There’s doing it the hard way and doing it the Forest way. Why we have to put sugar on top of the former, I have no idea why but going into the last game of the season, my mind casts be back to a certain final game of the season back in 2017 against Ipswich Town. Forest did themselves no favours again on Sunday afternoon at Oakwell, once again conceding a goal in injury time having almost got the job done in a game they really didn’t deserve anything out of.
What’s important to remember here is that these are very different circumstances than 3 years ago. We were on the verge of relegation to League 1 at that time; we’ve come a fair old way in a short period of time – this musn’t be forgotten.
It seems like what are faced with at the moment, is a Forest side that are running on empty. Yes the manager has to take responsibility for the result and his change in tactics but how so many could fail to pass the ball to each other on Sunday was quite beyond me. It was a dreadful showing from Forest with complete devoid of cohesion.
The managers tactic came under fire and this certainly added to the already lack of fluidity in this Forest team. The switch to a 3-5-2 almost came off in fairness in securing a point with an injury hit team but it seemed clear that Forest had come for nothing more than a point particularly in the 2nd half was we seemed quite happy to let wave after wave hit us in the form of Barnsley attacks. Once again, moments of indecision cost us at the vital times and denied us the points.
Only Forest could concede a goal in the 4th minute of injury time when seconds before they were 2 on one in the Barnsley half with Ben Watson completely unmarked and requiring a simple pass to roll him through on goal. I wouldn’t have minded if Ben Watson had decided to run the ball into the far corner flag, the game was that close to being done. Alas, the pass didn’t come from Lewis Grabban as his counterpart in Red did everything he could to win the ball back.
As Barnsley went up and scored at the other end; I couldn’t quite believe what I was watching. It was almost like the Derby goal playing itself out once more in slow motion. With 4 centre halves on the pitch, a hopeful ball into the box should have been dealt with and as the ball bobbled around, a blue shirt couldn’t get near it; bang – we had conceded the most precious away point of the season – and the efforts of the afternoon had been thrown in the bin. Another bitter pill to swallow for all with allegiance to the red side of the Trent.
The impact on the players must be huge to concede again so late. It’s going to take another big effort to see us through on Wednesday against Stoke
to avoid the impossible; surrendering a play off place with a plus five goal difference. It can’t happen surely? The form guide would suggest that it can and our possession and shots on target in recent matches also shows that Forest will have an awful lot of work to do in scraping a last 6 spot.
The bigger worry is that if we are confirmed for the play offs, there isn’t much suggestion in recent performances that we can compete with those above us in a knockout tournament. We know the playoffs is a lottery however and form can go out of the window. Without the option of resting legs, Forest now effectively begin their play off campaign on Wednesday in terms of knockout competition.
The 3 deployed centre backs was the biggest development from the pre-match team news and the absence of Brice Samba in goal. Whilst Sabri has received his fair share of criticism over the formation, I could see some sense in it. Barnsley’s biggest issue of late has been scoring goals and if Forest could weather the inevitable out of the traps start from the home side; then we could grab a goal on the break and hope for it to see us through. The problem I have we Sabri’s tactics is the cautious approach and that word ‘hope’ I’ve just mentioned in the previous sentence.
This Forest side shouldn’t be hoping the opposition haven’t got enough for all their possession, we have the players to hurt teams and we’re not doing it enough. The art of ‘shithousing’ an away win seems to have evaporated too with the amount of injury time goals we’re conceding. We’re in charge of our own fate and what I would like to see on Wednesday is more of the second half showing against Swansea. I hoped that we’d have taken that second half performance into Sunday but it wasn’t to be.
For the first 20 minutes or so, Forest didn’t look too troubled and if we could have gotten our foot on the ball a little more, we might’ve actually taken Barnsley into a game of football. Our inability to retain possession which has been an Achilles heel all season reared its ugly head once more. It was a shocking performance from that perspective.
Having weathered the initial quarter, we simply let Barnsley back into the game and Jordan Smith was by far the busiest of the keepers for the rest of the half. Luke Thomas was a whisker away from putting the hosts in front as his left foot strike from the edge of the box clipped the top of the bar. We’d done well to get the half time break and surely this was the opportunity to get a grip on things. Tiago Silva and Nuno Da Costa were pretty much by-passers in a game they couldn’t effect.
The second half had started how we left the first with Barnsley being allowed possession and the impetus to hurt Forest. It didn’t look like a game we wanted to win and I can’t recall a shot in the second period. Barnsley had a number of shots and came close once more to taking the lead, a deflected shot rattled Jordan Smiths left hand post and flew out for a corner. The pressure was mounting and Forest were not heeding the warnings.
In fairness to the defence, I wouldn’t say either of the 3 centre backs had particularly bad games; they didn’t have any respite. The introduction of a 4th centre half sent a shudder down my spine and had me thinking back to dark days before us. We were happy to cling onto dear life rather than impose ourselves as we try to kick start some momentum. This isn’t what Nottingham Forest are about on a weekly basis.
The most recent comparison I can think of in terms of set up and performances is that of Dougie Freedman’s Forest where essentially the team was set up to counter with Ryan Menses and Oliver Burke’s pace. We seem to have retreated right back into our shell at the moment and its akin to what was being served up then. The circumstances are very different now and you sense the opposition know that if they do their jobs, they will win a game against us.
The Play-offs are of course still in reach but we have to get the job done on Wednesday. We can’t sure rely on the opposition to do us a favour. We have to show greater willing with the ball to win a game of football. I get the feeling I’ll be watching through the fingers across my face. Sabri and the team have worked so hard this season to get where we are; we simply have to get recent performances and disappointments out of our system. Knockout football begins prematurely on Wednesday!
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 4 – Devoid of ideas and cohesion on the ball.
SMITH: 6 – Did ok with a few shots but didn’t look too convincing in the air.
JENKINSON: 5- Stuck to his task at full back but had some indecisive moments.
RIBIERO: 5 – Looked to be running on empty.
DAWSON: 5 – Won plenty of balls
FIGUEIRIEDO: 5 – Again, won plenty of headers and tackles.
WORRALL: 6 – MAN OF THE MATCH – His display deserved a point.
SOW: 5 – Not influencing the games as he was since returning.
SILVA: 4 – Really disappointing he could not get on the ball when we needed him to.
WATSON: 5 – Ran his socks off but got turned in midfield one too many times. Desperately unlucky not to receive ball after great final burst of energy to try and win the game.
GRABBAN: 5 – Struggled all afternoon. We needed a big effort from hit at the end and didn’t come off.
DA COSTA: 4 – Really struggled and seemed to turn into trouble when he received the ball.
AMEOBI: 5 – Tried to influence things with his running on the ball.
YATES: 5 – Wasn’t enough to see us through.
MIGHTEN: 5 – His introduction was too little too late almost.
BENALOUANE: 5 – Didn’t have much to do.