Nottingham Forest – 1
Burnley – 2
I can’t quite make my mind up about this afternoon; of course, having a few pints post-match isn’t necessarily going to lend clarity to my analysis, but I shall plod on regardless. Todays game was more like what we were used to last season, albeit with more talented opponents. But the tactic was similar, load men behind the ball and hit us on the break, and two excellently taken set-pieces were enough to give Burnley the spoils today at the City Ground.
For chunks of both halves, Forest looked comfortable knocking the ball around; just as a ‘robust’ (read: cynical) Burnley side looked comfortable knocking our players around; they had quickly clocked the referee was, frankly, pretty weak and therefore generally they would get away with it. Mind you, that worked both ways in the first half when Wes hauled over their striker and sat on him, not conceding so much as a free kick! So yes, the referee would certainly have a part to play.
Joe Heath came in at left back for the injured Bennett, with the usual remaining defensive unit in place. Moussi, Cohen and Perch held the middle with an attacking trio of Earnshaw, Tyson and Martin. The game was open and scrappy at the start, Forest moved forward well, but lacked the final ball until Cohen released Tyson with great throughball, it took the striker slightly wide and unfortunately he elected the blast rather than the place, and it ended up in row Z.
After a counter attack a soft freekick was awarded by the referee when Moussi made what appeared to be fairly limited contact with a Burnley player. It was played to Alexander who spannered it into the Trent End goal giving Smithy little or no chance to keep the chance out. Forest resorted to hoof ball for the remainder of the half, with Cohen manfully attempting to be the target man, needless to say, it didn’t really work very well.
We did have a chance at the death, Tyson rarely managed to get a cross in without being booted all over the place by one of the Burnley players, and Earnshaw was on hand to put it goalward, only to be confounded by the visiting keeper who appeared to to save the ball with his face! So half time, and I think it’s fair to say we were unlucky to be losing, but didn’t really deserve to be winning either – we’d been disjointed and inconsistent, whereas Burnley had been counter-attacking and well drilled.
The second half started with more purpose from Forest, Tyson appeared fired up – which is understandable given the total absence of protection he received from the referee. It was a foul on him that lead to our goal, Martin clipping a freekick into the box which a defender headed onto his own bar, with Earnie quickest to react in the box to convert the chance into his latest goal for the Reds from close range, putting us back on level terms and seemingly into the ascendancy in the game.
The excellent Cohen combined with the Moose shortly after, with Moussi forcing a corner from Jensen, although Smith had his own work to do at the other end, pulling a characteristically excellent reaction save out the bag to deny McCann a headed goal from close range. Then came the pivotal point in the match really, and it’s a tricky one to make a call on.
Wes Morgan slide to block Akinbiyi’s cross; the ball undoubtedly hit Morgan’s arm, there was no question of that from where I was sitting. However, I must confess some ignorance of the precise rules – because I didn’t think Wes deliberately handled it, he wasn’t facing the direction the ball was coming from, the ball struck his arm – I don’t think he moved his arm to block it. I’m not sure. I know if it were at the other end I would be screaming for a penalty though, so perhaps thems are indeed the breaks.
Alexander stepped up and predictably spanked the ball hard into the ‘net. It does seem that we’re not ‘getting the rub of the green’ as the radio commentators so love to say, I have no idea what this mythical green is, nor how we should go about getting the rub of it, but we’ve conceded a lot of goals this season that I would count as unlucky – including two arguably dodgy penalties (from this biased reporter’s standpoint of course!).
It could have been game over shortly after, with a cross right across the area, but thankfully no conversion from Caldwell. Smoulds sensed things weren’t going our way and took off both his fullbacks, putting on McCleary to take up residence on the right, and Andrew Cole to have his customary ten minute amble around the pitch and perhaps get a couple of touches on the ball. In the meantime, the earlier introduction of former Forest loanee Robbie Blake had been causing us problems, the veteran had given Chambers a torrid time – fortunately Perch was oft on hand to support his colleague.
The Moose had another ‘Sunderland moment’ with a godawful clearance that allowed Akinbiyi to have a chance which Smith was alive to deal with. As much as Ade Akinbiyi is a bit of a joke to football fans, he looked very effective today – and was oddly reminiscent of Tony Daley with his new hairstyle (for those of you old enough to remember the Aston Villa winger of the 80’s/90’s era. Robbie Blake, who received a disappointing number of boos from some Forest fans when taking corners, hit a shot from range just over.
The final chance for Forest came when McCleary crossed towards Tyson, who proceeded to collide with Jensen and need treatment – although he carried on. Five minutes of stoppage time were given (which seemed a lot, although Burnley weren’t shy about a spot of timewasting) but it did increasingly appear that five hours of stoppage time weren’t likely to be enough to get a goal, and so Burnley registered their first win of the season – as did the Sheep botherers in their late kick off, which puts us below them again, to cap off a rather disappointing afternoon on all fronts! We’re beneath the Sheep due to a dubious penalty (and indeed, dubious freekick), and their own dodgy hand-ball infested goal against the Blades!
Still, at least they might not sack Paul Jewell for a bit now. And at least now they can’t break a formidable run of league games without a win against us. Do we need to panic yet? I don’t think so, just yet – but it is a worry to see a home defeat in this fashion. With a tricky trip to Preston to contemplate and then the visit of Charlton to the City Ground, we could do with a couple of points, and if I’m absolutely honest, I’m not sure where we’re going to get them from!
A disappointing attendance, a disappointing (in some aspects) performance, and a disappointing propensity for the man behind me to keep calling Paul Smith useless. Sometimes I despair of the intelligence (or absence of) that some of our so-called supporters exhibit.