It’s a funny old game sometimes. For 85 minutes yesterday afternoon at Oakwell, Forest had played as well as they have done all season in terms of overall performance. Chris Hughton’s side is steadily developing an identity with the football which I’m currently all for.
I’ve been craving a better style of play since Hughton arrived, having watched some real dour stuff under previous incumbents. Having witnessed months of Forest being almost incompetent in passing the ball with any real purpose, what I saw yesterday, at times, is a team that is looking to play with more vigour. I am certainly not going to knock that development.
Whilst nobody likes losing games of football, I generally felt like I’d been entertained yesterday and was one of the better £10 spent on ifollow in recent months. The usual outing to The City Ground or an away day regardless of the result, at the very least, brings with it some good company, a few beers and laughs But without the matchday experience, the football has to be enjoyable. In unprecedented times and being cooped up in the house all week, I don’t see much wrong in wanting to be entertained.
Despite the defeat, I thought there were plenty of positives. Picking up from where they left off against Wycombe, Forest looked a far more fluid outfit in the final third of the pitch. Hallelujah!
Joe Lolley and Anthony Knockaert on either side of the Forest attack looked menacing each time they had the ball and whilst both aren’t quite firing on all cylinders just yet, the former looked more like his old self yesterday with his forceful running. Lolley will consider himself very unlucky not to have gotten himself a goal or an assist with a sweetly struck first half volley that was well saved and a threaded through ball to Guerrero, that should have brought about the opener.
Anthony Knockaert has an obvious air of class about him with the ball at his feet. A sublime first-half backheel to get Cyrus Christie flying down the Forest right was a thing of beauty. Some of his deliveries deserved more and he’s another too that could have had an assist yesterday with a superbly whipped in cross that created the aforementioned chance for Joe Lolley.
As Juan Angel Guerrero’s more notable contributions were bad misses in front of goal, his link-up play once more was very good in holding the ball up and getting the side moving in the counter. Switching of the play was a really positive feature and with menacing wingers and full-backs, it was enjoyable to watch. As a Forest purist, this is what I like to see.
Lyle Taylor is swiftly becoming my current favourite player with another good performance up top. He didn’t stop chasing lost causes all afternoon and a switch of the play in the first half which led to Guerrero’s second golden opportunity reminded me very much of Nigel Clough back in his heyday at the club.
The inevitable meltdown on the #nffc Twitter feed soon ensued and it must have been a fairly hectic five minutes for the naysayers to find scapegoats in the performance. If Forest had won that game, we would have been purring about some of the teams play. Well, I was purring at times on the sofa yesterday and I’ll take that all day long at the moment. It’s given me a glimmer of hope.
If there was any criticism to be labelled at Chris Hughton, it would be that he failed to make changes in the last 15 minutes when it seemed that Forest didn’t quite have enough to win the game. A friend pointed out that Luke Freeman, on current form is performing no better than a certain record club signing and it’s difficult to figure out where his best position is at this time. Harry Arter made a good impact coming off the bench at Blackburn and at home to Rotherham with fresh impetus from central midfield and thought his introduction might have spurred Forest on to win the game.
Not that there was a lot wrong with Ryan Yates and Jack Colback’s performances at the base of the Forest midfield. Whilst the pairing isn’t the most dynamic and admit that I had my concerns before kick-off, with Yuri Ribeiro and Cyrus Christie bombing up the flanks at every given opportunity and Guerrero dropping into the hole from attack, their jobs yesterday were to provide a shield in a fairly attacking set up.
What followed from 85 minutes was incredibly disappointing on an afternoon that Forest had deserved more from. Goals win football matches and you couldn’t really begrudge Barnsley finally getting one after being very unlucky in hitting the crossbar three times previously. It was a hell of a strike from Callum Styles and a goal worthy of winning any game. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say that was a worldy.
The manner in which we conceded again moments afterwards was the biggest concern and it did taint the overall performance. To cave in like that was not something we’ve become overly accustomed to until recent times. The Stoke City capitulation continues to haunt.
With a tricky run of fixtures coming up, starting with Bournemouth on Tuesday evening, the challenge to get the season going has gone up a peg or three. With the amount of quality in the side, maybe this won’t be a bad thing as performance levels will have to be raised. There wasn’t a lot wrong with the display yesterday but things have got to come sooner rather than later if we’re serious about promotion.
What the manager said:
“We had good chances and there is always that balance, when you are setting up the team, to how offensive you want to be. Goals change games and if we put one of those chances away, it changes the game. They have to come out a little bit more, play a higher line and then the game changes.
“The longer the game goes when you are not taking those chances, you are putting pressure on yourselves and their goal decided the game. The first one was a great strike and that can happen.” – Chris Hughton
|Had his bar rattled on three occasions and had looked a far more confident goalkeeper than he has in recent months.|
|Was a threat going forwards all afternoon but defensively, I have my concerns.|
|Good to see Yuri back in and had a solid game for the majority but got easily done for the second goal.|
|Steady enough at the back but distribution wasn’t great at times.|
|Seems to have a mistake in him every game at the moment. Still recovering from last seasons alarming dip in form.|
|Thought he had a solid game in midfield.|
|Another who got about Barnsley’s midfield and deserved more from the game.|
|Miguel Angel GUERRERO||
|Missed chances but some encouraging link-up play.|
|More like his threatening old self with some direct wing play. Unlucky not to get a goal and an assist in the first half.|
|MAN OF THE MATCH. Worked tirelessly and might’ve had a goal.|
|Just lacked a bit of quality but starting to find his feet and looks like he wants to do well.|
|Nearly created a goal moments after coming on but faded when we needed him to make the difference.|