Nottingham Forest – 0
AFC Bournemouth – 0
It’s amazing how quickly that wonderful feeling of preseason optimism can dissipate once the game kicks off, or perhaps it shouldn’t be. For me the first game of the season – particularly when at home – is an opportunity for the manager and players to ‘state their intention’ for the coming season. If this is indeed the case, I hope that Forest faltered somewhat during today’s performance.
After the Yeovil game Smoulders said he wanted to learn lessons from mistakes over last season, and frankly, there’s a few he’s yet to grasp. A makeshift midfield saw no fewer than three defense-minded players in Perch, Lennon and Maloney along with Clingan, and Commons in the ‘no-man’s land’ role he seems to prefer, yet seems hugely inefficient when he plays there.
The much maligned Dobie was a lone striker, and I thought he played really well – with little or no service, and even less support from the midfield. I was disappointed he was withdrawn when he was, quite fancying the idea of him linking up with another striker rather than the wayward Commons, who never seemed to be quite a midfielder or a striker throughout the first half.
Not many highlights spring to mind really. Wes was lucky to stay on the pitch after hauling a Bournemouth player to the ground (admittedly he wasn’t the last man – but to me it screamed professional foul). Lennon alone seemed to find time and space on the ball. Both wingers – Perch on the left and Maloney on the right – looked hopelessly out of depth, Commons didn’t pass on the rare occasions he did get the ball, Dobie worked really hard with little to work with, and Lockwood was often ‘the invisible man’ in space.
Sammy Clingan’s rasping shot off the post, Dobie’s kickups followed by a shot narrowly over were probably the only two really good chances we had in the first half, whereas Bournemouth did cause problems at the other end. On the whole, it was very reminiscent of last season – too many defender/defensive players on the pitch, too little movement off the ball, and too little supply or support for the frontmen, or frontman in the case of today. It didn’t help that the linesman was the most trigger-happy I’ve seen in a long time – I’m not convinced Dobie was offside at any point in the game, yet he was flagged around half a dozen times.
Smoulds tinkered with the tactics with half an hour left, bringing Maloney and Dobie off, putting Grant and Junior, both of whom looked horrendously unfit, upfront, and pushing Sammy onto the right, Perch in the middle and Commons supposedly on the left (although Grant seemed to spend more time there). The team had more balance, but Clingan had excelled in the middle, and now looked less comfortable, whilst Perchy did look a lot happier in the middle – at least before being kung-fu kicked by a Bournemouth player who remarkably stayed on the pitch.
Sammy struck the woodwork again, he had the ball drop at an awkward angle, so can be forgiven for effectively missing an open goal (there were defenders between him and the goal, though), as the referee seemed oblivious the challenges on the Bournemouth keeper. Commons came close with a freekick late on, and finally Bennett – on as a sub for Lockwood – charged through two challenges in the penalty area giving Agogo a chance to turn and shoot that was well saved.
Ultimately disappointing. I know we have injury concerns, but the insistence of the manager on playing so many square pegs in round holes left the side over-defensive, under-creative and looking very ill at ease for most of the game. Bournemouth were lively early on and keen to press, although they tired and turned to spoiling tactics later on. You can never judge a season on one game, but we need to buck our ideas up before we go to Swansea next week. A draw was a fair result, so let’s hope for some improvements and sharpish!
Speaking of needs for improvement – 13 minutes on the clock was when I heard the first booing from the crowd, I think that’s a definite area for improvement as well! The bright points were some good performances – Chambers, Wilson, Clingan and Dobie in particular stood out, but the dull points were the tactics, yet again. Let’s see players in their best positions please, Smoulders!
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