The infamous Nottingham Bottlers gift Leicester the win…

Nottingham Forest – 2
Leicester City – 3

If games only lasted 82 minutes, then I’m convinced we’d be in the Premiership by now, but once again the bottlers extraordinaire struck again, turning a comfortable looking 2-1 lead into a 3-2 defeat in a matter of minutes.  And I think whilst there can be questions asked of the players, the blame has to lay squarely at the door of one man and one man alone, and it’s not the first time he’s done it either.

Smoulds has been under a lot of criticism lately, and I’ve tried not to be drawn on the debate too much – but I’m starting to creak on my fence and there’s only one likely side of it I’m likely to fall.  You see, tonight he so almost got things right – he played probably our strongest lineup, and whilst it wasn’t champagne football I thought we played well for the majority of the game – but then, near the end, he just could not resist the temptation to tinker with substitutions.  But more of that later.

The game started bizarrely.  When Paul Smith joined the ‘kick off party’ I assumed he was reporting something to the referee, perhaps a missile from the crowd or similar, but he wasn’t – it transpired that Leicester were going to let him dribble to the other goal and score Forest’s opener to make up for the fact we were winning in the previously abandoned fixture – a fantastically sporting gesture from Leicester, and very unexpected!  So we were one nil up after a mere 23 seconds of play!

Perhaps a hint of my red-sided biasedness will come through if I say I thought whilst the first half was scrappy in patches, I thought we were unlucky to go in level.  Forest looked lively going forward, but rather nervous at the back – and Leicester certainly looked a more challenging prospect than they did in the first meeting between the two sides.  Junior Agogo – man of the match for me – setup another chance after a blistering run on ten minutes, but his cross was put out for a corner.

A few minutes later Tyson released Agogo again, who did well to reach the ball and eventually rounded the ‘keeper, but from a tight angle his shot was blocked when perhaps an initial lay-back to Commons would’ve produced a goal.  He got the ball back and did get it back to Kris, but there were so many bodies between him and the goal it never looked like reaching the net, blocked by a Leicester defender without ever really looking particularly goalbound.

At the other end the De Vries brought a good save from Smith, conceding a corner.  Shortly after this came the equaliser, from my seat I thought Cohen timed a tackle from the side to perfection on DJ Campbell, but the referee thought otherwise and awarded the freekick.  Smith took an age in placing his wall, and it looked arse-about-tit to be frank, although Sheenan’s freekick probably would’ve gone in regardless, as he struck it very well to give what I felt was a fortunate equaliser to the Foxes.

Forest got back on the attack, a rare Lennon shot yielded a corner – Cohen took this and we thought Chambers had continued his goalscoring spree but Fulop pulled off an impressive save to give the Reds yet another corner.  The final action of the first half came in the form of a freekick, Leicester’s James Chambers scythed down his namesake giving us a freekick in a similar position to that Leicester scored from, but Cohen’s similarly struck effort was always going over.

So we were heartened at half time, Forest were creating chances if failing on properly punishing Leicester when they had the chance.  Whilst Leicester were up for the game and looked dangerous going forward, with our defence looking in clumsy mode, it was a comfortable – if cold, winter is truly on its way – wait until the second half was due to kick off.

Leicester came out the blocks quickly, and Kisnorbo should perhaps have done better with a free header in the box, which he put over.  De Vries was also proving a handful – often his wrestling matches with Wes Morgan completely ignored by the referee when in instances both players looked to be impeding the other – on this occasion he whipped in a cross towards Campbell, but Smith was alive to the danger and gathered it up.

Forest started to apply more pressure though, and looking more comfortable on the ball – with wave after wave of forward play that never quite penetrated the final third.  However, Forest were patient in building up from the back, and eventually a perfectly weighted ball from Kris Commons put Tyson clear of the defence and one-on-one with Fulop in the Leicester goal.  The striker made no mistake by placing his shot close and under Fulop and into the goal.

The fantastic thing to see, at this point, was that Forest did not sit on the lead at all – they continued to pressurise and had the Foxes on the ropes – the Leicester fans were quietened or pleading for Gerry (Taggart) to ‘sort it out’, as well as a fairly audible chant for former manager Martin Allen going up.  And this was, unfortunately, where the Smoulderwood ‘tinker factor’ was to start to come into play.  I’d joked moments before that this was the moment when Smoulders would be itching to chuck on a few defenders.

To be fair, he traded like for like, bringing on Perch to replace Lennon – who received an ovation not only from the Forest fans but also a good number of the travelling Leicester fans.  At the time I wasn’t unhappy with this too much – although frustrated that he was making changes when we were on top and looking relatively comfortable.  Perchy chucked himself about as he does, but never seems to have Lenny’s composure in being sensible with the ball – and gradually the play swung back in Leicester’s favour.

The second tinker came soon after, Holt being introduced for Tyson.  To be fair, Grant put himself about and won a flick and a tackle – but the balance was upset, Tys and Agogo had combined well throughout the game, playing much closer together than we’re used to, and frankly, I just didn’t see the need for fiddling with what was working well.  The remainder of the story is obvious from the scoreline – two minutes later Leicester had equalised, Forest had given away the ball deep in Leicester territory, and the Foxes broke quickly – it was Stearman who eventually kicked goalwards -Smith could only get a hand to it as it crept over the line.

Of course, the playoffs not such a distant memory, few of us were thinking “Oh well, extra time, then!” – and we were right not to, again Forest just seemed to sit back and invite Leicester onto them, the stuffing knocked out of them by the equaliser, and almost inevitably the late winner came when Clements was on hand to sidefoot past a diving Smith to the delirium of the travelling Leicester fans in the Bridgford End, all present to witness what they hoped would be the first win at the City Ground they’ve had for over 30 years.

And I suppose this game is a useful illustration, for me, that Smoulderwood has not learned painful lessons of the past.  It’s easy to say in hindsight that a substitution was poor – and in themselves, Grant and Perchy didn’t do much wrong individually – but the effect it had on the team was disruptive and unnecessary – so I’m pointing my finger at the manager for a cockup.  And the benefit of hindsight should have been provided to him by that game against Yeovil last season.

I think it’s fair to say that we had the better play – however, ignoring a goal that was graciously gifted to us – we only converted one chance – so we have to look at the players and say we need them to punish teams more, but we did do enough to win the game tonight, and I strongly feel that tinkering from the dugout did us absolutely no favours at all.  It’s true, individual irritations like Kris Commons attempt at timewasting from a corner was pisspoor and unnecessary, and indirectly lead to a Leicester goal, so really – on all counts – we only have ourselves to blame.

The positives are that we can hopefully put this bad result to bed at the weekend, rather than waiting months like after the playoffs, and that in spells we played some really good stuff.  As ever we need to be finishing off our chances, and we need to stop this bottling mentality that seems to creep in – and has done not just under Smoulderwood – when the clock starts to wind down.   From Leicester’s point of view, we can’t have many grumbles – although their chances were fewer, they took them – and we didn’t.

So it is them who get a lucrative trip to Aston Villa, and we can I suppose – to use that tired old cliche – concentrate on the league.  Megson has done himself a big favour in winning the Leicester fans over by delivering the win at the City Ground they so craved, and Smoulds has perhaps hammered another nail into the coffin of his tenure at the City Ground.  When I read reports from rumour mongers that his job is on the line, I must admit that more and more of me is starting to hope that might be true, as I’m starting to fear he just doesn’t quite have the acumen to deliver what we so desperately need this season.

Ho hum, I might have calmed down some in the morning.  But anyway, an interesting game – and we shouldn’t let the result cloud all of the positive aspects of the performance, because there were plenty – but the nature of pissing away our hard-earned lead in the game was pretty galling, it has to be said.  The final word again goes to the powers-that-be at Leicester for allowing us to retake the lead from the kickoff – a tremendously sporting gesture, and I suppose all the more sweeter now given that they were able to overcome the deficit and triumph on the night.

28 Responses

  1. First off – Thank you Leicester City for a truly sporting gesture. (Next time, though, please do it in the 89th minute, okay?) I have to say, I thought the best team one – enjoy your trip to Villa Park.

    So, 3-1 on the night then, plus the gift. I really thought we would hang on to the lead. We we’ren’t looking exactly devastating up front, but the earlier defensive wobbles you mentioned, nffc, had gone, and we could have played another hour without conceding. As soon as I saw the substitution, though, I had cold shivers down my spine. Let’s see – we sign a player renowned for his experience, to hold the lads together through the pressure points of games and to boss the midfield for us, and what does CC do? Takes him off and lets Leicester back into the game. Why? My grandmother would never have done that! And when I saw Grant coming on, I knew that was the end. After that it was inevitable.

    I argued recently that CC should not be put under pressure because of our poor start to the season, since many players have been injured. This was in many ways our best squad – look at the midfield! And there’s more to come. And to be honest, although the best team won, we weren’t that far behind, and plenty of second-best teams win football matches, in all divisions. But I agree with you, nffc, this panic-tinkering completely upset our rythm and balance tonight, as it has done on many a game. Think back to Bristol City at home early on in last season, and it was typical – striker and crucial midfielder off, two defenders on. We held on for the win, that day. Every game, I’m waiting for it – the negative substitution. He should learn from Denis Wise (who I can’t stand, btw) -go for the jugular when you need the points. If you fail, people will respect you trying. Today wasn’t negative, just pointless and disruptive. It cost us the game.

    I think I’ve been too lenient on him – it’s probably all that charm. Spot on analysis, nffc: we could have won, but didn’t because of Tinkerbell.

  2. Line 2 of my first para: “one” should read “won”. Line 2 of my second para: how many apostrophies in we’r’e”n’t’? Am I tired, or what?

  3. NFFC – Many thanks again for the excellent report. Living in the middle of nowhere, I dont get to many games these days and your reports provide far more insightful than any others on the net, including the evening post.

    You know I’m in agreement about the lack of tactical awareness. I’m still not over Yeovil!!! I have said before on here that CC is the type of manager that is far too concerned with keeping his senior pro’s happy and involved. His decision to bring on messrs Perch & Holt tonight was about keeping his players happy and nothing at all to do with tactics.

    Once again, Luke Chambers is a centre half. You can’t play all 4 of them so be brave and choose 2 for the team, leave 2 out and play a proper right full back like Perch or Maloney!

    Lets hope Mugson doesn’t come sniffing around our better players!

  4. NFFC good report on the game, however I have to disagree with laying the blame squarely at Calderwoods door. The players are to blame for the result, plain and simple. The modern game is all about pace and attacking at speed, this means that substitutes are part of this fast paced game. To be fair both substitutions were merited and I think ANY manager would have done likewise – Tyson had run his socks off and we needed someone just to hold the ball up for the last minutes of the game. As for Lennon he is 36 and has played every game so bringing on a young fresh pair of legs was sensible.

    The problem lies with the players inability to stay switched on, make correct decisions under pressure and to defend. Those two late goals were coming all game. We got caught out from our corner for one of them !
    Blaming Calderwood is the easy option, had he not made the substitutions and they had scored people would have a go at him for that – he can’t win. The players need to take responsibility for seeing games out.

  5. Yeah, I was thinking that Aylesbury – Megson may well be tempted to come in for Tyson but then, if he left with the dressing room so opposed to him, are any of our better players likely to want to play again for him.

    Looking at the bigger picture, Leicester were gracious with such sporting behavour which is few and far between these days (although the fans will be annoyed cause how can we hate them after that!). Therefore they got what they deserved. The cup (and dont we just keep saying this) is not the priority, the league is.

    But can Calderwood deliver? Like nffc my belief is erroding rapidly. His substitutions were questioned by Northampton fans and he contines to make bad choices. I didnt see the game but it sounds a repeat of Leeds in the last 10 minutes. So after 4 years of management he’s not learned. People learn from failure and Calderwood has yet to do that. Maybe a sacking will do him good in the long term.

    Looking at Sheffield Weds bad start with their chairmans finger very much on the trigger, do you think that just maybe we could end up swapping CC for Laws??

    Would anyone be happy if Laws returned?

  6. I’d be happy if Laws returned, or with Paul Sturrock for that matter. They do not have flawless records, but I doubt we would be an attractive proposition for anyone that has these days. Their records are, however, far better than Calderwood’s.

    The optimist in me still thinks that when Davies is fit we will begin to launch an assault up the league, but this is probably wishful thinking, as Calderwood has never managed to get Forest on a run of games when they have won deservedly by playing attacking football. If he gets us up it will be by winning matches during the course of this season in the same fashion we won the first 5 games at the beginning of last season i.e.., by scraping through by the skin of our teeth. In fact, if I actually thought that the other teams in this division were bad enough to let us play in this negative way and win more often than lose so that we got promoted I would be satisfied, equally, if I thought the players we had were suited to this negative brand of football I would actually think his style was a good idea. The point is, however, that Calderwood’s tactics are not proving successful, nor are the players he has assembled suited for this style of football, so I think we are very close to that time when the writing may be on the wall for him.

    If he is sacked, I have said before that Charlie McParland would be my choice. Kevin Keegan perhaps? At least it would be exciting to watch.

  7. I wouldn’t mind Russell Slade… although I’m not firmly calling for Smoulderwood’s head, increasingly I feel I wouldn’t exactly be sorry to wake up to discover he’d been dismissed… a shame really, as I allude to above, he almost got it right last night – hopefully he can learn (yet again!) and kick on.

    Paul – being the harmonious soul I am, I did lay some blame at the players door too – but I think losing a leader like Lennon cost us, because we looked like a rudderless entity on the field. Don’t get me wrong, I like Wes – but captain material he isn’t, yet he was the most obvious candidate for Lenny to hand over the armband too – that says it all for me. Old legs or no, we needed his experience right to the end last night, in my opinion it was a huge error to sub him. The Tyson/Grant change was less damaging, but equally unnecessary at that juncture in the game.

    But yes, shipping two goals like that at the death it would be foolish not to examine the players too!

  8. NFFC – I know you are harmonious and very balanced with your views. However these players are professionals, if they cannot cope with like for like substitutions and see out a game when they are leading 2-1, perhaps they are in the wrong job. Substitutions are a big part of the game, whether to save tired legs, waste time, tactical, shore things up etc. The players have to look at themselves, the blame lies with them for last night, not Calderwood.
    Now, I am not CCs biggest fan but he can’t be blamed for mistakes of the players. A change in manager will not help one bit if the players cannot stand up and be counted. They are making mistakes under pressure and this needs to be stamped out.

  9. Tyson could have lasted another 4 minutes, surely, Paul?

    Maybe when the Forest team “stopped playing”, which by all accounts they did, it was a gesture of the proportions to match Leicester’s at the start of the game.

    I, too, am still distressed about the end of last season and I am still not regretting passing up on my season ticket of 15 years. It is the same old story. I only wish someone could change things,

  10. We’ve got the damn players – why can’t we just ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK!!!

  11. Tyson may have lasted he may not ? but the substitutions were not to blame, neither was CC. The players, whoever they are, need to see out games, especially when they have had the better of the second half. The players got sloppy – the KC corner that led to the equaliser was a prime example. They need to, quoting Clive Woodward, start to Think Correctly Under Pressure.
    We were on balance the better team last night and there are a lot of positives we can take into Saturdays game.

  12. Paul,

    You sound like CC.

    “On another day we would have won”

    “We did everything but score”

    “We didn’t play to our potential today”

    “You haven’t seen the best of this team yet”

    etc

    We have been hearing this for quite some time now – more than just this season, and more than with the current players. It is becoming tiresome.

    Maybe there is no solution.

  13. yet again, yet again. Time to go CC. Fans are sick of this attitude of locking up shop, we demand football not appeasement!

  14. NFFC good report at last you can see the fact that the bloke can’t do it!!
    Your’e right he’s not learnt from last seasons mistakes re subs. BC never used subs unless he really had to.
    Change a side that is losing or drawing but do not change a side that is winning. The changes in themselves were relatively ‘like for like’ but they upset the sides rhythm.

    CALDERWOOD OUT NOW !!!!!

    That Megson bloke may be worth ago what do you think !!

  15. I don’t mean to sound like anyone and you only win by scoring more goals than the opposition. But I saw enough last night to take some positives from the game. We also have Lockwood and davies to come back.
    Also we didn’t ‘lock up shop’ we carried on playing attacking football and made costly mistakes, perhaps CC should have bought on a defender…………….

  16. Hang on – Leicester are a Championship side. They had Bruno N’Gotty on – he’s played for Milan, Marseille, Lyon, PSG. They’ve got players like DJ Campbell, and Matty Fryatt was on the bench who we desparately tried to sign. We only lost because of a lack of concentration in the last 3 mins….

    And we’re calling CC for this? The fact we outplayed them for the vast part of the game – a Championship side that have far better resources (Mandaric) and weight in the transfer market than us.

    Get a grip – we played well and were unlucky / stupid to let the game slip away. Lennon looked tired and Tyson was carrying a knock – why not bring them off. Or shall we just go on ruling the world with our hindsight?

  17. Well said Laney.

  18. When you keep playing well but keep losing, that’s usually a sign that something is wrong.

  19. we were unlucky to lose, simple as that.

    i thought we played well

  20. ….so we did play well then? Judging by some of the rubbish written here, you would have thought we had lost to Hucknall 5-0, not outplay for long periods a Championship side that frankly were made to look second best for the majority of the game.

    There was not one Forest player who played badly last night, and the reason we lost is not the manager but the fact our players are not clinical enough in front of goal. You see them practice before the start of each match and even then only get 50% of the shots on target. That just about sums it up and is the main reason we continue to struggle to get out of Division 1.

    Forest created chances galore last night, 15 opportunities according the Post. We only actually managed to score one proper goal out of 15 attempts. THAT is the real reason we lost.

    Having said all of that, I do think the impact substitutions have on a match are a good indicator for the quality of the manager. It is rare for Calderwood to be able to make a positive substitution and I do agree that we were under so little pressure at the time last night that both substitutions appeared unnecessary.

    However, as someone who now only goes to the home games, I must say that there is no comparison between the way we are playing now to how we were playing 12 months ago (even though we were somehow getting results this time last year). Both Leicester games and the Leeds match have shown real positives for the rest of the season. If we play like that against Gillingham, you would think we should win comfortably.

    It is too early to panic and whilst last night’s mirroring of the Yeovil capitulation is worrying, it is something I do believe the team will get over.

  21. Lo and behold, Tyson linked with loan move to Leicester. Didn’t see that one coming did we Kieran?! Let’s hope that Tyson is one of the dressing room that didn’t like Mugson!

    http://www.nottinghamforest-mad.co.uk/news/loadnews.asp?cid=TMNW&id=354076

  22. We were bloody unlucky last night. Individual errors cost us the game, together with a lack of clinical quality upfront.
    Smith, who has saved us so many times, misjudged the free-kick (which incidentally never was – we were turned down an identical free-kick moments earlier). And the second goal…once again it was left to Sammy to make a last ditch tackle in the left back position and the ball popped out to be snaffled by a Leicester player. The resultant shot was spilt by Smith. I know, I was sat right behind him, and he knew it too. Shame, because he has been our best player so far this season.

    I sort of understand the criticism of the substitutions, but as I recall nobody complained when the board was held up? And what the fuck was all the booing about at the end?? We were unlucky. We outplayed a Championship side for long spells in the game, particularly after the goal which was pleasing.

    I don’t like or really rate Calderwood, but for the sake of our Club I now think we need to keep him for the next few games at least, and build on some of the recent performances as his signings all come good.

  23. Sorry chaps, the nurse gave me the wrong pills.

    Calderwood out.

  24. a good report of the game, however i disagree with 2 points.
    1. Agogo man of the match, well he looks good once or twice during the game, but is far too slow witted, and cant seem to read the game at all. he is undoubtedly quick but is unable to react quick enough to situations. grant holt may be slower, but is far better at influencing a game and reading situations.
    2. calderwood – it seems harsh to blame him for two sensible substitutions , with a 36 year old who has played every league game and played on saturday, and tyson who ran his arse off and has only just got back from injury.
    the reason we lost this game is the loss of possession from the short corner! then leicester equalise from this loss of possession, and it just gave the hangover from THAT yeovil game another chance to rear its ugly head!
    I’m sure that forest will go up at the end of this season once evryone is fit and the hangover has wore off. I agree though it needs to wear off quick!
    Keep up the good work on the website!

  25. Re: Lennon and Tyson.

    Fair enough, Lennon is 36, poor old thing. But we fielded the strongest team we could, which means we were going for the win in the cup, over the game next Saturday. If the game’s so important then we need our midfield boss, even if he then needs a rest on Saturday. Replacing him ruined the balance, and let Leicester back in. Fact. If he absolutely had to be replaced, then why Perch? Is he a holding midfielder? Not so’s I’ve noticed.

    Tyson could have done 4 more minutes, surely? If not, why replace him with Holt who is always:
    a. offside
    b. fouling or diving
    c. moaning to the ref

    …when we had Emile Sinclair on the bench who is much fater than Holt, and could have occupied Leicester’s (tired) defenders, and made them stay back.

    I applaud the fact that the subs were more positive than usual, but the tactical nous is just way off the mark. It was positive on paper, but anyone could see that Perch is not a like-for-like replacemement for Lennon. So you therefore have to change the style of play, right? It would have actually made more sense to play 4-5-1 and close out the game, even though it’s more negative. What ifs don’t get us anywhere, however.

    Barrow Red and mattyboy: I may seem negative, but it is precisely because I thought we DID play well that I am so frustrated that we threw it away. The first game was ours for the taking, if it had finished, and last night I thought the team put in a good night’s work. I think Leicester shaded it on play/chances, but we weren’t far behind – very creditable given our relative positions, and the squad that the Foxes have. And we WERE winning, and could have held on.

    Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but as I said before, you could feel the doubts when Lennon went off, and it could only go downhill once Holt was on.

  26. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If Calderwood had not made the substitutions, and Leicester had scored due to a visibly tiring Lennon and a limping Tyson missing a tackle etc – he would have been slaughtered !
    The players need to cope with changes and see games out. The substitutions were the correct thing to do at the time – and the majority of managers would have done the same. Saying we were winning and could of held is a classic – how many time have we seen Forest concede late goals without substitutions !

  27. Paul,

    Which was the last game when we made no subs?

  28. Apologies Dave, that last sentence didn’t quite read how it sounded in my head ! What I meant was that Forest have a tendancy to concede late goals which has been prevelent for the last few seasons and that cannot be always down to substitutions. The late goals we conceded on Tuesday night had nothing (IMO) to do with substitutions, it was mistakes by the players, they have to hold their hands up and accept responsibility.

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