Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Nottingham Forest 0 - 1 Charlton Athletic

After a painful separation or schism there's an often used saying that 'things will get worse before they get better.' I sincerely hope that last night's match represents the nadir of this particular slump because it was most certainly worse. The last home match - the 0-0 draw against Doncaster Rovers - was bad, but this affair made it look like El Clasico. The happenings of the last few days seemed to catch up with the players as they produced by far their worst home display of the season.

Caretaker Manager Gray Brazil's first (and maybe only?) team selection saw Forest return to a 4-4-2 formation. Greg Halford lined up at right-back with Gonzalo Jara and Jonathan Greening in central midfield. Djamal Abdoun was recalled to patrol the flanks with Jamie Mackie while Simon Cox and Darius Henderson started up front. Jamie Paterson - rather surprisingly - dropped to the bench. The formation gave some cause for optimism. It didn't last long once the match actually started.

Forest created the first chance, with Danny Fox's excellent cross being headed wide by Mackie. A neat through-ball then set Henderson free but his low shot went wide after perhaps grazing the post. At the other end, Marvin Sordell rattled an upright after a quick break saw him played through. Not long afterwards Simon Cox also hit the woodwork when through on goal and Henderson's follow-up header was tipped over. As with many recent Forest games we kept possession neatly without looking menacing and it was no great surprise that the first half ended goalless.

The second half served up more of the same from both sides. Lots of passing, not much urgency and little in the way of chances. Jamie Paterson replaced Simon Cox as Forest seemed to revert to a five man midfield and Tottenham Hotspur loanee Jonathan Obika came on for Sordell for the visitors. Rafik Djebbour then made his return in the place of Henderson, just after the big striker had ballooned an awful shot high over the bar when well placed. A fitting end to his evening's involvement.

Then, toward the end of the match, a mistake from Jamaal Lascelles presented a chance to Charlton substitute Obika. His effort rebounded off the post and fell to Jordan Cousins who slotted home to give the Addicks the lead. And that was that. Djebbour sent a late header over but, in truth, we never looked like equalising.

Where do I begin to pick the bones out of this display? I remarked on Twitter after the game that, if I had been the match sponsor I'd have refused to name a Man of the Match as none of them really deserved it. The sponsors gave the accolade to Jonathan Greening who I suppose warranted it as most of his passes at least found a team-mate, even if they did mainly go sideways. As for the rest...

Karl Darlow had little to do and, from what I could see, no chance with the goal. Fox was caught out of position far too often though he did provide some decent crosses. Halford was at least an outlet down the right but didn't create much. Danny Collins seemed at times to be just watching the Charlton forwards rather than marking them and Lascelles had, I believe, his poorest match of the season. He's young though and will, I'm sure, put nights like this behind him.

Mackie was, well, Mackie and though Abdoun was clearly trying, not a lot came off for him. Henderson and Cox offered little with the latter particularly poor. What has happened to the player who we signed at the start of last season? The one who scored his first goal against Huddersfield away so clinically and followed it soon after with wonder strikes against Wigan and Birmingham?

And, finally, we come to Gonzalo Jara. It might be cruel to single out a player in this way but this was the worst individual display I've seen from a Forest player this season without a doubt. Jara can clearly play - he's going to the World Cup as part of a decent Chile side - but last night he was woeful. The most simple of passes would often find an opponent or go straight out of play. His touch was poor - at one point the ball just went right under his foot - and it's obvious his confidence is shot. Straight after the Charlton goal he appeared to square up to Jamie Mackie. On the evidence of the match if he'd tried to punch Mackie he probably would've ended up knocking out one of the Charlton players instead. I don't know if Gary Brazil wants the job full time, I doubt he does. But if he did I'm afraid the players did him no favours last night.

So it's down to Fawaz to make another managerial appointment but we need so much more than that. He's already said he intends to recruit a CEO in the summer - if there's any way he can do it sooner then he should do because the club is crying out for some structure and organisation. There's no doubting Fawaz's passion, desire to succeed and to please the fans but he can't do it on his own and he needs to stop trying too hard to keep us happy.

Fawaz - if you're reading this: Please appoint a strong, experienced, visionary CEO and let him help you appoint the right man for the manager's job. Then help them work together to plan and take our great club forward. But please - whoever you appoint - you need to trust them to get on with the jobs you've brought them in to do. That might be difficult after the recent experience with Billy Davies but it's vital. Making John McGovern a Club Ambassador was a smart move and you'd do well to listen to his guidance.

The crazy thing is that after all the turmoil and upheaval, after all our recent poor performances we're still only two points from the playoffs. There's still a chance to salvage something from what's turned into a car crash of a season. It has got worse but hopefully rock-bottom has now been reached and, from there, the only way is up.

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