Nottingham Forest’s poor form continued as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Brandon Reeves offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
It’s sadly yet another poor performance from a massively under-performing Nottingham Forest team. It goes without saying that in a run such as the one the Reds are on there is pressure on the manager to do something, but the fans are still with Stuart Pearce all the way, and are still patiently supporting with all their heart. This was summed up nicely when, in the third minute of the game, there was the standing ovation coupled with a chorus of ‘stand up for Stuart Pearce’ in a show of solidarity you rarely see these days.
But what of the on-field exploits of Pearce’s men? It’s currently a sad sight watching Forest bumble their way through games of football, going down with a whimper and generally not giving enough effort worthy of the backing from the stands they are getting. Right now they are, at the very least, missing two things which are priceless, or at least expensive, commodities in football: leadership and confidence.
The confidence issue is something which is difficult to pinpoint — when you gained it, or indeed when you lost it — but the signs are there when you do and do not have it. Forest lined up in a 4-1-4-1/4-5-1, depending how you look at it, with Todd Kane getting a debut while Jamaal Lascelles and Ben Osborn were also back in the starting line-up. With this team I thought at least we’d see more of the ball with Vaughan influencing things and building from the back, especially since Fox wasn’t playing; meaning less of the long diagonals wasting possession.
As it transpired, Forest played within themselves. The midfield looked disinterested in receiving the ball or making runs in support of Britt Assombalonga who, when he received the ball, was back to goal with either of the formidable pairing of Glenn Loovens or Tom Lees dealing with him rather convincingly.
Kane looked enthusiastic on his first appearance in a Red shirt in the first-half and put in a few decent balls here and there while putting himself on the line trying to block, in vain, the scramble which led to the Sheffield Wednesday opener as Kieran Lee saw the ball bounce off him and in the net.
Stuart Gray’s men were never going to be an easy team to break down, having conceded only 21 goals this term, boasting the second-best defensive record in the league after Middlesbrough. They aren’t the best team on paper but Gray has them organised and strong making them a tough proposition for most teams. And with Kieren Westwood between the sticks they’ve got a Premier League-standard steal to be their last line of defence.
Apart from a superb reaction save in the first-half and two very good saves in the second, Westwood wasn’t tested often enough as he should have. The problem is that Forest didn’t stretch Wednesday enough; Burke and Antonio looked without an idea on the wings, didn’t run at the full-backs and weren’t providing the service to Assombalonga.
There wasn’t a lot of quality in the match in all honesty, but as the game went on Forest became less and less confident and put in less and less effort; ducking out of headers, pulling out of tackles and shying away from 50-50s. Second to the first ball, second to the second ball. It’s some of the basics of football that are letting the team down.
Pearce tried to change the team’s fortunes by bringing on Gary Gardner for a 45-minute debut; Jamie Paterson and Lars Veldwijk also appeared in the second-half but none of the three could make any impact on an impressive Sheffield Wednesday team. Pearce tried to adjust the tactics to 4-4-2, then 3-5-2 in order to get something from the game but the fight just wasn’t there.
Both goals were avoidable from Forest’s point of view, or at least mine. Maybe it’s harsh saying the first goal was avoidable as we were caught on the break, but maybe Vaughan could have done more to stop Stevie May from getting a cross in.
However, the second goal was avoidable, Claude Dielna was afforded too much time by Kane to get a cross in and Chris Maguire was quicker than Eric Lichaj to the loose ball, he took the goal quite well. At 2-0 that was really an unassailable lead. Yes, there was the Antonio header which Westwood did well to get across to, Paterson’s shot stung the Owls’ keeper’s hands and Osborn’s teasing cross warranted a finish but Veldwijk could only slide in too late. Adding that to Tesche’s saved effort from close range in the first-half, that was it in the way of clear-cut chances.
It could have been three or four were it not for a Lascelles last-ditch tackle, then a goal-saving block from Lascelles in the second-half, and a de Vries double save. Atdhe Nuhiu also went close with a volley late on and was unlucky not to score. Forest always looked like conceding and if the defence backed off any more they would have been drinking in Hooters, never mind swimming in the Trent.
Derby next Saturday is a frightening prospect right now even if you do throw the form book out of the window. Knowing our current luck, that book would bounce off the window frame and break our lamp on the bedside table. The missing leadership might be back in the form of Reid and that’s hoping he doesn’t sustain a new injury.
But, foolishly enough, in my youthful ignorance I look forward to watching Forest at the iPro next Saturday lunchtime. In the meantime I hope we don’t all lose our heads and do something silly like sack the manager.
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