Barnsley – 3
Nottingham Forest – 1
With Billy off sick but supposedly in charge of team selection it was maybe surprising to see something verging on the experimental in the Reds’ line-up – a 4-4-2 formation is perhaps not that revolutionary in aspect, but to make up the midfield of four central midfielders probably is. Cohen on the right wing, McGugan on the left.
They’re not wingers, are they? Just as we have spent many months with an obvious deficiency at left back aside from loan intervenees, it’s starting to worry me we are risking the same problem with proper wingers. Tys is a converted striker, Anderson seems to lack confidence, and McCleary is deemed not ready – as for left wingers, we don’t have any!
So the line-up looked like this, with Big Dele introduced on the strength of some promising appearances as a substitute as well as a recent reserve-outing against Sheffield Wednesday in which he notched a hat-trick.
Gunter Morgan Chambers Bertrand
Cohen McKenna Moussi McGugan
A bold move, maybe – with Earnshaw’s injury still causing a problem and Tyson succumbing to a knee injury we are with few options. Perhaps now our lack of options when stretched a little are starting to show themselves as a problem for progression. As noted in the preview, our unbeaten run was a flimsy boast at best – and now it’s over.
Another afternoon of possession and chances to score, the familiar story of Forest this season continued as we were unable to convert these to chances whilst our hosts gave us a lesson in how this can be achieved. A brief flicker of hope from Lewis McGugan netting was extinguished as the home side scored again when Wes was deployed as an emergency striker.
It was just four minutes on the clock when Barnsley first scored – all in all, not a great start. Trippier was given too much space on the wing and was able to pick out Hammill in the box, his effort didn’t convert but – as we seem to struggle with of late – the rebound fell for Doyle who was able to put the ball in from close range to give the the Tykes the lead.
Twelve minutes were on the clock by the time the Reds created a meaningful chance – Cohen did well to get into a crossing position from the right hand side and put a ball in towards Adebola who couldn’t quite beat Steele to the ball. The Reds began to dominate possession without creating much – a McGugan cross forced a corner, Barnsley came close from a freekick by Hammill just off target.
Just before the break Forest came agonisingly close to equalising, with Dexter Blackstock heading against the crossbar with the ‘keeper beaten. A long range effort from Wes perhaps flattered to deceive the travelling Reds fans, a late scramble from Steele aside it was always likely to be off-target meaning Forest went in at the break behind.
Barnsley started the second half strong – a quick break from ex-Derby thug Jay McEveley found Trippier whose effort really should’ve been on target – luckily for us it wasn’t. At the other end Lewis beat his man and smashed the ball across the face of goal but – as ever – we had nobody gambling on the far post so the chance went begging and gave Barnsley a goal kick.
The home side got their cushion after Blackstock had brought down Lovre in the box, former Forest striker Gray made no mistake from the spot – his kick easily evading Lee Camp’s dive to put the home side 2-0 up – perhaps a shade flattering, but you can’t really fault their ability to take their chances.
To give us more pace/threat Adebola and Moussi were withdrawn for McGoldrick and Anderson. McGoldrick almost got off to the perfect start but saw his shot hit the post, he then laid on the opportunity for McGugan to score – a decent cross from him finding our main goal threat who beat a couple of players before smashing the ball into the corner of the goal.
Camp was very alert to prevent an immediate peg-back from Barnsley – having to tackle to prevent a shooting chance before clearing to Wes, who played through toward McGoldrick whose volley was just wide. As Forest continued to pressure the home side, our last throw of the dice was to throw on Majewski for McKenna for the last eight minutes or so.
Bertrand wasted a good opportunity after McGugan had played him through but the fullback could only find the stand, eventually the desperation stakes saw us push Wes up front as an emergency striker in a 4-3-3 line-up – which enabled Barnsley to hit us on the break with a good ball from Hammill finding Butterfield who was able to slide the ball under Camp from an angle.
In stoppage time Dex brought a good save from Steele, but ultimately with a two-goal deficit to make up it was really all rather academic unfortunately. A disappointing trip to Barnsley, which seems to be becoming something of a habit – could Oakwell be a new bogey-ground? Possibly!
Certainly the game served really to remind us that without Earnie we really do lack a player who can finish off chances (McGugan mitigates a little for this – but doesn’t get that many chances – could he play as a striker?), and we lack the final ball – largely, I’m still convinced, because we lack proper wingers – or when we do play them insist on putting them on the wrong side.
Ho hum, a quick chance to make amends with Middlesbrough visiting on Tuesday. We’re down to 15th in the league, hopefully Leeds can give Strachan’s Celtic B Team a tough run around this evening in preparation for their visit to the City Ground in midweek.