Ah, Hillsborough. It will always evoke such bittersweet memories for me; the disaster that is now synonymous with the name of the ground lingers long amongst Forest fans, forgotten as ‘the other side’ on that fateful day in Yorkshire. Counter that with a game on April Fools day when we annihilated the Owls by seven goals to one, and it could’ve been by more too boot. It is rather an enigmatic conundrum of a place to visit.
So, down to the brass tacks. We travelled away, we lost, we conceded what could be considered another one of those unlucky goals – this time a deflection from Ian Breckin’s heel rendered Smith helpless to prevent the ball ending up in the net. Now, I can buy this ‘bad luck’ stuff to a degree, but at some point you have to just put your hands up and say ‘hang on a minute, you can’t keep waiting for the rub of the green.’ (now what does that mean?!).
In much the same way a winning side will say that they make their own luck, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that we are making ours right now. Success breeds success, as we see so often – and like every action, it has an equal and opposite reaction, and unfortunate, the opposite of success right now clearly goes under the name of Nottingham Forest. The bottom line is that we have had the worst run of results in the Championship.
That’s an irrefutable fact. I have some sympathy with the ‘bad luck’ argument, with the ‘injuries’ argument, with the ‘acclimatising to a new level’ argument even; I think there is some degree of merit in all of them. Just as I don’t really see the value in the plethora of internet based abuse directed at all and sundry; as a natural fence-sitter, I suppose that’s where I am bound to find myself. I do think that if this dreadful run continues though, Smoulderwood’s days will be numbered.
Our squad is interesting; that the gaffer showed so much faith in the defence that arguably secured our promotion has proven a monumental gaffe, and one that many of us could have foretold. His additions in attacking positions look good, but nobody is entirely convinced they’re being deployed well tactically – why sign all these wingers, and then play a formation that doesn’t feature wingplay? Criticisms of him, I feel, are justified. Abuse is not. Would I sack him tonight? I’m not sure – who would I replace him with?
So, the match. Well. My favourite barometer of a performance my fellow fans; it’s generally rather easy – particularly away from the City Ground – to establish the level of satisfaction derived from the performance. This evening’s reaction come full time was appreciation, and applause. As a collective, a reasonable sample of Forest fans appeared to be satisfied, nay, pleased with the performance – so perhaps we can assume are still subscribing to the ‘bad luck’ theory.
The first half was a bit of a none-event; Forest held possession better than in recent games (not saying much), but once again struggled to fashion meaningful chances to threaten the Owls goal. Ex-Sheep Tudgay fell over and wanted a penalty, Tyson and Cole looked keen but were given little to work with, but ultimately there was very little end product from either side. The home side had a late chance when another ex-Sheep Deon Burton was just wide just before half time.
After half time Forest fashioned a chance on goal immediately from a freekick, Cohen was fouled outside the box, and took the freekick himself – forcing a fairly routine save from Grant in the Wednesday goal. A minute later a shot from 25 yards took a significant deflection, striking Breckin’s heel, giving Smith no opportunity to correct his positioning and leave the ball in the back of the net.
This spurred on the Reds; they pushed forward with more menace and numbers – unfortunately the first opportunity to strike back through Tyson was straight at the goalkeeper. New boy Joel Lynch came close with a header that was tipped over the bar, from the resulting corner Cole nearly opened his Forest account with a header – only to find that man Grant in the way again.
Tyson was held back by Beevers right on the edge of the box, unluckily (but probably correctly), D’Urso awarded a freekick rather than a penalty, which was duly wasted. Wednesday should’ve doubled their lead when McMahon was through on goal, but shot across both Smith and the goal, with Breckin doing enough to prevent Burton from doing any damage.
A double substitution with around 20 minutes remaining saw McCleary and Martin on for Chambers and Bennett, with McCleary immediately getting involved in the action by crossing to Thornhill – who couldn’t quite hit the target having done enough to beat the ‘keeper. Forest kept the pressure up, a Cohen corner landing with Andrew Cole, but the veteran couldn’t convert the chance under pressure from the defence.
The home side did look potentially dangerous on the break, and Smith had his customary cracking-save-having-not-had-much-to-do that is becoming somewhat a feature of the season; this time conceding a corner from an O’Connor effort. Shortly after he was again called into action to deny Deon Burton a goal.
However, if the headline writers are playing fair then Grant will be the one who features – who prevented Cole from getting Forest their first away point with a technically excellent turn and shot; unfortunately Grant pulled off a full length dive to the right to prevent the goal. Cole then hit the outside of the post in stoppage time, and that was full time – and another defeat.
So, times is bleak – and having had a quite scout to gauge the mood around the internet, people are rightly worried. It’s true the season is still young, but equally it’s true that we don’t seem to be getting results – and whilst there has been merit in many of our performances (excepting Wolves and Plymouth!), there have been alarming features too, that have cost us results. And this is a results business I’m afraid.
Certainly I wouldn’t be calling for Smoulds’ head just yet, however the powers that be must be starting to glance at the fixture list and be starting to think about how long they can realistically afford to let this run continue; because a return to League One will be the straw that breaks many Forest fan’s backs – and looking at the attendances we’re already registering, that doesn’t bode well at all.
Still; Reading beat Wolves at Molineux – and we drew with Reading, so surely we can’t be that bad? Or maybe that elusive lady called luck was on their side. Do you make your own luck? I think you do to an extent. Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace becomes rather important. They too find themselves at the wrong end of the table. It’s quite depressing to see that even a win might not lift us out of the bottom three.
Woe is me.
Filed under: Matches