Wats-going-on?

Forest track Prince Harry lookalike...

Forest track Prince Harry lookalike...

There seems to be reports suggesting we’ve signed Ben Watson; as far as I can ascertain, that’s not true – the People and now Sky Sports are reporting that ‘they understand’ we’ve had a bid accepted by Crystal Palace; which isn’t surprising.  It’s deadline day tomorrow, and they’ve made it clear already they want to cash in on the midfielder who has been holding out on a new contract with them.  That means they may well (and probably will) also accept the inevitable offer from QPR that will come in tonight or tomorrow.

Reports have intimated that the Watson would prefer to stay in the capital, and I would suggest that QPR are more likely to offer him bigger wages than us – making the competition a bit of a no brainer.  That said, as things stand there are no reports of the Hoops attempting to steal in and sign the player, so perhaps he’ll be left with no choice but either to stay and fester at Palace, or join the Reds for a fresh start – but then, do we really want to be a last resort?  Hmm, well, maybe.  I do rate Watson.

Of course, I have no idea at all how truthful such reports of his preferences are; compounded by a lack of clarity of whether or not the hinted-at reports of a bid accepted are anything more than just journalistic rumour-mongering and laziness; still, just 26 hours ’til the deadline as I type.  I’m not expecting any signings, so I’ll not be having any tantrums should none be forthcoming, particularly since Smoulds said as much.  I hope they surprise me and sign a right back, though.

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Forest mauled by the Wolves..

Wolverhampton Wanderers – 5
Nottingham Forest – 1

A scoreline that by no means flatters the hosts today, with two (rightly) disallowed goals for offside, decent saves by Paul Smith and a thunderous strike off the crossbar, as well as chances wide, the home side could easily have probably set a new record for a scoreline at this level of football.  This was a bloody good performance by Wolves, compounded by a particularly poor showing from Forest in the majority of areas of the pitch.

Call me crazy, but it was almost as though they had scouted Forest and spotted their weaknesses – the very things that I certainly prattle on about endlessly.  We have no width in midfield – I would have expected Smoulds to adjust his tactics to allow for the fact that Chambers having Jarvis to deal with, and Bennett with Kightly with no wide midfielder covering them.  He did tweak his tactics, but it was in a way that made the side seem more out of sorts with Tyson up front with Earnshaw, and Martin sometimes joining them.

Tiredness from the excesses of the Sunderland match were also a factor, I think – but none of these things are really suitable excuses for such an abject showing.  It’s far too early to panic, so the non-abusive reception the team got at the end of the game from the Reds fans should show them that we can accept off days – but not too many of them.  We’ve only played away twice, but have been disappointing in both fixtures – on the back of impressive performances at home – but this was beyond disappointing, it was a complete collapse.

I normally try to keep a few notes of things to write about, funnily enough, little of the match made it into them this time – instead I have documented the amusing Proclaimers-a-like Wolves fan to our left, the rather disappointing manufactured atmosphere at the start of the game.  Wolves fans make a fair bit of noise at home, so to see them dutifully clapping along to ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ like a bunch of automatons before the kick off was, to be honest, a pretty sad sight.  Similarly the goal music, I loathe goal music.

Part of the half time entertainment involved a couple of Honda cars driving around the perimeter of the pitch – perhaps that counts as entertainment in the Black Country; and thankfully Forest were spared a day of complete failure by the youngsters taking part in the half time challenge beating the local kids.  Small victories, eh?  The Wolves fans also chant their stand names at one another, which I found quite interesting – they seem to have a bit of good-natured banter between one another.

So yes, the game.  Amusingly, we had a great chance to start with – Tyson and Martin combined to give the loanee a chance to shoot, and he really should have given Hennessey more of a challenge.  From then it was all Wolves, initially playing direct to Iwelumo the home side played a combination of effective long-balls as well as decent wingplay that frequently left Forest at sixes and sevens.  The first goal came from Iwelumo setting up David Jones to curl the ball in from 20 yards, with very little Smith could do.  It was almost two as Iwelumo headed over, and again it looked like Chambers had put it into his own net – luckily it was just wide.

The second goal was unfortunate – Smith came out to punch, but it was a poor punch with no height, hitting what I thought was either Wes or the Moose on the head and ending up in the net.  The Wolves announcer gave it a home player, though.  Forest couldn’t keep the ball, nor win it back from from Wolves, and Kightly was increasingly menacing – unleashing a thunderbolt from 20 yards with nobody closing down, and striking the crossbar before reaching safety, another shot was blocked by Bennett.

Jarvis made a monkey out of Chambers for the umpteenth time and brought a good save from Smith, fortunately Ebanks-Blake was offside when he put in rebound.  The goal had to come though, and what a goal from Kightly – again, he wasn’t closed down at all – but couldn’t have hoped for a sweeter finish from around 25 yards into the top corner of the goal to give the home side a pretty much unassailable lead.  The fourth goal came when once again, Wolves attacked down the left through Jarvis who teed up Iwelumo to spanner the ball into the goal from close range.

Half time saw Smoulders make no changes at all, which was surprising – although with only three substitutions allowed, I suppose it did rather limit his options.  The second half began as we’d ended the first, with Wolves attacking and Iwelumo somehow missing.  Forest did come into the game, but you have to ask yourself how hard the home side were trying when they were already four goals to the good.  The goal, predictably, was an own goal – because if we were still playing now I don’t think we’d have scored ourselves!  A cross from Martin was flapped at by Hennessey and it ended up in the net off a Wolves defender.

However, for all that Forest showed they hadn’t learned anything – Kightly was again left free whilst Bennett, Breckin and Morgan rolled out the red carpet for him – as he strolled past the hapless Forest defence before deftly curling the ball beyond Smith from 18 yards.  Wilson, McCleary and Cole were introduced for Chambers, Perch and Tyson, but frankly, aside from a few runs from McCleary didn’t make a fat lot of difference.  To compound matters, Earnie went off injured leaving us with ten men.  Joy.

Contrary to what the official site says, there were plenty of Forest fans left in the ground at the end, and they gave the lads a muted but well meant (and ill-deserved!) round of applause.  I don’t think it’s panic stations just yet – but lessons need to be learned.  I’m not a fan of creating scapegoats – and I don’t blame the player as he’s doing what he’s asked – but it becomes spectacularly apparent that Luke Chambers, nice lad though he is, does not look capable of operating as a right back at this level.

We have a break now thanks to Internationals to regroup and welcome Burnley to the City Ground.  Hopefully we will see a marked improvement on this showing.

Men against boys

An outstanding performance from the home side combined powerfully with a particularly inept showing from us to give a 5-1 scoreline which – in all honesty – flattered us rather than Wolves.

I dearly hope it’s just an off day combined with tiredness from Wednesday’s exertions against Sunderland. And also that Smould’s decision to sub Chambers means he has spotted that he isn’t a right back.

Still, at least we lost to a good team – unlike Derby! More later, if I can be arsed!

A lairy local, one of many making the way out of Wolverhampton marginally more amusing

Just too good for us..

It’s not even half time, it’s four nil to Wolves, and it could have been more.

The taunts of “Championship, you’re having a laugh” might have some basis on this showing. Wolves are a good side, but we’ve made them look like world beaters today.

If I’d not left my coat on the coach I’d have been tempted to leave now! I can only imagine the second half surely can’t be worse, although with Chambers being turned inside out with every attack, this could end up a cricket score.

Very disappointing. Hopefully just one of those freakishly bad performances. We shall see, I suppose. A big let down for the big Forest following; amusing as the yamyam accent is, I tire of their taunts for which we have no answer.

An almost full Molineux witnesses their side batter the hapless Reds

The local leering yamyams, I almost wanted to see if it were true about their six-fingeredness by seeing Wolves score another...

The poor Forest fans, out in numbers, and ultimately humiliated.

Molineux musings..

Molineux is one of my favourite grounds to visit. With two “Brian Clough Stand-like” structures on either side of the pitch, although one is arced, and two big single-tier banks at each end, a proper ground.

It’s something akin to how the City Ground might have looked had our halcyon days stretched further into the eighties – although, of course, the setting for our ground is so much better! Wolves also smartly site the away fans on the side rather than in an end, on a shallow tier – whilst we shall make a racket, it won’t be as loud as it could be if we had an end!

It’s been around 15 years since I’ve been here, then I was celebrating a Collymore goal than ultimately was only sufficient to get us a draw. Wolves are a pretty hot prospect this season, with a lot of wing play I’m concerned about our fullbacks, so we need to live by the old adage of ‘the best form of defence is attack’ and hope Smithy continues his awesome form!

But for now, the sprayer is dampening the flanks, and I am being compelled by my companion to head to the concourse for a beer. It’s good to be in a proper ground, given the number of meccano rubbish that litters this league. Bizarrely the PA has just started playing ‘Tie me kangaroo down’ by Rolf Harris.

The Steve Bull stand, housing the Forest fans in the lower tier (eventually)

Billy Wright and Stan Cullis stands

Just another case of history re-writing itself..

Ferguson with the Champions League trophy - its just a European Cup in disguise!

Ferguson with the Champions League trophy - it's just a European Cup in disguise!

It was with some degree of frustration I read comments from Alex Ferguson compelling his Manchester United team to be the first team to retain the Champions League title.  I mean, of course, technically he is correct – since the competition, amusingly dubbed Champions despite allowing the top four of our league into it, has borne that name, nobody has achieved that.  However, a certain team with which readers might be familiar did, of course, win the European Cup and then retain it.

Indeed, we’re not the only ones either.  Real Madrid won the first five of them, Benfica the next two.  Internazionale won two on the bounce in 1964 and 1965, Ajax have a hattrick from 1971-1973, as do Bayern Munich immediately after.  Liverpool were prevented a hattrick, but still retained the title in both 1977 and 1978, with Nottingham Forest of course also laying claim to a retention, winning in 1979 and 1980.  Even at the end of the eighties Milan snagged the trophy in 1989 and 1990.

Just as domestic football seems to believe that the sport didn’t exist before the emergence of the Premier League, it seems a 1992-93 cut-off is also being applied to European football too; it’s true that our game has been irrevocably changed due to the changes in these competitions.  Indeed, I read an article today (ironically, by a Liverpool supporter – who I don’t often find an accord with!) which lamented these changes – and I agree with that.  But I would expect better of Ferguson to summarily deny the existence of the European Cup as a comparable entity to the Champions League.

For a start, you had to actually win your league to get in it (or win the competition itself, of course).  The new farce of a ‘Champions’ league means that some teams still have to go through a qualification process even if they do win their league.  It’s a brazen and crass example of what has gone so so wrong with the beautiful game.  So anyway, bugger off Ferguson and stop talking tripe (although thanks for extending Lee Martin’s loan to us! 😀 – I would consider a full retraction of any criticism if you were to let us keep him!).

You lucky lucky Mackems!

Nottingham Forest – 1
Sunderland – 2 (after extra time)

Normally going to a game gives you an advantage in summing up, but after a multitude of replays from different angles, I guess those of you that opted for the poisonous charms of Sky Sports might actually have a better idea of proceedings than I do having toughed it out at the City Ground this evening with less than 10,000 other people.  A disappointing showing.

I won’t labour on the whole game except to say I’m pleased as hell with the performance – I was expecting a full strength Sunderland side to pose many more questions than they did, and whilst Paul Smith made some absolutely exceptional saves to keep us in it (including in the build up to both goals, infuriatingly, when the defence just wasn’t quite up to clearing up for him).  If you had asked somebody before the game which ‘keeper had just cost £9m, not many would’ve picked Gordon, who clearly didn’t watch ‘The Championship’ on Sunday to see where Earnie might try to put a freekick!

Of course, I say Sunderland were lucky, but they certainly created the better opportunities – early doors they swept forward with menace only to spank the ball repeatedly into the Trent End, before Forest started to make inroads.  Half-chances falling to Earnshaw after good work by McCleary, and latterly Chambers – in a chance where an excellent block from Nosworthy prevented the Welshman from testing Craig Gordon in the Mackem goal.

Sunderland’s latest loan acquisition, Djibril Cisse, looked certain to have opened the scoring – unleashing an absolute thunderbolt across Paul Smith and off the post – and out to safety.  Shortly after Smith was called into action to tip a Murphy shot around the post.  Shortly after great build-up play from the pacey Cisse set up Murphy who conspired to miss the target from just six yards out.  Whitehead brought another save from Smith, and finally a powerful freekick from Cisse was just over.

In the second half Forest showed a bit more confidence after again, the visitors started on the offensive.  Thornhill – looking spectacularly like Scot Gemmill bizarrely – set up a chance for McCleary who blazed over.  Later Moussi again found Thornhill who so so so so nearly set up Earnshaw to bury it, but the striker couldn’t quite stretch for the ball.  Forest were awarded a freekick when Nosworthy clumsily brought down Earnie on the edge of the box, it was almost in the same place as the freekick we picked up against Watford, and Earnie followed Gordon’s cue by putting it into the gaping top corner he wasn’t covering – identically placed to his attempt against Watford – if Gordon had done his research he would’ve been anticipating that!

Sunderland did attack again, but Wes and Brecks were comfortable at the back dealing with it, and Forest still conspired to create chances going forward, Earnshaw putting an attempt over after good work from Thornhill again.  Reidy came close to burying a cross from Diouf but volleyed wide from close range.  McCleary was withdrawn for Tyson with around ten minutes remaining, but the away side were starting to threaten more and more.

The equaliser came and it was a real kick in the teeth, a Reid freeick lead to a shot from Miller which Smith did amazingly well to parry to safety, or so it should have been, but unfortunately the usually unflappable Moussi had a bit of a panic and swung at the ball when he had time to clear more calmly.  The ball was whipped back in and put into the net from close range, just beyond the despairing dive of Smith who must be getting royally fed up of making great saves only for his defence to not quite do their job!

The final minutes were scrappy, with the only real chance for the Reds a headed effort from Thornhill which went wide.  The four minutes of stoppage time were punctuated with the referee giving Sunderland a series of freekicks for no apparent reason, before blowing for full time, and thus extra time.  The Forest players looked visibly knackered as they shaped up to restart – more so than the Sunderland players who started extra time very much in the ascendancy.

Forest seemed to go to sleep as Leadbitter burst through clear on goal, Smithy somehow again pulled a great save out the bag, but it fell to yet another unmarked Sunderland player, David Healy, who was able to bury it from a similar distance to give the Mackems the lead for the first time in the game.  Bloody typical, eh?  Thornhill was withdrawn to give Andrew Cole the opportunity to stroll around the pitch and have a chat with his former team-mates, and after an uneventful remainder of extra time, Emile Sinclar was thrown on for Guy Moussi.

The only real shout we had of equalising was again from an Earnshaw setpiece, it looked far out to shoot but it looked to me that Gordon this time was looking for the shot – the striker cleverly chipped the ball into the box and Chambers managed to get a looping header onto it which beat the Scottish ‘keeper hands down, but agonising dropped onto the bar rather than just under it.  I think a draw would’ve been fair, despite the difference in chances and possession for the Premiership side.

So initially I was a bit gutted – four minutes away from going through, but then ultimately I expected us to be thoroughly outplayed and lose.  To see Wes and Brecks keep the likes of Cisse, Murphy, Diouf, Healy and Reidy quiet (or relatively quiet) was really heartening.  To see us still passing and moving at times was also really really good – and yes, in some ways we were unlucky – but frankly, I can deal with that.  Given that I so often hear idiots at the City Ground slagging them off with little or no provocation, a three way man-of-the-match award should go to Breckin, Perch and Smith – all three worked their socks off and had cracking games.

Breckin aerially was excellent – and that tackle he put in on Cisse was absolute perfection.  Perchy covered the back line admirably and put in some tremendously timed tackles (often down the right side of defence…), his distribution lacked occasionally, but a fine performance to cap off a great start of the season for him.  Paul Smith needs no explanation, some spectacularly good saves to keep us in it, much improved distribution, claiming crosses (or punching, when appropriate).  If I had to put my money on a player who will start to attract higher-level interest come January, I’d put it on Smithy.

So I remain a bit disappointed we couldn’t hold on, but hugely encouraged by the manner of the performance.  We need to cut out these defensive lapses that have cost us goals in our last three games now – but going forward things are starting to click.  Fewer clear-cut chances today against a better defence than previous games, but still opportunities.  Dare I say the future looks quite rosy?  Oh, I just did, didn’t I.  Well done lads, you did us proud – and we never win on Sky, anyway!