Saturday, 2 November 2013

Nottingham Forest 0 - 1 Blackpool

There can be few pastimes that subject you to such a gamut of emotions as watching football. When your team is playing well, scoring goals and sweeping opponents aside then there's little that's more satisfying. However, when they're struggling for form, stuttering through matches like a Gareth Gates impersonator and lacking in confidence then watching football can be the very definition of frustration. Nottingham Forest's home defeat to Blackpool was just such an occasion.

I shouldn't be surprised, it was Blackpool after all. They've seemingly had an almost mystical hold over Forest for years. It was the manner of the game though, the lateness of the winning goal and the fact that Blackpool weren't actually that good. All these things conspired to leave me feeling like tearing out the little hair I have left.

Anyway, to the match. Billy Davies sought to shore up the Forest midfield and offer more protection to his defence by pairing new loan signing David Vaughan and Gonzalo Jara as the holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Darius Henderson was the loan striker with Henri Lansbury behind him and Djamel Abdoun and Jamie Mackie on the flanks. The back five was the same unit that started against Yeovil.

This formation can look negative but with the right personnel it can also be effective. The holding players should - in theory - take pressure off the defenders as well as starting off attacks, and if the front four are fluid and mobile it also offers a lot of attacking options. This game didn't pan out like that though.

Things started brightly enough. Mackie and Abdoun had decent runs and Vaughan seemed to settle in well, using the ball intelligently and keeping the team moving forward. Forest were playing the ball around nicely until they reached the Blackpool area; then things seemed to break down. A goalmouth scramble resulted in Henderson falling in the penalty area. Despite his protests nothing was given, just as it hadn't been a few minutes earlier when a Blackpool player had been nudged from behind in the Forest area. I actually thought we were lucky to get away without conceding a penalty. That luck didn't hold out long though.

Quite what Abdoun was doing in the left-back position I'm not sure. A more defensive minded player would probably have hoofed the ball clear but his instinct was to bring it down and play out from the back. This cost him dearly however as his mis-control allowed Neal Bishop to nip in and steal the ball. Abdoun pulled him back and referee Michael Naylor had little choice but to award a spot kick and send Abdoun off. The City Ground Penalty Curse seemingly applies to visiting players too though, as the previously clinical Thomas Ince saw his weak effort comfortably saved by Karl Darlow. The resulting scramble was cleared and Forest had survived, but were now a man down.

Understandably Forest offered less going forward while Blackpool had more of the ball but didn't make the extra man count as they might have. A header from a corner flashed wide and another shot was saved and scrambled away but Forest survived reasonably comfortably until half time.

The second half followed much the same course as Blackpool added further credence to the old chestnut about 10 men being harder to break down than 11. Greg Halford replaced the largely ineffective Henderson up front as Forest's attacking opportunities remained sporadic. Indeed his direct run resulted in a half-chance for Jara which the Chilean curled over the bar. The game dawdled along and it seemed that the Reds would hang on for a point. Returning ex-Tricky Tree Nathan Tyson's introduction was met with a mix of halfhearted boos, scattered applause and an overwhelming feeling of 'meh.' But, eventually the inevitable happened, and from the inevitable source.

Four minutes of added time had just been announced when Blackpool attacked again down the right. The ball ping-ponged around the Forest box and, seemingly via an offside attacker, landed at the feet of Stephen Dobbie. The house elf's low finish gave Darlow no chance and stole the points for the visitors. I'm not saying Forest deserved to win but to lose out so late was hard to take, particularly as Blackpool were, well, really not that good. So, there it was, another bag of no points.

Even amongst the disappointment there were still some positives to take from the game. Vaughan slotted in well and played the ball around nicely. Until his sending off Abdoun had looked lively and, apart from some wayward shooting Mackie had a decent game in his usual energetic way. Jara broke up Blackpool's play well but looked a bit lost going forward, but the screen of he and Vaughan meant the back four weren't being run at so often. The returning Lansbury's energy and quality were certainly welcome.

On the downside though, we looked toothless up front. Poor Darius looks bereft of confidence, spurning shooting chances for safe passes and seeing other passing attempts going astray. I can see why Davies put Halford on as substitute today as he offers more physical presence than Simon Cox or Matt Derbyshire, but it's hardly a ringing endorsement of their respective talents. The need to bring in a new forward remains a priority. Andy Reid and Radosław Majewski's quality was missed, but the team's current form even with them in it meant them being left out wasn't a great surprise.

So, a November which always looked difficult got off to the worse possible start with the unbeaten home record going up the Khyber. We need to pick ourselves up as soon as possible or our promotion ambitions will be going the same way.

1 comment:

  1. The City Ground Penalty Curse isn't a curse; the 10,000th miss this season wins the penalty taker a holiday in Skeggy and £150 worth of Spam. Clearly the incentive is working