The Pod Report
Well, this isn't going to be much fun really. Being quite peculiar, I often like to try and encapsulate a game in a single word, last night's word was disappointment.
It was quite apparent to fans of both clubs that last night's game could effectively signal an end to the season and well we lost. Leaving aside the circumstances of the game, or any dispassionate rationalisation of pre-season and current aspirations, I don't doubt that anyone connected with the club is feeling anything other than deflation and depression today.
Yesterday, whilst conscientiously preparing for writing this report, I read a few match reports for Watford's last eight or so games and saw that in many ways they had suffered from an inability to win games. Not in the simple scoring more goals than the opposition sense, but in a nebulous psychosomatic way they had been unable to combine the constituent parts of their team performance into a single performance that won them games against obviously inferior opposition.
Their performance against WBA on Saturday mirrored our own against QPR, not only in the ability to describe the teams as a three letter acronym [TLA], but more pertinently in that they had failed to take clear goal scoring chances in a first half performance that could have seen them get their noses in front. They didn't and WBA buried them in the second half. If we managed only a draw at the weekend against a poor QPR team, last night provided an exact analogy with the same result, 3-0.
As a mere occasional writer of these match reports there is no great incentive for me to introduce efficiency into their production; if my time were so valuable that none could be wasted I might very well be dusting-off the "didn't take their chances" template and changing the name of the opposition to Watford.
To return to my preparations for writing this report and the, possibly, spurious insights they gave me into subsequent events I tried to imagine what team we should play and what formation we should use. My mind immediately returned to the game at the City Ground in October [for which my word was "width"] and my recollection, that in their very impressive first half, Watford had pulled our defence apart with the width of their attacking play - which often saw a line of four players sweeping up the pitch. I thought it to be a dead certainty that both Platty and Graham Taylor would try and prepare their teams accordingly.
Like the recent Sheffield United game, where the main threat would come wide from Ndlovu and Devlin, I thought it was sensible to switch to four at the back, in view of our current shortage of defensively convincing wing-backs. Therefore four at the back seemed to almost a dead certainty, perhaps especially in view of its success at Bramall Lane. Moving to midfield and trying to pick a selection of players and formation that worked was worrying, in the absence of Olsen, Andy Johnson and Alan Rogers, I struggled to find four players who could provide any sort of balance in midfield.
Presuming that Bartman would come forward to midfield and that Prutton would be an automatic choice, none of the other options were entirely satisfactory; Gareth Williams has not shown sufficient "aggression" to convince me that he is yet ready for this level, Scimeca also fails to convince me of his worth when we are not in possession and Gary Jones is simply too large to be able to be mobile enough to replicate to sort of contribution that Andy Johnson makes.
Therefore I wasn't really surprised when I saw that we were to play with three up front, that we didn't win the game may mean that as an experiment it was a failure but the injuries to Olsen and Rogers and AJ's suspension limited our options to such an extent that any team we sent out last night would have had fairly convincing arguments against its composition.
And so to the game again. It was slightly worrying that Tommy Mooney, who had missed Saturday's game against WBA, was back in the Watford team, as has shown himself to be a pretty formidable goal scorer of a sort of Steve Bullish model.
My half time notes say that we did "ok" apart from the goal. We started off brightly enough and had probably been slightly more threatening than Watford until they scored. Jon Hjelde got dragged out wide and, being a non-tackler, failed to stop delivery of a cross into the box which an unmarked Noel-Williams headed home from the correspondingly unmarked central area. Some of the press reports say that JOH also played Smith onside to allow him free but it was at the far end of the ground so I could neither confirm or deny this.
The travelling support reacted well to the goal and managed to buoy up the self-belief of the team until half-time. Watford were conspicuously stronger than us in the centre of midfield and were prone to break dangerously down the wings, especially down their right where Wooter looked a constant threat.
Back to my half time notes and I also find that Andy Gray didn't look to have done too much wrong, Scimeca had looked ok when out wide but hadn't really shown much self-belief when he was in the penalty area, Benali had been beaten quite a few times by Wooter and that "bearing in mind staff shortages, it could be worse".
In the second half we were probably a little better and we also conceded two goals. Throughout the half we had a succession of chances any of which may have allowed us to turn the game around.
Watford's second goal was a bit of a freak, from a free kick the ball deflected off Prutton taking most of the pace of it and falling perfectly for Mooney who threaded it through a congested six yard box into the net. It was in fact quite similar to a Birmingham [Hughes?] goal against Watford recently.
Forest then had a pretty good spell with a notably energetic contribution from David Johnson and one very good chance/shot which just skimmed the post into the side netting.
With twenty odd minutes left Mooney did it again, he came forward with Christian Edwards in close attention and doing enough to negate any threat I contentedly thought to myself sitting directly behind and high above and all of a sudden Mooney showed very quick feet and speared a shot through Edwards' legs beating Beasant at the near post.
Shortly afterwards Edwards was substituted for Chris Doig, making a welcome return to the first team and fitness.
I'd have to say that the remaining twenty minutes were a bit of a torture, not on the pitch where we were probably doing ok though no-one really cared anymore, but just as a supporter. The fact that the Forest fans were loud and supportive throughout the game made the whole thing very poignant and a little tragic. It was a great display of irony in the face of dejection but I doubt if it masked our collective disappointment.
The drive back up the M1 was suitably apocalyptic, 120 truly terrifying white-knuckled miles with zero visibility within a quarter of a mile of a truck.
So, in summary, it was cruel and horrible.
© Nottingham Forest 2001