Unfortunately, it was another Forest home game, with another disappointing outcome as we lost ground on the automatic places at the top end of The Championship. It wasn’t for the lack of effort yesterday that we couldn’t get that all important goal but Forest simply have to do more to keep our grip on a play off place. There is no doubt that something is lacking as we failed to beat another of the so-called lesser sides in the league at home. I’ve seen suggestions that QPR were terrible yesterday and whilst they weren’t by any means fantastic, I thought they did well to weather an early storm, kept the ball when they needed to (in some pretty tricky conditions) their keeper had a good game. I’d be amazed if any QPR fan thought they were poor yesterday given that I’ve never seen a goalless score line celebrated in such fashion; 1,500 travelling fans were in a rapturous mood at the death as they taunted the Forest fans and sung the names of their heroes on the pitch.
I’ve been reading on social media that Sabri has no Plan B and I really do think there are flaws in that argument. I don’t see Leeds or West Brom having a Plan B. In fairness to Sabri, he tweaked his midfield around yesterday, moving from his usual 2 running midfielders ahead of Ben Watson, to deploying Joe Lolley in the much asked for No.10 spot at home. There was positivity in that set up. I had no argument with a very fluid looking front 3 behind Lewis Grabban when the team news came through an hour before kick off. There was nothing negative in Forest’s set up despite not having our resident powerhouse Samba Sow available to do his usual bossing of midfield. We simply don’t win without Samba and I’ll go all Brentford here – look at the stats!
If there was any criticism of Forest yesterday is that we didn’t:
1) Show enough quality in the final third at times;
2) Have enough belief as a collective to put QPR to the sword;
3) Gamble committing players into the final third to force the issue (particularly in the first half).
That said, on another day at The City Ground it could have been a different matter entirely. I thought Forest started the game as brightly as they have all done all season and were out of the traps from the off; Sammi Ameobi and Adama Diakhaby looking a threat on both wings despite those sides of the pitch looking really slow to play on. Joe Lolley was causing problems for QPR’s retreating midfield by finding pockets of space and despite the windy conditions, some of the long range passing from Ben Watson and Tiago Silva from deep was absolutely sublime. As an attacking threat, Forest got into good wide areas early in the game and it felt like it would be a matter of time before we got the opener given the frenetic start. We all of course thought we had the breakthrough…
As far as the major talking point of the game goes, I thought the right decision was made in the end. It was harsh on Forest and harsh on both Joe’s who did very little wrong! It was a little ironic that it took a gust of wind to aide Lolley’s corner onto Joe Worrall’s head with such precision but Lolley couldn’t do anything about it as he was already in full kicking motion when the ball rolled onto his foot. Moving ball. These are the rules. The problem for me was that if the linesman knew the ball had moved, then why didn’t he flag for it straight away? If it wasn’t for the QPR left back complaining, I get the impression the linesman would have stayed schtum nd legged it back to the halfway line without battering an eye lid content that the goal had stood. That was the naughty part in my book and it left the ref in a no-win situation with the Forest fans. Of course, the QPR left back wouldn’t have been asking for a re-take if Worrall’s header went over.
— Tom Carnduff (@TomC_22) February 23, 2020
Having been dealt the blow, Forest never quite recovered that momentum but there were a number of further opportunities to win the game. Lewis Grabban should have at least hit the target from a melee in the bock and Ameobi burnt the keepers fingers tips with a cracking hit from the edge of the box. Joe Lolley wriggled and manufactured room for a shot but his shot flew wide and looked like it was wind assisted. Ameobi and Cash put in a couple of cracking crosses that went straight across the QPR six yard box and really deserved better.
Despite Sabri going with the 3 offensive players behind Lewis, I was really pleased to see Carvalho on the bench and he was the obvious sub to make for me in the second half, exchanging him with the tiring Diakhaby (putting Lolley out wide) and giving Joao a go in his preferred spot for the last half an hour. Sadly, my ideal scenario was scuppered when Ameobi (our best player) went off and was replaced by Ryan Yates. The change certainly wasn’t like for like in an attacking sense and whilst it wasn’t Ryan’s fault, we badly needed more creativity magnified most creative players. Yes Tiago pushed into a more attacking role but his final ball just isn’t quite there for us at the moment. I’m convinced that Tiago can get there but we all know that given the space, Carvalho can produce that bit of magic granted his other game deficiencies. If there were positives to take out of the game, Joao looked more hungrier to make an impact when he came on and showed a couple of cracking touches that sets him apart from the rest of the squad. I’ve everything crossed that Joao can be the injection of quality the squad needs right now.
On the line of positives, I’m watching Adama Diakhaby with a certain degree of scrutiny at the moment to judge if he will be an upgrade on the first XI. In the last few games, Diakhaby has struck me as a player whose confidence looks completely shattered and given he has barely played any football this season, its no surprise he has looked a bit rusty. At this time, he looks more of a reinforcement than a convincing signing for our promotion push with these circumstances in mind.The frustration for me, and this is not Diakhaby’s fault, is that we really needed a player to hit the ground running and make an instant impact if we fancied taking on the automatic promotion challenge. However, for the first 20 minutes yesterday; I could see some of the real potential that convinced Forest to take Diakhaby on loan from Huddersfield for the rest of the season. I thought he looked pretty useful in the first half as he showed confidence in taking the game to his opposite number. There is no doubt that Adama can beat a man, it’s just working on his final ball and his upper body strength to be stronger in possession. Chuck in a little more time to adapt to the English game and maybe he can be the player we want him to be. Confidence is massive in this game and you can see how quickly his body language shifts to a beaten man if things don’t go his way. We’re going to have to remain patient with Diakhaby if we want to see the best of him as it seems there’s a lot of work to be done with yet.
In terms of Forest’s creation of chances; the second half just seemed to peter out as we couldn’t gather the steam of momentum we’d built up in the first half. There were half chances but I couldn’t say we created a clear cut opportunity. The best opportunity fell to Diakhaby as Matty Cash got free down the right; pulled the ball back as he drew out the keeper but nobody in a red shirt could force the ball home. Lewis Grabban had a headed opportunity that drifted wide and Joe Lolley had a headed chance right at the very end that would have lifted the roof off of The City Ground had it gone in, but he couldn’t get it on target. It all seemed a little unconvincing the longer the game went on in all honesty and what was most important yesterday is that we didn’t lose the game and kept a degree of momentum. The back 5 looked astute throughout which was another positive to take.
At this pressure time of the season, you have to take greater risks. Sabri has alluded to the players being ‘Lions’ and whilst he’s completely right in terms of application and attitude on the pitch, I do feel like we are going to need a different type of bravery from somebody to make the difference in securing a place in the top 6. That bravery might also need to come from the manager; I feel Sabri will need to take a greater leap of faith if the stop-start home form continues. Considering he gave Carvalho and Alex Mighten a go later in the game; I don’t want to be too critical of Sabri, he is trying to find a solution without hurting the team. Sabri’s interview was spot on at the end of the game as ever. He didn’t have any real complaints with the performance. Other than not getting the break in the game we deserved; I’m in full agreement.
Scoring goals can’t all rest on the shoulders of Lewis Grabban. He may not have scored for 5 games but I don’t see much of a dip in form or effort. As we should all well know by now, Lewis is a striker that thrives on confidence and service. Granted, he’s missed some big chances in recent games but he needs lifting, Lewis has made another huge contribution to Forest’s season and he has to be backed by the crowd. Criticism of him couldn’t be wider of the mark. Longer term, where else are Forest going to get a replacement striker for £6m in this day and age? Shorter term, the transfer window is shut and Lewis is our talisman. To sign a player with the equivalent of 16 goals in The Championship either a) costs stupid money and wages b) doesn’t want to come to Forest. I can also appreciate the frustration from the fanbase that we haven’t signed a Darren Huckerby type to give us a real push but attracting those players to Forest are on a ship that sailed many moons ago. Grosicki was the proof in the pudding despite Forest offering greater wages than West Brom to entice him to The City Ground. The big spending from the previous summer was always going to come at a cost if we didn’t go up. We have to spend within our means.
We’ve got to suck the frustration up. Let’s not look for scapegoats. Get behind the lads with the tools we have at our disposal. We’d have taken 5th all season going into the last couple of months. If Forest are to be promoted, it will be a collective effort.
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 6 – Started brightly but faded without the momentum of getting the goal when we were on top.
SAMBA: 6 – Didn’t have much to do. A little concerned about his hand injury but he seemed to shrug it off.
CASH: 7 – Solid. Put in a couple of great balls into the box that really deserved more.
RIBIERO: 7 – Looked assured against one of QPR’s danger man in Samuel.
WORRALL: 8 – MAN OF THE MATCH – Oustanding performance from Joe. Take the errors out of his game and he looks Premier League quality. Massive shame to have goal ruled out.
FIGUIERIDO: 7 – Solid as ever.
SILVA: 7 – Looked really busy from the off and you can see why he gets the nod over Carvalho just for sheer work rate. He is lacking quality with his final ball. The conundrum….
DIAKHABY: 6 – Looked a genuine threat for the first 20 minutes but faded. Going to take time.
WATSON: 7 – Dependable as per. Did a decent enough job shackling one of the up and coming talents of the Championship in Eze.
AMEOBI: 7 – He simply is our most threatening player with the ball. Looks to be carrying a knock or struggling with fatigue. Might need to order some more cotton wool if Sow has emptied the cupboards.
LOLLEY: 7 – Looked really strong first half and really should have gotten a shot on target after some great work in the first half. Could he have done better with header at the death? Can’t fault the effort.
GRABBAN: 6 – Not going his way at the moment but the crowd HAVE to stick with him.
MIGHTEN : 6 – Did ok when he came on but looked a little lightweight if anything but of course this is to be expected for academy graduate.
YATES:6 – Not sure Sabri got it right bringing him on when we needed a bit of magic. On a hiding to nothing in many respects from some moaners. Ryan will grow with confidence.
CARVALHO: 7 – Looked bright. Lets hope this is the start of a resurgence.