The bare facts, for anyone who hasn't heard, are that we drew 0-0
with the Baggies in a poor game. The closest we came to scoring
was a Bart drive that was well saved early in the second half. Stern
nearly scored twice, once in each half - with his head on both occasions.
He was at full stretch in the dive to meet Luca Petrachi's cross
for the second one, but probably should have done better for the
first. Dougie got a couple of headers on target. And that is about
it at their end - the rest of our attacking petered out depressingly
in the final third. mostly because the midfield players could not
feed the strikers well enough.
Their young keeper, Chris Adamson, gave every appearance of being
a bit nervous and potentially dodgy. We simply didn't give him enough
work for us to find out. At our own end, though we defended well
enough in general, only two outstanding Beasant saves from Lee Hughes
prevented this being an even worse day. The confident Hughes of
last year would have buried them both, so we should be thankful
for small mercies and for the excellent form of our Museum-piece
But the fact remains that the last two league games (forget Chelsea
- fun but irrelevant) have been against two poor sides who are down
near the bottom with us. My train of thought over that period has
gone something like this: "We need to win both, or at least to get
four points.... OK I'll settle for 3 points after the ref debacle
at Grimsby, but definitely no less. Oh. We have only got one. Hmmph.
Not good enough". And it is NOT good enough - the combination of
our own form (especially our DREADFUL away form) and a couple of
wins from the teams below us has dragged us right back in to the
For those with no access to a table this morning, reading from the
bottom we have Swindon on 18 points (surely doomed), Pompey on 24,
Port Vale on 27, Walsall and Crewe on 28 and WBA and ourselves on
29. Then there is a gap of four points to Grimsby (33), Sheff Utd
(34) and Palace (35). All have played 28 games except Vale who have
a game in hand. In two consecutive games against fellow-strugglers
we have missed the chance to keep that gap in the table below us,
and been left facing an out-and-out relegation battle for the rest
of this season. We still have to play Walsall, Pompey and Crewe
away, and Swindon, Palace, Sheff United and Port Vale at home. So
we OUGHT to be all right.
All I can say is that I hope we don't play like yesterday in those
games.... I have spent the entire season saying that I don't think
we will go down, and 9 days ago I was completely confident of that.
Now I still think on balance that we won't, but I am a great deal
less certain than I was - in the past 6 years I have seen too many
examples of how Forest react to a scrap at the bottom to be entirely
confident that we will fight the way we should. Suddenly we are
into a right old relegation punch-up, and it remains to be seen
whether we have the players for a scrap. This was avoidable, especially
given the improvement in our performance in recent weeks. But we
haven't avoided it, and we must now all roll up our sleeves and
make bloomin' sure that it doesn't get any worse. Improvement in
recent weeks? Yes, sure - but not yesterday.
Yesterday was a step backwards. Not, thank Heaven, all the way back
to the dark days of the Palace, Huddersfield and Ipswich debacles
(if it had been that much of a regression we would have lost), but
none the less a retreat from the way our form has been of late.
We defended well enough (and, as I have said, Lurch was outstanding),
and there were patches, especially in the first half, where we played
some slick passing football in the middle of the field. Bart-Williams
was probably the best player on the pitch. But WBA understandably
appeared to come for a point (plus anything they might get on the
break as a bonus), so whenever we attacked they were very efficient
at funnelling 9 men back into their own box behind the ball. And
we simply did not have the wit to break them down.
Time after time someone or other would produce a promising run from
midfield (Riccy, Prutton, Gray, Bart, Brennan, Luca - sharp when
he came on - and Bonalair were all guilty of this at some stage
or other) only for the final ball to be poor. Either sideways straight
into the path of a defender, mistimed so the chance had gone or
overhit so the keeper could sweep it up unchallenged. Sure, we missed
Rogers (absent suspended after accruing 5 yellow cards). But why
exactly was it necessary for the suspension of one player to result
in the moving of THREE in the midfield? Rogers out, Bonalair in
on left - simple. Apparently not! Rogers out, move Gray to the left,
Prutton to the right and put Bonalair in the middle, thus playing
at least two players away from the position where they are best.
I look at our squad on paper and still think we have the players.
We have a much stronger squad than last year, for instance (IMHO).
But the team at the moment is somehow contriving to be less than
the sum of its parts. Solid well-organised teams are the sum of
their parts. Good teams are more than the sum of their parts. Why
is our squad not gelling - or at least only gelling intermittently?
Listen, those who are far away and haven't seen Forest for a while,
don't despair. Even allowing for yesterday's set-back, we have still
made progress. It may well be that the extra space given us by a
team who comes to attack (as no doubt the next three opponents will
do) will work in our favour. But it is impossible to deny that yesterday's
performance was a disturbingly familiar one - struggle to break
down defensive opponents, with the result that we failed to win
(and the result was a fair reflection of the game - no complaints
there) a game that we ought to have won at a canter.
Several people have accused me of hiding behind attacks on the refs
when we lose in recent weeks (though the vast majority have written
to agree with me). It has to be said that yesterday's ref was well
down to recent standards. Which is a polite way of saying appalling.
Obsessed with trivialities like inch-perfect throw-in positions
and reluctant to play advantage (at one stage Lee Hughes was understandably
miffed at being pulled back for a free kick to WBA when he was clean
through), yet at the same time missing much more serious fouls and
booking people for stupid reasons. Stern (going for a ball that
the keeper had dropped, which sounds legit to me), Prutton (block
tackle) and Marlon (throwing the ball at Carbon on the ground -
even Carbon was asking the ref not to be so stupid) were all booked,
and none of them deserved it. The elbow in Stern's face, however?
A mere booking. I could go on - and almost 20,000 people from both
sides of the midlands agreed yesterday that Mr Bennett should stick
to being a traffic warden, or whatever, so it isn't just me (before
the emails start). But I can't muster up my usual enthusiasm for
ref-bashing because, very poor though he was, the ref didn't change
the result (I suppose we should be grateful for that given recent
events). ....Which was a 0-0 draw in game we are capable of winning
It is high time we started to turn our capacity to play good football
into results - because if we don't, there is a serious danger that
sides better equipped than we are to scrap for every inch of turf
will overtake us and book us a few visits to Meadow Lane (and worse)
next year. Sort it out, boys!