In true Forest fashion, it was another bump in the road as Fulham came away with the all important 3 points at The City Ground last night. It was a performance that left a lot to be desired but at the same time; I’m not convinced it’s a time to panic either.
It has to be said that both teams looked a little jaded with a further game in quick succession since the restart. Fulham without Aleksander Mitrovic hardly posed a threat throughout proceedings but their slick short passing game was more than enough to prevent Forest from building up any sustained pressure.
What Forest sadly lacked on Saturday against Derby; Fulham had in abundance as they saw the game out, using their experience and know how to the maximum. They had plenty of players on show with Premier League experience and that’s perhaps where we’re expecting too much from this Forest side for now. Many are still very much learning and last night was another reminder that we’re far from the finished article. The biggest takeaway for me from last night; was that the visit of 4th placed Fulham was just one game too many in a short space of time for Sabri’s reds.
It was a proven Premier League performer in Harry Arter that was the decisive match winner for Fulham. Whilst there was a huge element of bad luck for Forest, with Arter firstly conceding possession and then appearing to handle the ball in the build up. You couldn’t argue with the finish as he unleashed a left foot arrow into the top corner of Brice Samba’s goal. Cloughie used to say a goal before half time was always one of the best times to score – and with 47 minutes on the clock; it was a massive blow in a game that barely had anything between the two teams.
David Brent sitting next to Grotbags at The City Ground was my highlight of this evening pic.twitter.com/UEs9H7Z7Nz
— ScottE (@munich_madrid) July 7, 2020
Forest actually started quite brightly with some decent touch passing from Tiago Silva and Ben Watson which got the team moving quickly up the pitch. It was exactly what I wanted to see in honesty as home form has not been great by any stretch of the imagination. It was a shame that things petered out so quickly after the first 15 minutes or so. Lewis Grabban had two decent chances to edge Forest ahead; one saw him bear down in an almost one on one with Fulham keeper Rodak; following hesitation in the Fuham rear guard but Lewis scuffed his shot. A promising break down the right presented him with an even better chance as Matty Cash’s cross zipped into his feet; but Lewis seemed pre-occupied by Michael Hector as once more he scuffed his shot when he really should have done better.
Hector has made a difference to Fulham as he stood up to the antics of Samba Sow and Ben Watson and refused to let his team mates be bullied. With Joe Lolley struggling with injury; there was plenty of thinking for Sabri to do at half time in order to revive a very flat performance. The team talk became that much harder when we conceded just before the break.
It was a proven Premier League performer in Harry Arter who was the decisive match winner for Fulham. Whilst there was a huge element of bad luck for Forest, with Arter firstly conceding possession and then appearing to handle the ball in the build up leading to his shot; you couldn’t argue with the finish as he unleashed a left foot arrow into the top corner of Brice Samba’s goal. Cloughie used to say a goal before half time was always one of the best times to score – and with 47 minutes on the clock; it proved to be the killer blow in a game that barely had anything between the two teams up until and after that moment.
However, when Forest go a goal down in a match; it’s hard to see how we can get back into things without changing our tactics to show more creativity. The counter attacking plan goes out of the window as the opposition hold all of the cards and play Forest at their own game; show us what you are made of.
Whilst I didn’t expect to see Joe Lolley return for the second half following inury, it was more concerning that Samba Sow hadn’t reappeared either. Without those two players out and already a goal down to a team with plenty of quality; it felt like the mountain had just gotten more difficult to climb. On an evening where we needed the fresher legs of Silva and Ameobi to give us a bit more impetus; neither could get going and were inevitably replaced. Forest’s evening slipped away with them.
Whilst I was full of praise for Sabri’s changes on Saturday, I felt he could have been a little more positive in giving both Joao Carvalho and John Bostock some game time. With Nuno Da Costa and Adama Diakhaby’s pace, we needed a little more precision in the centre of the pitch to make things happen and we were found wanting once Tiago Silva had departed. Its a shame the Forest DJ hasn’t got the ‘CAR-VAL-IO’ chant on the mix-desk.
I’m really not sure what Alfa Semedo offers to the side as a genuine attacking threat and he did nothing more than ok from his time on the pitch. Carvalho must be wondering what he needs to do to get a game. I understand the introduction of Da Costa and to a lesser extent Diakhaby because the manager likes to have pace in the wider areas of his team but Semedo in addition to Yates and Watson left us looking devoid of creativity.
Sadly, it looks as though Carvalho’s time is over at The City Ground; he can’t get a game for love nor money under Sabri and it does feel a little peculiar. It’s a good thing there’s no pressure from the powers that be to play our record signing; but as it stands, Carvalho is up there as one of the biggest transfer flops in Forest history. It’s a travesty that it’s not even the lads fault. He’s not been fancied by either of the last two managers; the first being absolutely pillared for not picking him. That’s not too say Joao hasn’t had his opportunities under Sabri, he’s had a handful and not really taken any of them.
Wihtout the creative spark, Forest could only force a couple of efforts on Rodak’s goal and in a combination between the ref’s shocking eye sight and Fulham’s professionalism, the game just ebbed away from us. At full time Sabri didn’t seem to have any complaints and it was put down to fatigue that the players aren’t machines and can’t churn out performances like they did on Saturday and back it up 48 hours later. It was fairly evident from early on that we were looking a bit leggy and a few seemed to be running on empty at the end.
It’s not Forest’s style to do it the easy way but as things stand on Wednesday teatime, we might have just gotten away with dropped points in the last couple of games.
One thing that is for certain though; Forest will have to be an awful lot better at Preston than they were last night. With an extra days rest, fingers crossed we can get back to winning ways on Saturday.
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 5 – Below par evening all round.
SAMBA: 6 – Didn’t have much to do all evening – distribution wasn’t as strong as recent games.
CASH: 6 – Had his work cut out defensively and couldn’t quite give us the quality we needed 2nd half with the ball.
RIBIERO: 6 – Slightly subdued but one of those looking leggy.
FIGUEIRIEDO: 6 – Didn’t have too much to do but he looked dead on his feet at the end.
WORRALL: 6 – Some wayward passing at the end when we needed to keep calm.
SOW: 7 – MAN OF THE MATCH – Typical performance in high pressing and generally bothering Fulham’s midfield. Had them rattled.
LOLLEY: 5 – Sruggled with injury in the first half.
WATSON: 6 – Put a shift in but we needed more from creativity and we can’t rely on Ben for that.
AMEOBI: 5 – Strangely subdued performance after a bright start.
SILVA: 6 – Faded.
GRABBAN: 5 – Well marshalled by Hector.
YATES: 7 – Thought he put in another good shift. Pushing for a start on Saturday.
DA COSTA: 6 – Didn’t quite go his way and feels like he needs a run of games now.
DIAKHABY: 5 – Possibly showed the worst first touch I’ve ever seen in a Red shirt. Followed it up with a jinking run that took him past about 3 Fulham defenders.
SEMEDO: 6 – We needed more than what he could offer.
MIGHTEN: 5 – Didn’t have long enough to impress.