Holt! I’m being taken for Granted!

I have a few concerns about Grant Holt now, and they started to crystalise whilst I was sitting watching the game against Yeading this afternoon in the FA Cup first round.  He seems somewhat a shadow of the bustling hardworking frontman who delighted so many of us at the start of the season.  Calderwood has endured criticism for leaving him out of the starting line up lately, but frankly, what I’ve seen of him lately the decision seems less confusing.

I  would start off by considering Grant Holt’s perspective – he was, as I noted, on a rich vein of form earlier in the season, and must have been thrilled to have stepped into the not inconsiderable boots of Nathan Tyson as our main goal outlet after Tys was injured on the opening day.  Indeed, even the Evening Post jumped on the Grant Holt defence case with this article that has no author credited – it reads like a Garry Birtles rant to me, full of high fallutin’ simplistic rhetoric, but nonetheless, it raises an interesting point.

Grant has been our most effective striker in the primary role a striker has, and that’s to score goals – Agogo, for all his endeavour has amassed only 3, two of them came today against non-League opponents, one of them a penalty.  I wouldn’t want to join the ranks of fans who seem to feel the need to make Neil Harris a whipping boy, but one goal in his entire Forest career doesn’t make pretty reading.  But of course, despite what the Evening Post or Mr Birtles might think, it isn’t the be all and end all for a striker to get goals, and if they help midfielders get on the scoresheet then this is good team play – not papering over the cracks.

So Grant has a fair shout to feel slightly aggrieved – and this is a deliberate choice of word, because in his recent substitute appearances he’s  look like that’s how he feels.  Whilst he scored against Brentford in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, he spent much of the game not looking particularly impressive, much as he did in the league game when he came on as a sub – the most notable thing is the disinterest, very unlike his early season performances – and a particularly unconvincing dive sticks in the mind also.

That brings me on to today’s game against Yeading –  the most noticeable things from him were complaining to the referee, desperately waving for the ball from his teammates and throwing his arms about theatrically when it wasn’t forthcoming – not the sign of a man who is at ease with his life.  Nathan Tyson returning to full fitness gradually can’t sit comfortably with him either, if he struggles to get in the team now, imagine the mountain to conquer in doing so with Tyson back in the line up.

I still like Grant, don’t get me wrong – I’m just pontificating about observations of him lately, and comments I’ve both heard and read from other Forest fans or so-called experts.  It’s certainly too simplistic to say “He’s our top scoring striker and he was great at the start of the season, therefore play him”, as we know only too well, strikers and all players are subject to form, and it can be gained or lost quite quickly, and for no apparent reason – look at David Johnson’s rollercoaster career of goodness to shitness as a player!

Calderwood publically assured his burgeoning strikeforce that he would be fair and give them all a chance, and indeed, rotate his squad accordingly.  Presumably this switch to a three pronged attack is partially mindful of the number of strikers we have, but in so doing he’s conerted Commons into a pseudo striker too, making the roster of players for that position longer still.  I think he’s not keeping Holt happy right now, which is obviously a concern – and certainly fuels rumours I’ve seen around various (unreliable) places that he’s out of favour in a more meaningful way with our manager.

That’ll Ding dang do for the Reds!

Nottingham Forest – 5
Yeading – 0

The magic of the FA Cup was in the air, and this was a remembrance day to remember for Forest. The minute silence was well observed, aside from a few buffoons still in the concourse presumably unaware of what was happening. Smoulderwood was resplendant in the technical area, with some shiny brown shoes, brown slacks and black jacket topped off with a poppy. The Yeading manager was a couple of spare tyres short of a Joe Kinnear costume. I’d returned to the warm embrace of the Main Stand to enjoy this game, unusually for me without company, so I entertained myself by making notes about the game – so this might be a longer report than normal!

Yeading lined up in traditional one to eleven shirts, which was nice to see – Forest lined up as they had against Brentford last week, aside from Gary Holt coming in to replace the suspended James Perch, and Vincent Fernandez replacing Bennett on the bench. The start of the game was scrappy, but soon Forest, kicking towards the Trent End, started to exert their superiority over our non league opponents – and it was Kris Commons who finally broke the deadlock with a delicious right-footed lob from the left into the top corner – get in! Radio Nottingham described it as a volley on the way home, if it was, then it was all the more impressive!

We didn’t have long to wait for another either, Agogo found Commons on the right, who promptly teed up the ball and despatched a curling left footed shot from a tight angle into the other corner. Shortly after this Sammy Clingan was left writhing on the floor after what could’ve been a stamp – certainly Harris’s reaction to the referee, and Sammy to the fourth official would suggest something happened. Yeading were attacking occasionally – although they managed to despatch two corners directly out of play. Arf!

Wes seemed to be finding the two powerful Yeading forwards particularly hard work, but whilst they worked hard didn’t look particularly dangerous. It wasn’t long before we’d scored again – this time Agogo shimmied past a defender and unleashed a powerful shot the keeper could only parry, Commons was onhand to poke his third goal home and assure himself of keeping the match ball – leaving us at half time, and looking very comfortable indeed. There was no half time entertainment at all, alas, as I might have actually paid attention for a change! We did discover the attendance was 7,703 – which wasn’t bad, there certainly weren’t many from Yeading.

Tyson and Lester came on at the start of the second half, for Cullip and Harris – both of whom have picked up slight knocks apparently, hopefully this was a precautionary move. Curtis switched to the back three, Commons to the left of midfield and Tyson and Lester slotted into the forward three. The first thing Jack did was sneak behind the Yeading keeper as he was kicking out, and incur the wrath of the ref – for a change he didn’t get booked! Shortly after Tyson appeared to be felled in the area, he was certainly angry about it (whether it was frustration or genuinely feeling wronged is hard to say).

However a minute later he was once again hewn down in the box, and after a brief hesitation the referee did indeed point to the spot. Tyson picked himself up to find that Agogo had very definite designs on taking the spot kick – which he did, and duly despatched emphatically into the bottom left hand corner of the goal, with the keeper going the right way. Following this Forest were looking incredibly hungry for more goals – particularly Tyson who genuinely looks like he’s never been injured!

The fifth goal came from a great ball down the right flank by Jack Lester for Southall to run onto, he stumbled and slipped as the cross went in, an amazing turn of speed wasn’t quite enough for Tyson to get on the end of it, but fortunately Junior Agogo was on hand to put the ball in at the back post. At this point the fans relaxed, it was quite amusing to hear the A Block attempt to get a Mexican wave going, when this wasn’t too forthcoming, everyone from Ebby to the Yeading fans to the Stewards were invited to “Start the wave.”

With around 25 minutes left Gary Holt was withdrawn for Grant Holt in a bid to put as many strikers on the pitch as possible, Jack withdrew to midfield which maintained the 3-4-3 formation, although when we attacked it started to look more like a 3-2-5! Yeading substituted their number 9 who had a tantrum at O’Driscoll, and Grant Holt had a thunderous effort deflected over off a defenders head, seemingly almost knocking out the defender in the process!

Grant Holt, again, appeared regularly unhappy with the referee – often having a good old moan at him, and similarly waved and shouted for the ball from teammates and visibly almost-tantrumed when it wasn’t forthcoming. Yeading were visibly tired now, and Forest were pretty much playing 3-2-5 full time with Southall and Clingan in the middle, and Commons, Jack, Tyson, Holt and Agogo up front – but the additional goals Forest were obviously desperate to get for a good tonking were not forthcoming, and full time arrived with applause from the Forest fans for both the victors, and the losers, who had put up a spirited fight.

All in all, a professional job done by Forest – credit to Yeading for their endeavour and effort, but they really never looked vaguely capable of troubling Forest – and well done also to the chap sitting near me who had a quid on Forest to win 5-0, and Commons to score first! Also well done to me, because as well as the pun in the headline, I also thought of this second one, which I’ll use to end with… Ding donged Forest on a high, in A Block fans are singing, Ding donged Commons is the guy, whose shooting proved most stinging!

Okay, okay, I won’t give up my day job!