That’s why we’re staying down..

Nottingham Forest – 1
Bristol Rovers – 1

You could almost sense the moment when (contrary to a comment on the site earlier in the week) it occurred to Smoulds and the players that tonight was a chance to register three consecutive league wins this season – and it was then that we decided that we’d defend the hardly convincing looking 1-0 lead we’d amassed thanks to an excellent freekick from Lewis McGugan.  It’s infuriating.

When any modicum of pressure seems to be on, we wilt and make our opponents better, fill them with confidence until they inevitably triumph.  Or something.  That’s what it felt like tonight.  Tonight was a dangerous portent into the future – a sub 16,000 crowd, with a healthy away following for a tuesday night trek from the West Country, and scrapping for a point with a frankly poor opponent – who left the City Ground good value for a point.

The highlight of the evening was probably watching the knuckle-draggers from Bristol fighting with the police and stewards in the away end, as well as – of course – a rather special goal from Lewis.  The first half saw us with an unnecessarily tinkered-with formation, some kind of 4-3-3 widthless thing we’ve become accustomed to, despite looking decent in something approximating 4-4-2 in previous games.

In the first half we were relatively positive, our first chance fell to Chambers who connected without challenge to an excellent McGugan corner, with the Rovers ‘keeper equal to it to make the save.  Forest’s shaky defence gave Rovers their first chance, but it was simple for Smith to deal with – however, Rovers constantly exploited the left hand side of the pitch, with Chambers having a ‘mare defensively – looking, funnily enough, rather like a centreback playing at fullback.

Commons twice had decent efforts from range shortly after – the first from open play was well hit and curling, but not difficult for Phillips in the Rovers goal to save – and shortly after he had another go from a freekick after the once-again-lethargic Agogo was fouled – this was hit very well indeed and it was a cracking save by Phillips to concede a corner rather than a goal.

So when another freekick came up we felt we couldn’t expect another good strike – how wrong we were, as McGugan crashed the ball straight into the top corner from around 30 yards, silencing the knuckle-draggers below us who then proceeded to start squabbling with the police and stewards, which was somewhat distracting from the game.  The last chance of the half was an acrobatic volley by Commons after good work by McGugan, but it was never really on target – and was a difficult chance to take.

Half time came and Agogo – who had been limping slightly – was withdrawn for Garath McCleary, with Forest playing a kind of 4-5-1 formation, but still without wingers somehow.  Forest sat back, as is their wont, and we looked to have conceded the equaliser soon into the half, Chambers again was beaten by his man Haldane and after a scuffle Disley headed in, but from an offside position according to the linesman.

Rovers were starting to grow in confidence as Forest sat back and invited the pressure – although they struggled to create a great deal – Haldane could perhaps have done better with the next chance of the match which was a tame header straight at Smith.  The equaliser came just after the hour mark, a quickly taken freekick leaving Forest’s defence hopelessly unprepared as Elliott was on hand to loop a header into the goal.

They could’ve taken the lead soon after, Matt Lockwood gifting the ball to former Notts player David Pipe who teed up Andy Williams – who missed the target.  Forest did labour to get forward on occasions – particularly through McCleary who had a decent effort from range deflected wide, but looked pretty toothless going forward prompting chants of ‘Attack, attack, attack’ from the increasingly irate home crowd.

There were piecemeal chances for Ormerod, and Commons who did everything right ’til his shot in the closing moments, but Rovers held on against some pressure from the Reds in the closing stages to get a deserved points.  The home side had to content themselves to further boos from the home crowd and another missed chance to get an elusive three consecutive wins in the league.  Crowds of this magnitude probably won’t stand out as unusual next season if we fail to get promotion.

Unfortunately Smoulders didn’t deign to be available for interview before the radio stopped broadcasting sport for the evening, but it will be interesting to hear him explain what prompted his change in approach and personnel – with Commons available (and, to be fair, playing pretty well in spells) he could still have lined up in the same kind of formation that has worked for us in recent games, but alas, he has to piss about with it and change it.

Definitely a draw snatched from the jaws of victory, and it seemed to me that we had no idea how to go about correcting it – the game was pretty much summed up when, under no pressure at all, Kelvin Wilson – so often our Mr Consistent – couldn’t manage a 10 yard square pass to Matt Lockwood without conceding a throw-in.  All in all, a frustrating way to have spent an evening, which clearly a number of Reds fans could foresee and thus stayed away.

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Could we lose Ormerod?

Preston are apparently in the midst of a striker shortage – Watford have recalled Tamas Priskin, and Neil Mellor has picked up a hamstring injury leaving the Lancashire side with only two fit strikers ahead of their weekend home match against Barnsley.  PNE manager Alan Irvine has suggested a decision won’t be forthcoming until the end of the week, meaning Brett will be available to continue his impressive run in the side tonight against Bristol Rovers.

This would be bad news for us, Ormerod has brought very-welcome workrate and experience to our relatively young side – he’s impressed me a great deal in his relatively few games.  Having said that, the silver lining is that Will Hoskins is again back at the City Ground, it’s not clear how long it will be before he’s in contention for first team action, but with Tyson and Davies too knocking on the door to fitness, perhaps it’s not a disaster.

Either way, I would rather have Brett on board than not – so with a bit of luck we’ll be allowed to retain his services – he brings something different to our front line, so let’s with Mellor good luck with his recovery from injury, or hope that Preston are able to get in an emergency loan or something.  Otherwise we might have to recall Grant Holt from Blackpool!