A 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic keeps Nottingham Forest within three points of the play-off positions, but left many frustrated. Scott Eley offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
Team leaders required. Saturday afternoons. Hours 3pm-5pm. Ability to pass and control a football essential. Must be able to motivate colleagues in a competitive environment. Courage, tenacity and ability to work under pressure a must.
Apply within at Nottingham Forest Football Club.
Now I’m not saying that we are a team of pansies. Clearly we have some committed individuals but we are certainly missing a trick. Yesterday’s 1-1 draw with a lacklustre Charlton side showed what we are missing: a man to galvanise the troops on the pitch. The Championship demands commitment. Without this, you are asking for it. Yesterday, we were probably fortunate that Charlton’s performance wasn’t any better. Two points dropped in a game we hadn’t done enough in to take all three.
Maybe the lack of leadership on the pitch lies far deeper. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times. On Friday night in town, two 20-something lads were sporting red Christmas jumpers and giving a drunken but heartfelt rendition of One Direction’s ‘Steal My Girl’ whilst I queued at the cash point. Have a word lads…. This morning I read Labour MP Tristam Hunt insisting that character building is required in schools to re-discover the British Bulldog spirit of grit and determination. Ruud Gullit’s assessment of Spurs last night was of ‘too much tika taka’ and not enough will to ‘dig in’. The comments held some resonance with our current predicament. I’d be interested to know if character building is part of the FA’s DNA roster to improve our game.
What’s clear is that Nottingham Forest are in desperate need of a man. A real man! I don’t think I’m alone in thinking we have players pretending to be men at the moment. You can have a beard and a tattooed sleeve but if you can’t show courage and resilience on a Saturday afternoon for Nottingham Forest then it’s no good to me as a paying fan. Strange that I’m applying this to team managed by Stuart Pearce of course, the epitomy of man itself…
I’ll start the review of yesterday’s game with addressing the central midfielders. One has just broken into the realms of first-team football, the other has three Championship promotions on his CV. As part of being the vastly experienced player in this midfield duo, Henri Lansbury getting booked after 10 minutes is ridiculous. My opinion is that once you are on a booking, your game suffers. A certain decisiveness is taken away. Caution sets in and that’s not good enough for the remaining 83 minutes. Sadly for Henri he didn’t last that long. Looking at his stats, you’d be forgiven in thinking that Henri might be some kind of hard man given his disciplinary record. I’d argue that the vast majority of those bookings are for petulance. Henri’s in-game thinking seriously has to change. He has to be smarter. Albeit a soft booking, he can’t carry on like this. Nine bookings from 31 fouls looking at the stats; almost one in three tackles warrant a booking. This has to improve.
Henri has a responsibility to his teammates. He has to put in a shift from start to finish, every game. He should be nursing young Benny Osborn through games and setting the example. It’s the opposite at the moment. When Henri plays well, we look a different team. A new deal in the summer is giving me the impression that Henri is content. Complacent even.
That said, it’s a team game and starting on the front foot continues to be an issue. It has hampered seasons gone by, it’s nothing new. The period before Christmas has been notoriously poor. The desire to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and impose yourself on the opposition by winning second balls is imperative for any successful team, Sunday league included.
Starting games 45 minutes late isn’t going to get us anywhere near competitive for promotion. Darlow’s save in the first-half from a point-blank header was a genuine let off that could’ve meant two nil. The moans and groans started after the first goal but sometimes you have to accept the opposition train all week to produce quality on a match day. It was a decent move and the deflection off Mancienne took the ball away from Darlow and span into the net. Unfortunate but scapegoats were soon being sought in the stands of the Upper Trent.
We started the second-half brightly and the ref contributed to a sense of injustice which spurred the players on to greater heights of performance. I’m not even going into discussing the referee’s performance.
Jamie Paterson showed pieces of skills that would grace any ground in the world. One should have resulted in a penalty (fourth official’s opinion anybody?) and another flick to Ince was absolute top drawer. The goal from Tesche was befitting of winning any football game. Has he put any pressure on Pearce to oust Henri? He ought to have.
Just as we were in the ascendancy, Danny Fox made a basic error that provided Charlton with a half-chance to re-take the lead. This moment seemed to lift Charlton and allowed them back into a game that was Forest’s for the taking. Errors crept back in and the momentum we had done well to muster had gone. Thereafter it appeared we had settled for the draw. Whereas the crowd have driven the team on to some key victories this season, I got the impression that the most die-hard fan wanted more from the team yesterday.
Positives were that Dexter came on and won some decent headers which suggest he will be a useful option in certain games. Osborn showed some great touches and sprayed the ball around nicely. He will continue to get better with games and hopefully cut out the silly errors.
Tom Ince, I feel for him really. We brought him in to give a confidence-bereft team a lift. Coincidentally, it appears that Tom needs a confident team to give him a lift at this stage of his career. It’s baffling the situation he has found himself in. I lost count how many times he lost the ball through lack of concentration yesterday. His head appears to be a little lost at the moment; he snatched at a second-half chance when he had time to take a touch first. Confidence often dictates composure in those situations and Ince seems desperately short of that. In fairness to him, when errors were made, he showed some determination to ensure he won the ball back. His speed of turn left a couple of defenders on their backsides second-half. If we can get his head right, staying at Forest after the loan deal runs out might work out for all parties. Now of course I’m not a professional footballer but certain attitudes can be applied to any walk of life. If things aren’t going your way, getting your head down and working through it can tunnel a way out. I saw glimpses from Ince yesterday to think we should try to keep hold of him. I think the lad possesses genuine quality that will return with confidence.
It’s not all doom and gloom, just frustrating to watch. Incredibly frustrating. To put it simply, we are currently our own worst enemy.
The missing trio of Cohen, Reid and Hobbs possess all of the qualities we are desperately lacking at this point in time. Cohen leads by example with his reluctance to give up, Reid isn’t afraid to make his feelings known to teammates and will hold professional dialogue with a referee throughout the game; he inspires the rest as the most gifted player in the squad. Jack Hobbs is the physical colossus that every team needs to win key battles and intimidate the opposition. However, this lot are all injury-prone and we cannot rely on them to be fit. We need to look at the bigger picture. Another season cannot hinge on the hope that these players will steer clear of injuries. Sadly, history tells me that we cannot rely on them, no matter how good they are.
Left-back remains another huge issue. Fox and Harding are not good enough for a competitive Championship team in my opinion. A left-back would be top of the January wish list, if we can sign players of course. It’s ironic we’ve got Pearce in the stands when he would potentially solve all of our current problems on it.
We should be doing far better than what we are showing over 90 minutes. The quality is there but we can’t afford to give any team in this division a foothold in the game. Earning the right to play against this Forest side isn’t a tough enough battle at the moment. If only they sold cans of ‘man up’. A few of our lot could do with cracking some open at 2.50pm.