Forest succumb to Gills smash and grab..

Gillingham – 3
Nottingham Forest – 0

A combination of wasteful finishing and some excellent goalkeeping from Simon Royce in the Gills goal meant that the sides went in on level terms at 0-0.  The second half started in Forest’s favour, but in a quick break forward a deflected shot meant Smith’s save was less than convincing, leaving a tap-in for a Gills forward.  Similarly, a clearance fell kindly to allow a strike from the edge of the area to be converted.

As Smoulderwood looked to his bench for opportunities to give Forest more opportunities, he would have been struck by the complete lack of them.  No striker on the bench, no Arron Davies, indeed – the change he did make to try to change the game midway through the second half was youngster Matt Thornhill.  There was talk earlier in the week of “easing” youngsters into the side – chucking them on to change a game somewhere like Priestfield when 2-0 down is not the answer.

The lineup was questionable anyway – four centrebacks lined up across the defence, it’s true that Chambers conversion to a rightback has been a good one, but Wilson early doors clearly forgot he was supposed to be playing leftback and drifted into his more customary centreback position, leaving us rather exposed on the left side.  Fortunately this mental slip didn’t last and he did eventually stick to his new position.

And don’t even get me started on this “four three three” formation that Smoulds and the radio describe.  It’s 4-5-1, and we all know it.  Grant, who sounded much more impactful today than he has been recently, is no right winger, and Commons won’t stay on the left anyway.  I realise that we’re short on strikers now that Tyson’s injured – but that is supposedly Grant’s position, and to have no striking option on the bench is criminal.

When you’re 2-0 down and your top scorer has a free header from four yards, which he puts wide, after excellent work from Commons – you know it’s not likely to go your way.  And perhaps arguably Smoulds would have a defence for his outwardly strange tactical selections had Sammy Clingan, Chris Cohen or Kelvin Wilson hit the target with decent chances in the first half, had Simon Royce not managed to make great saves from Clingan and Grant Holt.  One or two of those chances converted would have had us 1-0 up at half time.

Credit to the Gills, they have a decent record at home – but are struggling in the league, but they kept attacking, which inevitably leaves gaps at the back, and even when leading continued to lead the charge going forward.  They got a bit of luck in both goals, certainly – which we have lacked this afternoon – but it’s hard to hold much against them as we create chance after chance that is either spooned wide or well saved by the Gills goalkeeper.

The third goal also had a whiff of fortune about it – Kelvin Wilson putting a poor back header towards Smith, allowing the Gills substitute to nip and and put the game absolutely beyond doubt.  Not that there was a great deal of doubt anyway.  Cue the exodus from the away end, and who can blame the poor buggers who travelled down to Kent for this.  It’s difficult to pinpoint who to point the finger at – certainly Smoulds left no attacking options on the bench, but his initial selection created a myriad of chances that were not converted.

It has highlighted something that is not exactly new news, and that is that we need to get more striking options in.  Tyson shouldn’t be out for too long, but Agogo will soon be away to Africa for a few weeks after the Huddersfield game.  We also desperately need to convert our chances – this afternoon we had more than enough chances to have contested this game properly, certainly more than the home side – who managed to put away three of theirs.

The tiny bit of silver-lining visible on this very dark cloud is that we are already level with our best Christmas period in five years with 4 points, although given our traditional winter slump, this is hardly good news with things so tight at the top of the table.  Being subjected to ‘olay’ football by Gillingham, with all due respect, is not ideal preparation for what now is a MUST win game against Huddersfield for the start of 2008.

I rate the squad we have this season, with a couple of additions I definitely feel it is sufficient to deliver promotion – however, increasingly the more I think about it, the more I feel that Smoulders isn’t the man who will deliver it.  If he had the Chelsea squad I don’t think he’d deliver it, he’s clearly unable to field people in their proper position, he’s unable to motivate players and he doesn’t pick a bench that could – if needed – offer the necessary changes to turn a game back in our favour.

What’s even more infuriating – and I’m typing this whilst the game is still in play (I started at 2-0, which is why the third goal description looks like an afterthought!), I can picture now that Smoulders in his post-match interview will say something along the lines of “We can learn from this” – if he does, my radio might just find its way flying through my front window, because it’s the same old claptrap every time we end up with a disappointing result.

Ultimately today we have certainly had the chances – Agogo in particular has missed some absolute sitters, Cohen and Commons have overhit fairly simple throughballs, and when on the rare occasions we have hit the target we’ve found that Simon Royce has been equal to prevent them yielding goals for us.  It’s hard to blame the manager when so many chances have been created, but it certainly wasn’t like that on Boxing day, and hasn’t been in other games.

So oddly I find myself turning more against Smoulds, despite acknowledging that – aside from his negative bench selection – can’t really be blamed for the result today.  I am terrified what the January transfer window has in store for us – Mark Arthur, the perpetual truth-teller – was on the radio before the game saying something different to what he said just weeks ago, why do I get the sinking feeling that we’re going to let a key player depart and not replace them adequately?

Maybe I’m just in a grumpy mood – I’m certainly rambling because whilst Colin Fray is still manfully attempting to relay the events on the pitch to me via the radio, I’m not really paying attention as it just feels like game over.  And indeed, it now is game over.  Our last game of 2007 – and what a shit one, at least resultswise.  I’m not one to jump on anti-manager bandwagons, but I honestly cannot see Smoulderwood delivering us promotion – and if that’s the case, then surely he needs to go?

A happy new year to you all, let’s hope that we can have a better start to 2008.  I’m listening to the sides leaving the field, and the Forest fans are apparently applauding off the team – certainly effort and chances created seemed very much in the order we’d expect, but the finishing today let us down.  I would be very interested to hear how the fans who travelled feel the game went, as it can be quite misleading relying on the radio coverage.

Leeds losing at least keeps us in second.  God I’m grumpy!  Excuse my rubbish Photoshop effort, I thought it might cheer me up but it didn’t.  An odd afternoon, and perhaps the scoreline is the driver of this vitriol – as the performance, bizarrely, didn’t sound that bad.  Smoulds, to be fair, has said in his post-match comments that this game was a product of mistakes at both ends – he mentioned ‘we can look back’ without actually saying ‘we can learn from this.’  I bet he was thinking it, though.

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Tys is crocked again…

It’s no real shock, after limping off against Port Vale at the City Ground, it’s been confirmed after a scan that striker Nathan Tyson has torn his hamstring.  The small silver lining is the tear isn’t thought to be serious enough to keep him out for too long – but he will certainly miss the upcoming games against Gillingham tomorrow, and Huddersfield on new year’s day.

In many ways it’s par for the course with whippet-quick strikers like Nathan, the unnatural strain he must put on his leg muscles when accelerating so quickly must make him susceptible to injuries (although I’m no physio expert!).  As we’ve seen before, he’s a quick healer so hopefully he’ll be back in action sooner rather than later – for the conspiracists amongst you he’s ruled out by injury just as the transfer window opens – but the conspiracy doesn’t last long when he’s expected to return earlyish in January.

The other hamstring victim Julian Bennett has been confirmed as having a worse tear, which explains his extended absence from the side – which will continue in tomorrow’s game at Priestfield.  A pity given that Smoulds has – in his infinite wisdom – deigned that right-footed James Perch is a better bet at leftback than Matt Lockwood, who was at least fit enough to take a place on the substitutes bench.

Good news is that we have no further injury scares following the Boxing Day game at Oldham – although that’s hardly surprising as the reports from fans who crazily made the trip up there reported that there was hardly a lot of effort exerted by either side.  Perhaps a few too many sherries and turkey for both sides, or a few too many Quality Street chocolates for some of the players… let’s hope they’ve worked it off in time for the game against the Gills…