The prospect of completing a write up after a Forest defeat never fills me with much hope. After the swing of events in yesterday’s 2-1 win defeat at Birmingham; watching the game back was akin to walking to the bookies with a winning bet slip, only to see your horse had been done on the finishing line by a nose. Funnily enough, I had that experience at the Cheltenham Gold Cup a couple of years ago. Boy did me and my brother look stupid in that queue as we were counting our ‘winnings’…
Anyhow, let’s make no bones about it; that was a shocking result for Forest given where we were in the game after 42 minutes. There’s a long way to go yet in The Championship but the flip/flap of missing a penalty and then conceding a minute later feels like the epitome of supporting Nottingham Forest in recent seasons. Just when I thought we’d found 4th gear after the resounding win at Brentford; like a complete novice, Forest hit the reverse gear at St.Andrews on Saturday.
I have talked about us being our own worst enemies for a couple of months now and yesterday we might as well have had that message blown up in neon lighting and flown over the ground. I don’t think the result will define our season but continuing on this path of self-destruction will. Concentration levels are our biggest downfall. Millwall away, Boro at home, both Reading games and now yesterday. Some might say ‘it’s all ifs and buts’ but that’s 11 points dropped in total. Sabri was seething in his post-match interview and it can’t continue if we’re ‘serious about promotion’ . I can’t help but think these dropped points will hurt us at the end of the season. How much they hurt us is down to the players from this moment on. Sabri doesn’t prepare all week for such eventualities. It’s human error. We should be learning from these mistakes but most worryingly, we’re not.
Defeat of course brings out the worst in the fan base. The slating’s that I have read on the Twitter timeline was laughable. New signing Diakhaby compared to Dumitru, Ryan Yates slated as League 2 material, Lewis Grabban described by a whole host of insults that I can’t be bothered to put into print. I’d love to see how some of the moaners would go on at work if people were slating them from the side lines or posting snide comments about their performances. If there’s any reason to regulate the brain fart mentality on Twitter than at least think about how you’d feel if you were on the other end of it? It’s not going to be overly helpful in making things better. Overpaid footballers? Yes. Are they human beings that can shake off abuse like water off a ducks back? No. Do me a favour if you’re in this camp; go and read the definition of ‘supporter’. Sabri picks the players and he makes the subs. If you like Sabri then you back him.
🗣 "I'm struggling to explain why the level of performance went from so good to so poor but all I can say is that it is our fault.
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) February 1, 2020
Samba Sow’s absence was of great concern before a ball was kicked. When he doesn’t play, we tend to lose more often than not but in fairness to Forest, we started very well and looked a threat from the off with Lolley and Ameobi causing concern for the Blues defence. Forest took the lead through a superb goal from Tiago Silva. A clever header from Joe Lolley put Silva in on goal and the Portuguese man had the sense of composure to draw a tackle from the onrushing Birmingham defender, before smashing the ball into the roof of the net with his right foot. He’s been lacking goals this season and on watching that goal, there is no reason why he can’t go onto to get a few more in the promotion chase. It was a hell of a finish.
Whilst I’ve bemoaned Forest fans treachery on the Twitter timeline, Birmingham fans were soon getting their ‘sack the board’ banner out as our players were still celebrating! Wonder how they felt at full time?
Taking the emotion away from the full time score; retrospectively watching, Forest didn’t do a deal wrong in terms of performance. Other than press the self-destruct button on 42 minutes! I was in a supermarket in the Yorkshire Dales when I saw Lewis had missed a penalty and then seconds later my phone buzzed to say Birmingham had equalised. ‘For FFS Forest’ I muttered down the fruit and veg aisle – trying to keep myself in check; remembering that I was on a precious weekend away with the wife. Do these lads have any idea what they put us through!!? My body language must’ve been quite the picture on the CCTV cameras.
A cracking move involving Silva and Ribeiro ended with Josh McEacheran handling on the line as Ryan Yates looked to add the finishing touch. It was a clear penalty but perhaps wasn’t deliberate in the sense that it was going to prevent a clear goal. Maybe Ryan should have done more to force the ball home just in case the ref was happy to play the advantage for Forest. Nevertheless, it was a penalty in a game where Forest were relatively comfortable at 1-0 up. Lewis’ penalty was a shocker in honesty. The gentle run up matched his effort as Lee Camp saved easily.
What followed was pretty inexplicable though. Forest had about four of five opportunities to put a stop to Birmingham’s next attack as the home crowd were still high on the penalty save. Matty Cash should have done better on the back post to put pressure on Jutkiewicz as he nodded the ball back across goal for Scott Hogan to mishit the ball home. Dreadful penalty. Dreadful goal to concede. ‘We’re Nottingham Forest; we’ll make our own mess.’
The 2nd half started with Birmingham’s tail up and Matty Cash was very fortunate to get away with a handball not far from the re-start as the ball richochete’d off his arm and out for a corner. We continued to push our luck and got a big let off on 50 minutes as McCeachran’s percentage cross looked like it was going to nestle in the far corner until Jutkiewicz headed the ball wide from 6 yards out. If that was a moment for Forest to wake up and punish Birmingham for their own sloppiness; like they had done in the first half to Forest, then that was it. Minutes later, Lewis collected a shot from Matty Cash with a wonderful first touch, but having pivoted so well, he smashed his shot onto the crossbar when his usual killer instinct calmly puts the ball in the net. It’s no wonder I’ve got no hair left.
A melee in the box saw Ryan Yates get a half chance to grab an equalizer but adrenalin seemed to get the better of him when a more composed head would have gotten a shot on target. We need to remember that Ryan is still learning his trade and he’s the next best thing to Samba Sow in terms of a wrecking ball in our midfield. The more game time he gets, the more he will grow. Players grow with confidence, slating him won’t help. Why cut off your nose to spite your own face is the question I’ll pose to the Twitterati?
Another great chance fell Lewis’ way on 62 minutes, with the ball dropping to him 6 yards out from a corner ball and whilst on other days the ball is smashed ruthlessly into the net; a half decent shot was blocked on the line as a claim for a meagre handball went up from the Forest players. It really wasn’t to be Lewis’ day.
In an end to end game, Brice Samba made an exceptional save to stop Birmingham from going in front; clawing away a deflected effort when it looked all for money a certain goal. At the other end, Lewis carved out an opportunity that just went wide and Adam Diakhaby hit an absolute rasper from a good 30 yards out that dipped over Camps goal.
Despite these few moments of Forest looking to grab a goal, we looked equally as susceptible to Birmingham attacks. The winning goal from Pedersen was a shocker from a defensive point of view. Brice Samba was claiming impediment but to me it looked nothing more like gamesmanship. Joe Worrall didn’t do enough to defend the initial ball in from the corner and Christian Pedersen squeezed the ball home as Samba tried to get to the knock down from Jukiewicz. It was a really poor goal to concede and if at that point we weren’t going to win the game; at least don’t lose it with sloppiness. No wonder Sabri lost it after the game.
It was a definite test of character for Forest in the last 15 minutes and a great ball in from Joe Lolley picked out substitute Tyler Walker, eight yards out, but his diving header flew wide when relatively well placed to get an equalizer. Tyler almost made amends moments later; a great knock down for a one-two with Joe Lolley set him away down the left hand side and his measured pull back cross picked out Diakhaby at the far post but the Frenchman couldn’t sort his feet out, losing control as he pulled the ball down to get a shot away. With barely any game time under his belt this season, the wasted opportunity looked more like rustiness than lack of ability. Bar a last minute really poor cross, he caused a threat when he came on, drawing fouls from the Birmingham team.
In summary for Lewis; he had a bit of an off day to day the least. It was one of those games where passes to him were over hit or there was a breakdown in communication with his team mates which didn’t reflect too kindly on our star striker. He looked to snatch at two 2nd half chances when his usual bit of composure does the trick. A third effort from the edge of the box had Lee Camp scrambling across his goal. On another day, Lewis has a hat trick. This is football in The Championship unfortunately. Lewis has 16 goals for the season. If every chance goes in, he doesn’t play for Nottingham Forest. It’s that simple; so suck it up if you’re criticising him. For the first time in many a season, we have a more than reliable goal scorer and we have to back him. Lewis will bounce back. I’d put my house on it.
If only the anger and vitriol from the fan base could be farmed somehow into something more positive. Any forward thinking engineers out there? Forget solar panels, wind turbines, there’s money to be made in this frustration! On another day, things go Forest’s way and we win comfortably with a two goal cushion and the ability to catch opponents on the break as they chase the game. Mark Warburton’s ‘fine margins’ comments may get laughed at but there wasn’t much between the teams – performance wise. If anything, I thought Forest offered a more incisive attacking approach, notably in the first half. Colin Fray pointed out on the Radio Nottingham commentary that Birmingham’s confidence had gone up tenfold on the back of Grabban’s penalty miss. Football is all about momentum and we can’t keep handing it to the opposition.
It’s far from back to the drawing board but the game against Leeds becomes massive on Saturday. Massive games at Forest? Let’s enjoy the ride and give our own every chance of winning it.
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 6 – Shot ourselves in the foot but other than that, we’ve played worse and won games this season.
SAMBA: 6 – Looked a little nervous when we needed him to be big and strong. 8 out of 10 times he has been this season.
CASH: 6 – Lost concentration for the equalizer but other than that, a solid game.
RIBIERO: 7 – Thought he had a decent game.
WORRALL: 7 – Again lack of concentration in a big moment. Blotted a good performance.
FIGUIERIDO: 7 – No nonsense and was his usual self.
SILVA: 6 – Scored a great goal but needs to be more consistent. He can be huge for us in the remaining games.
YATES: 6 – Competed well but just couldn’t get the rub of the green for his efforts.
WATSON: 7 – MAN OF THE MATCH – Solid game from Ben in the heart of the midfield.
AMEOBI: 7 – Was a threat and linked the play up well further up the pitch. A constant menace to Birmingham’s backline.
LOLLEY: 7 – Full of endeavour and got another assist.
GRABBAN: 6 – Plenty of effort but wasn’t his day in front of goal. I can’t think of too many other games where he has had so many chances. It is what it is. He’ll be back.
SEMEDO: 6 – Did ok when he came on.
DIAKHABY: 6 – Looked a threat.
WALKER: 6 – Should’ve done better with headed chance but showed glimpses of what he can do.