God Almighty! If conceding an injury time equalizer at Hillsborough felt bad enough a couple of weeks go, Forest took disappointment to a whole new level with two minutes of madness at Pride Park. Whereas against Sheffield Wednesday, a draw was possibly a fair result on reflection; Chris Martin’s 97th equalizer not only cost us a big two points in the automatic places – bragging rights went out of the window too. I doubt Forest will have it that easy again in terms of opposition in our promotion run in. For a good 80% of the game, Forest controlled proceedings at Pride Park with minimal fuss and the feeling of throwing a result away is one of the worst in football.
Like Michaelangelo’s David and Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Sabri Lamouchi’s tactical composition can be added to the list of unfinished masterpieces. Make no mistake about it, Forest were excellent yesterday as captain Ben Watson orchestrated the red sections to Sabri’s highy organised overture.
WIth Samba Sow coming into bolster a 3 man midfield, it was evident that Forest were going to do their best to stop Wayne Rooney; a player whose reputation has been more than well respected since starting life in The Championship. WIth a Forest man always in reaching distant of Rooney; Derby’s Max Bird, George Evans and Matt Clarke really didn’t know what to do when the teams talisman was not available to collect a pass. Instead, Derby continued with their possession game where Forest wanted them to play it; in their own half of the pitch. There was no identified man marker as such; just a zonal operating system where the responsibilty was passed on to the next man in Rooney’s quadrant.
The Forest’s players application slowed Derby’s rhythm right down and clearly Sabri hadn’t read the Sky Sports script. Rooney had been kicked off the podium as Ben Watson picked up the baton to get the Reds midfield playing in perfect synchronisation. The Composer of it all stood calmly on the touchline.
The opening 20 minutes was quite fascinating to watch from a purist’s view. Ok it wasn’t neessarily the nicest aspect of the modern game to be admiring but tactically, we were astute in reducing Derby’s threat which achieved maximum impact. Forest’s midfield were too smart for Rooney and Co. Both sides were cautious to begin with and Derby appeared a little surprised by Forest’s tactics; they couldn’t get Rooney on the ball or high enough up the pitch to pose Forest any sustained threat. Nuno Da Costa, Lewis Grabban and Joe Lolley were prepared to play a patient cat and mouse game; pursuing Derby’s back line when the opportunity arose.
Forest grew in confidence with the ball and were showing the TV audience that there is a bit more to the perceived negativity of Lamouchi. Joe Lolley proved just that on 12 minutes and punished Derby from fully 25 yards after being given time to turn and line up a shot. Any opposition affording him that are only ever going to achieve full amplification from Joe’s left foot. It might have been quieter in the grounds and in the pubs; but the sound of the ball hitting the net was reverbertaing around the East Midlands.
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) July 5, 2020
The masterplan was coming together. Derby were lacking in creativity despite some honest running from their talented youngster Louie Sibley. Both Derby full backs seemed subdued in getting higher up the pitch and I came to the conclusion that Rooney’s mobilty and lack of fitness was causing Derby a real headache. It was checkmate.
They certainly lacked a plan B. As one of the form teams in the League since January, Derby had been reduced to putting balls into the box which Joe Worall and Tobi Figuieredo were happy enough to deal with. Matty Cash and Yuri Ribeiro had been more than a match for their counterparts and the midfild perfromances of Ryan Yates and Samba Sow alongside Ben Watson, were equally as good. Given the importance of the game, that was right up there in terns off Watson’s performance. He had so often been the right man in the right place for 96 minutes; expertly reading the game to tidy up loose balls and used all of his experience to curtail Derby’s forward players.
The level of the individual performances made the final result even more frustrating. A second goal would have surpassed the August win at Fulham. We were very good all over the park.
To be ultra critical of Forest, it wasn’t the first of the bum notes that we’d played in the 2nd half of the game. Brice Samba had already been given a warning prior to the shambles of the goal we conceded. An overhit cross into the box led to him making the wrong call as he let the ball drift past him when it wouldve been easier to physically take contriol. As Derby kept the overhit cross in play; the resultant passage led to a scramble which relied on an element of good fortune to clear our lines. That moment should have registered with Samba: ‘no more of those Brice. And certainly not today’.
Forest responded well to that let off by preventing Derby from buiding up greater momentum; taking the game to them. We looked an increasing threat on the break.
Lamouchi made positive substituions in the form of Ameobi, Silva and Diakhaby and iIf truth be known, Derby should have been well out of Forest’s reach before we’d even got to injury time. Lewis Grabban had a couple of good chances that he really should have hit the target with and Silva was desperately unlucky with a curling shot that rattled the post.
Alex Mighten couldn’t quite compose himself enough in the final ten minutes when put through on goal by a beautiful pass from Silva. Young Mighten held his run to perfection to sping Derby’s offside trap but his first touch unnerved him; losnig his footing at the crucial moment and could only bundle his shot wide.
It did feel that this might come to back to bite Forest on the bum but the contest appeared to be finished when Derby sriker Martyn Waghorn got himself sent off; going well over the top in a challenge with Ryan Yates that left the Forest man sprawling on the floor. Yates dusted himself off and it really captured his afternoon, he’d been a true battler in the Forest midfield and was about to enjoy plenty of plaudits.
It was a matter of seeing the game from that point but once more, Forest dropped a clanger to cost them all three points. Whils the game looked finished, Forest presented Derby with a last chance on goal as Joe Worrall conceded a foolish free kick when his man was not posng any real problems in the Derby attack. Joe seemed to panic and pull young Whittaker back as he momentarily got the wronog side of him. Whether it was a bit of fatugue kicking in – I don’t know but it just seemed massively avoidable. Rooney took his chance to put some influence on the game having barely had much previous input. When the stakes get raised, the smallest mistakes can be capitalised upon.
That said, the Rooney free kick still had to be defended. It was Brice Samba’s money time moment (as Sabri adheres to) as Rooney’s ball into box was more hopeful than accurate. The ball was flighted enough to be comfortably saved and even easier to be punched away to safety. Inexplicably, Brice fluffed his lines when coming out of his goal to collect a fairly routine cross. The Forest keeper mimicked pegging his washing out as he could only get a flapping hand on the ball which left him in no mans land to recover. Chris Martin bundled in the resultant knock back into the six yard box and Derby were absolutely delighted. It was a shambles from a Forest perspective. Derby had equalized with almost the last kick of the game and Phillp Cocu couldnt beleive his luck on the touchline. To say Derby had shithoused the point would almost be too complimentary to them ; you have to do a number of the negative things well in a game to claim that status. The goal was born out of our own un-doing.
Samba and Worrall got their fair amount of stick on the social media channels and as per usual; some went too far with the abusive. I’n sure both players know the pitfalls of interacting with fans and unfortunately you have to take the rough with the smooth on social media. You live and die by the sword and this was a day to be hung drawn and quartered given the manner in which we’d gifted the game away. These lads have to learn from their mistakes beacuse not only will it harm the teams chances of success, there are also their own careers to consider also. I feel that Worrall and Samba are Premier League players in the waiting if they cut out the avoidable mistakes. Talent will only get you so far and undoubtedly the Forest pair have this in abundance. They simply have to get their decision making right and fortunately they are still young enough to learn and to improve. Saturday could me the making of them in terms of their recovery; it’s a mentality issue.
Individual errors are now defining our season; that’s us realstically out of the automatic chase. The pressure is still very much on with Fulham, Preston and Swansea all to come and that’s not to mention relegation threatened Barnsley and Stoke.
“We did a good job today all together, so it is difficult to take this goal. But that is life, we have to forget quickly because we have another game on Tuesday, a tough one as well against Fulham."@sambsow on yesterday's draw against Derby. #NFFC
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) July 5, 2020
Sabri couldn’t face the post match interview and the ‘reason’ given was that he’d lost his voice during the game. I suspect he was saving what was left of it for the changing room; he must have been absolutely fuming with taking just a point. Enough is enough in terms of the defensive mistakes. Another one will probably be the end of our season. The players are clearly listening to the manager so its hard to think of what more can he do? Individuals simply have to get a grip with bad habits.
Despite the injury time mishaps, Forest looked every ounce a promotin outfit on that showing and at the very least, I hoped somebody picked out Sabri’s notes from the bin and left it on the dressing room wall at Pride Park; Derby had been exposed tactically and I’m sure others will take note during their run-in.
Forest can choose to sulk and dwell on things or we can roll our sleeves up and get on with it. It’s good that we’ve another game coming up in quick succession to put this result and it’s disappointment behind us. In years gone by, you could see a Forest side collapsing under the pressure but I don’t sense that with this group or with Sabri; they’ll be at it again on Tuesday.
We are a nearly team for this moment but the good news is; we’ve got the right composer, conductor and instruments to get this sounding a lot better. Sabri can get a few more tunes out of this lot yet.
Come on you Reds.
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 8 – A very professional performance undone by amatuerish decision making.
SAMBA: 7 – Looked troubled at times in the little that he had to do in keeping the ball out. Distribution was as good as ever.
CASH: 8 – The boy has tuned into a man. Great display from right back.
RIBEIRO: 8 – Good from Yuri once more. Untroubled.
WORRALL: 8 – Big performance from Joe – such a shame for him.
FIGUEIREDO: 8 – Rock solid
WATSON: 9 – MAN OF THE MATCH – Arguaby his best performance in a Forest shirt.
YATES: 8 – Strong in the Forest midfield. His best game too.
SOW: 8 – Great to have him back in the side and doing his busy self.
LOLLEY: 8– Got the important first goal and produced a lovely nutmeg on Rooney in the 2nd half for a nice personal souvenir.
DA COSTA: 8 – A big effort from Nuno and worked tirelessly for the team. His best game in a Forest shirt.
GRABBAN: 7 – Worked so hard for the team but we needed him to be more clinical with chances he had.
SILVA: 7 – Great impact off the bench.
AMEOBI: 7– Looked a real threat and did everything we needed him to do in terms of game management.
MIGHTEN: 6 – Didn’t get too long but could have made a name for himself.
DIAKHABY: 7 – Positive running with the ball; his best showing in a Forest shirt.