Saturday, 15 March 2014

Nottingham Forest 0 - 0 Doncaster Rovers

The fact that the match sponsors voted Karl Darlow as man of the match will probably tell you more about this match and Nottingham Forest's performance than anything I could write here. It might not have been the crushing defeat that we suffered last time out against Wigan, but I actually think this was the worst game of football I've seen all season. At least against Wigan we scored and were well beaten by a side that was better on the day. This match was a shocking affair between two teams that looked very poor on the day and the only surprise was that returning ex-Forest loanee Billy Sharp didn't bag a goal for the visitors.

Greg Halford and Andy Reid returned to the Forest line-up in place of Djamal Abdoun and Jamie Mackie, meaning that, or so I thought, we'd be lining up in a 4-2-3-1 with Simon Cox as the lone striker. However, when the teams kicked off, Halford went up front with Cox meaning Forest were playing a 4-4-2. The opening exchanges saw both sides pass the ball around nicely without ever looking really threatening. Doncaster's Richie Wellens saw an excellent long-range volley helped round the post by Darlow, whilst a goalmouth scramble resulted in a Forest shot being cleared off the line. Having won their previous three games the visitors didn't look overawed and Forest certainly didn't give them any reason to.

Later on in the half a Cox through ball found Halford in space but his scuffed shot didn't overly trouble Rovers 'keeper Sam Johnstone, and later still Andy Reid's excellently flighted free kick was headed over by Jamaal Lascelles, who probably should've done better with what was a good chance. But he didn't, and the teams trooped off with the score at 0-0.

The second half was, to be honest, more of the same. Neither team could find much fluency and neither goalkeeper was forced into any serious action. Johnstone nonchalantly tipped over a decent effort from Radoslaw Majewski and Darlow had to make a smart block from a James Husband effort but it was hardly Gordon Banks-like stuff. None of Forest substitutions (Darius Henderson, Jamie Mackie and Matt Derbyshire replacing Reid, Halford and Cox) ever looked like making a difference and the game petered out into the inevitable draw.

I don't like to criticise the manager's team selections or tactics but I felt that there were a couple of baffling decisions today. At one stage Halford found himself playing wide right with Henderson and Mackie through the middle, and all this whilst Djamal Abdoun, who's been enjoying probably his best run of form for the Reds, was left kicking his heels on the bench. Reid didn't look fully fit though, to be honest, I don't blame Billy Davies for wanting him to start. It seems though that he's now picked up a slight hamstring injury and will probably miss the match against Derby. Just what we didn't need.

The whole team seems bereft of confidence at the moment. Simon Cox looks like he'll never score again but, with Rafik Djebbour injured and the form of the other strikers, there's nobody to really push him for his place. Henderson of course scored his controversial goal against Middlesbrough but just doesn't seem to perform when he starts matches. Derbyshire tries but doesn't look threatening and Mackie continues to frustrate; one cameo today summed him up perfectly, as he won the ball brilliantly in a tackle then proceeded to give it straight back to Doncaster.

My man of the match today was Jonathan Greening. He sprayed the ball around very well in the first half and, though he'll never drive us forward like Henri Lansbury would, at least he kept possession well. One excellent tackle and casual back flick to a team-mate in the second half was probably the highlight of the match. There was precious little else to get excited about. The only positive I can really take was that we kept a clean sheet. Clutching at straws indeed.

So, next up it's the return fixture against Derby and a vastly improved performance is needed for us to get anything out of that game. We're still in the playoff places - just; but we've got to break this winless run soon or we're in danger of losing our grip on those. As I said in my previous blog I don't think the time is right to replace the manager. But it's not my club and I don't make the decisions. With Billy Davies's FA appeal hearing on Wednesday and the East Midlands Derby on Saturday this is a massive week for him and Nottingham Forest. For his sake, and the sake of our ambitions this season and beyond, I hope it's a positive one.


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