Late Agogo leveller gets manager off death row..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Northampton Town – 2
 

A frustrating afternoon for Forest fans this afternoon, a first half which was completely dominated by the home side was followed by a collapse in form, class and effort to allow an improved performance from the visitors to not only equalise, but to take the lead – fortunately for the manager his substitution paid off and Agogo was able to salvage a less-than-impressive point with a last minute header.

The game started tentatively, with mainly Forest possession although Northampton had an early long range shot wide.  Forest gradually built up momentum and had consistent pressure on the Cobblers goal.  Tys turned and shot in the area, the shot being blocked by the arm of a defender – unfortunately the referee didn’t seem to notice this and waved play on.

Commons was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring after McGugan had found him, the winger managed to turn and when nothing looked on for him, unleash a right-footed shot which left Bunn (who we know from previous experience is a quality shotstopper) standing helpless as it rebounded from the crossbar.  The rebound just evaded Tyson in the area.

A goal was quick to follow.  James Perch hit an audacious cross-field pass to Commons, who did well to control it and keep it in play, and have the presence of mind to play the ball perfectly for the onrushing McGugan, who placed the ball powerfully past Bunn and into the net to give Forest the lead – a great finish and a great move.

Forest now played with confidence – Cohen played a great ball through to Tyson who was denied by a desperate last-minute lunge from Mark Hughes.  The ball ricocheted to Commons, who had a lot more time than he evidently realise, so perhaps the first-time left footed volley wasn’t the best choice – in this case the ball ended up with the quiet band of Northampton supporters.

The game opened up, but the visitors – whilst knocking the ball around well – didn’t look particularly threatening, whereas Forest certainly did.  A wicked corner hit in by McGugan nearly brought an own goal from Hubertz, whose near-post flicked header went right across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.  Perchy too should perhaps have hit the target when Cohen found him in the box.

Half time came, and we were left speculating how many goals we’d end up with – the Cobblers had offered very little up until this point, and Forest looked increasingly confident as the half went on.  I was also chatting to a fellow who had just bought a season ticket for his daughter – did you know that, in the absense of any kind of half-season ticket offer, that if you buy a season ticket now, it would cost you the same as if you’d bought it at the start of the season?  Outrageous!

The second half began quite ferociously, the first act of note was a cynical foul by Dolman on Tyson – to me it looked like the position of the defence meant with his pace Tys could’ve got one-on-one, but since the foul occurred in the Forest half I suspect that saved the defender a red card.  The Cobblers started to threaten and Hubertz brought a good save from Smith, who parried the ball away to a safe position.

An equaliser was not long in coming, though – Lockwood, who had a bit of ‘mare, gave the ball away allowing Ryan Gilligan to put in a decent cross which Hubertz was on hand to convert from close range.  Forest did break back, but McGugan’s long range effort deflected to give a corner, which was promptly wasted and Northampton were back on the offensive, looking a very different side to the first half.

Wilson put in a fantastic last ditch challenge in when Henderson was clean through, but the Cobblers were really stating their intent.  The lead for them came when Bowditch found Daniel Jones, who was able to outnumber Chambers as the left-winger was also forward, so he had little choice but to back off from him, with no covering player on hand to mark the extra man.  Jones unleashed an absolute thunderbolt unchallenged, which struck the post and rebounded in off Smith.

Now given it’s a shot to the near post you could argue Smith should’ve done better too, but the fact that the Cobblers were able to outnumber our fullbacks on both sides perhaps spoke of the lack of cover they were getting either from the wingers infront of them, or whoever was supposed to be playing the ‘holding’ role – the fact I don’t name a name there is indicative that, in fact, neither Perch nor McGugan really were doing this.

Commons was withdrawn for Agogo, to some odd reaction from the fans, I didn’t think this was a bad move.  The real annoyance was that Smoulds dictated Tyson should move to left wing and Agogo went upfront on his own.  The Cobblers were still threatening and Crowe almost got a goal from 30 yards, which was viciously dipping and Smith made an impressive save at the expense of a corner.

Grant “shop window” Holt came on for Cohen after this, at which point the Northampton side started to timewaste and defend in numbers, McGugan picked up a booking after he lunged in on Johnson having lost the ball to him moments before.  Grant mithered around the pitch a bit, but the only shop windows he’ll find himself in any time soon are charity shop ones.

Lennon was added for the increasingly nervous-looking Lockwood, and whilst he did have a poor game, I was disappointed to hear the reaction of some fans to this.  Lenny will never provide an attacking threat, but he did provide an outlet for the ball – something we badly missed in the second half, and I think Sammy Clingan would have provided.  Although the short freekick he took was pretty piss poor!

The goal came from the unlikely source of a corner, McGugan put in a decent delivery and Agogo headed into the goal at the near post to give – on balance – us a deserved point, despite us being largely atrocious in the second half, we did play some good stuff in the first.  The only other silver lining I can come up with is the fact that we would have lost this game last season.

I get the horrible feeling that this is the start of the traditional winter lull that we seem to have.  Hopefully the lads can prove me wrong, but we lost all shape, ability and desire in the second half – and were unable to cope with Northampton who, with all due respect, were not a particularly great side (despite the significant improvement in their second half performance).

The original headline was to be that Smoulds got out of jail, but I think he still is – I don’t know what he said to the players at half time, but whatever it was, it didn’t do the trick!  As for the brightspark who started “We stole your manager” at the Cobblers fans, that was silly wasn’t it?  From the message boards I checked out at the time of Smoulds’ appointment, despite him delivering promotion to them, most of ’em were happy to see him leave!

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Squad strengthening? I’ll believe it when I see it.

First it was Mark Arthur commenting in the press that we weren’t selling anyone, which immediately made me think “oh dear, we’re selling someone.”  This was, of course, in response to the articles produced by a bunch of lazy and bored journalists who thought “Hmm, Megson is at Bolton, and he used to manage Forest, who are their good players again? Let’s just say that he’s going to buy that Tyson fellow, oh, and Commons – they’re good, aren’t they?”

As you can tell from my tone, I wasn’t too worried about it – speculation and rumours are always rife in the lead up to the transfer windows, and indeed, throughout them.  But it’s always slightly worrying when Arthur feels the need to speak out, fortunately Smoulders has also made similar murmurings in the press over the last day or so.

He’s after goalkeeping cover, which makes sense – unlike some fans I rate Smith very highly, but our backup is very inexperienced – we don’t want any “Carson for England” type moments by throwing in youngsters before they’re ready – so some good quality backup should something happen to Smith is a sensible move, albeit in my opinion not as much of an emergency as other areas.

The Evening post also speaks of a midfielder, which seems odd to me – that’s an area we’re very well populated at the moment, but we do only have two players who I would consider wingers, and Commons isn’t really an out-and-out winger, so perhaps some depth on the wide areas of the pitch is good, and by wide I’m not talking about waistlines!

Most importantly he recognises our potential problems upfront, particularly since Grant Holt was apparently hoping for a Liverpool game to “put himself in the shop window” – unlucky there, Grant!  We definitely do need to add a striker to the ranks, and preferably an out-and-out goalscorer.  Of course, those of the quality we crave at our budget and level are marginally easier to find than rocking horse shit, but only just.

I’ve written recently of Forest – and particularly Smoulds – as being good at talking the talk, but not always so eloquent in walking the walk.  I can’t help thinking back to last January where the noises from Forest weren’t so certain of signings, but the rumours were – and we did go for players, and didn’t attain their services – whilst letting others go we perhaps shouldn’t have.

So I really do hope that both Smoulds and Arthur have learned from these experiences this time around, because if we come out of this transfer window without them making good on these suggestions of squad strengthening then it will undermine the not-exactly-famed-for-achieving-what-they-say-they-will reputation they both have already further still.

But anyway, it’s one o’clock and that means it’s almost time to start thinking about heading out to the car to take in another 90 minutes of, well, who knows what it will be?  Certainly Northampton will be keen to put one over on us given the Smoulderwood factor and the fact they didn’t manage it last season – so let’s hope the Reds are approaching this game with the right mindset after tuesday’s disappointment.