games if you’re asking — often with three of them coming in a week. Successful sides need grit, determination and no shortage of good fortune if they are to sit near the top of the table by the end of May.
The sheer volume of matches means they aren’t all going to be classics. Forest’s trip to the DW Stadium in Wigan will certainly fall into that category but it was another point gained, another match checked off unbeaten, after a third scoreless draw in a row for Stuart Pearce’s side.
It was a game high on the things that make the Championship so tough – commitment, work-rate and energy – but low on quality. Chances came at a premium although both sides carved out one gilt-edged opening each: Michail Antonio diverting Eric Lichaj’s thunderbolt of a cross well over Scott Carson’s goal in the first-half; the impressive James McClean flashing wide after the best move of the match for the Latics in the second stanza. A miss so bad it made Carson, stood over a hundred yards away, sink to his knees in despair.
Wigan are a better side than their lowly early season league position suggests. And in Callum McManaman and the Northern Irishman McClean they possess two of the better wingers in the league, although the former can count himself very fortunate to escape censure for a wild early lunge on Kelvin Wilson that was completely missed by all the officials; an event which set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Referees have a tough job but the performance from the man in the middle at the DW was nothing short of staggering in its incompetence, the highlight being a foul awarded against Britt Assombalonga for being hauled down late on. The first Wigan yellow card of the night, arriving in the 88th minute, drew applause from the 1,200 Reds fan usually reserved for an Andy Reid moment of magic. How we could’ve done with him last night.
In all a point was probably about a fair result, neither goalkeeper was overworked although the excellent defensive pairing of Wilson and Michael Mancienne did much to ensure that Karl Darlow didn’t have too much to do, while Carson made one smart near-post stop to deny Assombalonga but beyond that was largely untroubled.
Matt Fryatt’s introduction suggested Pearce felt his side had enough to go for victory, but the continuing tactic of playing long balls into the channels for Antonio and Assombalonga bore little fruit. The return of Fryatt will hopefully see a return to the 4-4-2 system that served the Reds so well early in the season, as opposed to the lop-sided 4-3-3 that is currently being employed.
Still, we are still unbeaten and, as so often happens in the Championship, we won’t have to wait long for a chance to get back to winning ways.