A 3-0 defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Town saw Nottingham Forest’s slump in form continue. Michael Shaw offers a fan’s eye view from the John Smith’s Stadium…
Much has changed since the heady days of our last trip to the John Smith’s Stadium. Bathed in late August sunshine, we booked a place in the third round of the League Cup with another accomplished display at the back and a couple of tidy finishes, albeit one of them provided by Huddersfield striker James Vaughan.
Since then our seasons have taken different trajectories. The Terriers have found solidity under the stewardship of Chris Powell and brought a six-game unbeaten record into yesterday’s game, while we were searching for a first league win in seven games. Buoyed by the loan signing of Thomas Ince, Stuart Pearce fielded a side that looked well equipped to counter at pace, but within the first minute all his best laid plans had gone awry.
The first goal was devastating in terms of its simplicity and it will doubtless be recreated on Sunday mornings up and down the country. But this isn’t Sunday League football, this is the Championship and to concede from a long throw-in, 30 seconds into the match, is unforgivable. Individual errors have littered our recent performances and today was no different.
Inside 20 minutes we were two down; Sean Scannell given time to pick out an unmarked Nakhi Wells who nodded in from six yards out. It’s worth taking some time to talk about our tactics at this point. We have been steadfastly 4-4-2 this season, rightly or wrongly, with the manager seeming to take the Brian Clough approach of ‘worry about ourselves, not the opposition’. Unfortunately today was an example of why that only works if you have Peter Shilton in goal and John Robertson on the wing. The switch to 4-3-3 left both full-backs exposed one v one time and again and every time Town came forward in a wide area they looked a threat.
Despite a decent spell before half-time, a goal wouldn’t come — Joel Lynch following up his goal with a fine last ditch tackle and Ince being denied what looked a clear penalty. It would’ve been the Reds who were happier to hear the half-time whistle after more late pressure.
Two down at the break wasn’t an insurmountable position and the traveling army would’ve hoped for a much improved second-half display. But within seconds of kick-off, we had gifted possession away again; groans aplenty from the away end. Then Danny Fox’s wild miskick allowed Scannell time and space to cut back to Grant Holt to slam home the inevitable goal. Individual errors again.
Even a triple substitution couldn’t spark us into life and the Reds faithful deduced we have given up midway through the half when we refused to return the ball to the keeper after another wayward effort. Well done lads, great work. Although we were poor the way some of the fans got on players back so quickly was very disappointing. Chris Burke’s fizzing drive hitting the underside of the bar and coming back out summed up our day perfectly.
So where is it going wrong?
Tactically I felt Pearce got things wrong today, we picked a side to counter-attack but the midfield three seldom moved the ball quickly enough to the front men for us to take advantage of the pace on offer. The usually reliable Robert Tesche couldn’t find a red shirt for love nor money; Henri Lansbury put in plenty of effort but produced little end product; Michail Antonio had one of ‘those days’ — his day in a microcosm saw him make a fine run behind the full-back only for the through pass from Ince to hit him on the heels.
The biggest worry for me though was a lack of leadership. Town put bodies on the line, even at 3-0 up there was a grit and determination that was severely lacking from those in Garibaldi red. Maybe Psycho could dig out a few VHS tapes of himself in action to show them what’s missing.
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