If you make your own luck, we’re screwed!

Sheffield Wednesday – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

Ah, Hillsborough.  It will always evoke such bittersweet memories for me; the disaster that is now synonymous with the name of the ground lingers long amongst Forest fans, forgotten as ‘the other side’ on that fateful day in Yorkshire.  Counter that with a game on April Fools day when we annihilated the Owls by seven goals to one, and it could’ve been by more too boot.  It is rather an enigmatic conundrum of a place to visit.

So, down to the brass tacks.  We travelled away, we lost, we conceded what could be considered another one of those unlucky goals – this time a deflection from Ian Breckin’s heel rendered Smith helpless to prevent the ball ending up in the net.  Now, I can buy this ‘bad luck’ stuff to a degree, but at some point you have to just put your hands up and say ‘hang on a minute, you can’t keep waiting for the rub of the green.’ (now what does that mean?!). 

In much the same way a winning side will say that they make their own luck, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that we are making ours right now.  Success breeds success, as we see so often – and like every action, it has an equal and opposite reaction, and unfortunate, the opposite of success right now clearly goes under the name of Nottingham Forest.  The bottom line is that we have had the worst run of results in the Championship.

That’s an irrefutable fact.  I have some sympathy with the ‘bad luck’ argument, with the ‘injuries’ argument, with the ‘acclimatising to a new level’ argument even; I think there is some degree of merit in all of them.  Just as I don’t really see the value in the plethora of internet based abuse directed at all and sundry; as a natural fence-sitter, I suppose that’s where I am bound to find myself.  I do think that if this dreadful run continues though, Smoulderwood’s days will be numbered.

Our squad is interesting; that the gaffer showed so much faith in the defence that arguably secured our promotion has proven a monumental gaffe, and one that many of us could have foretold.  His additions in attacking positions look good, but nobody is entirely convinced they’re being deployed well tactically – why sign all these wingers, and then play a formation that doesn’t feature wingplay?  Criticisms of him, I feel, are justified.  Abuse is not.  Would I sack him tonight?  I’m not sure – who would I replace him with?

So, the match.  Well.  My favourite barometer of a performance my fellow fans; it’s generally rather easy – particularly away from the City Ground – to establish the level of satisfaction derived from the performance.  This evening’s reaction come full time was appreciation, and applause.  As a collective, a reasonable sample of Forest fans appeared to be satisfied, nay, pleased with the performance – so perhaps we can assume are still subscribing to the ‘bad luck’ theory.

The first half was a bit of a none-event; Forest held possession better than in recent games (not saying much), but once again struggled to fashion meaningful chances to threaten the Owls goal.  Ex-Sheep Tudgay fell over and wanted a penalty, Tyson and Cole looked keen but were given little to work with, but ultimately there was very little end product from either side.  The home side had a late chance when another ex-Sheep Deon Burton was just wide just before half time.

After half time Forest fashioned a chance on goal immediately from a freekick, Cohen was fouled outside the box, and took the freekick himself – forcing a fairly routine save from Grant in the Wednesday goal.  A minute later a shot from 25 yards took a significant deflection, striking Breckin’s heel, giving Smith no opportunity to correct his positioning and leave the ball in the back of the net.

This spurred on the Reds; they pushed forward with more menace and numbers – unfortunately the first opportunity to strike back through Tyson was straight at the goalkeeper.  New boy Joel Lynch came close with a header that was tipped over the bar, from the resulting corner Cole nearly opened his Forest account with a header – only to find that man Grant in the way again.

Tyson was held back by Beevers right on the edge of the box, unluckily (but probably correctly), D’Urso awarded a freekick rather than a penalty, which was duly wasted.  Wednesday should’ve doubled their lead when McMahon was through on goal, but shot across both Smith and the goal, with Breckin doing enough to prevent Burton from doing any damage.

A double substitution with around 20 minutes remaining saw McCleary and Martin on for Chambers and Bennett, with McCleary immediately getting involved in the action by crossing to Thornhill – who couldn’t quite hit the target having done enough to beat the ‘keeper.  Forest kept the pressure up, a Cohen corner landing with Andrew Cole, but the veteran couldn’t convert the chance under pressure from the defence.

The home side did look potentially dangerous on the break, and Smith had his customary cracking-save-having-not-had-much-to-do that is becoming somewhat a feature of the season; this time conceding a corner from an O’Connor effort.  Shortly after he was again called into action to deny Deon Burton a goal.

However, if the headline writers are playing fair then Grant will be the one who features – who prevented Cole from getting Forest their first away point with a technically excellent turn and shot; unfortunately Grant pulled off a full length dive to the right to prevent the goal.  Cole then hit the outside of the post in stoppage time, and that was full time – and another defeat.

So, times is bleak – and having had a quite scout to gauge the mood around the internet, people are rightly worried.  It’s true the season is still young, but equally it’s true that we don’t seem to be getting results – and whilst there has been merit in many of our performances (excepting Wolves and Plymouth!), there have been alarming features too, that have cost us results.  And this is a results business I’m afraid.

Certainly I wouldn’t be calling for Smoulds’ head just yet, however the powers that be must be starting to glance at the fixture list and be starting to think about how long they can realistically afford to let this run continue; because a return to League One will be the straw that breaks many Forest fan’s backs – and looking at the attendances we’re already registering, that doesn’t bode well at all.

Still; Reading beat Wolves at Molineux – and we drew with Reading, so surely we can’t be that bad?  Or maybe that elusive lady called luck was on their side.  Do you make your own luck?  I think you do to an extent.  Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace becomes rather important.  They too find themselves at the wrong end of the table.  It’s quite depressing to see that even a win might not lift us out of the bottom three.

Woe is me.

An audience with Garry Birtles and Kenny Burns..

Click for full size!

Click for full size!

How about an opportunity to forget all our present day worries on the pitch and revel in a spot of reminiscing about when times couldn’t get any better?  Well you can do just that on 13th October by popping down to The Approach on Friar Lane in Nottingham, and basking in the reflected glory of European Cup winners Garry Birtles and Kenny Burns.

Both former players provide fairly regular comment upon the fortunes of the Reds in the local paper, however I’m assured by the organisers of the event that there will be even fewer punches pulled than in their respective columns for this evening of questions hosted by Darren Fletcher.  It certainly promises to be an interesting evening given the typical outspokenness of the two people in question.

You can click on the flyer to get all the details – but in a nutshell it’s Monday 13th October, the doors open at 7:00pm, tickets are mere £10 (or for £29.50 you can opt for a three course meal); and best of all the night is supporting the Help for Heroes charity, who do amazing work in supporting wounded members of the armed forces.  So you can not only have a great night for a decent fee, but you can feel good about supporting a great charity as well.

I’ve had the pleasure of a few nights like this down at the Approach now, and they never fail to deliver – so I would recommend highly popping down and checking it out.

Forest prop up the Championship…

Plymouth Argyle – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

Plymouth without a home win so far this campaign, Forest without a win on their travels – that less high profile physics conundrum of what happens when two immovable objects collide finished with a conclusion that was inevitable to all good cynically minded Forest fans.  We lost.  Again.  To a silly goal.  Again.  We are now bottom of the league, albeit still after only eight games into the league campaign, but nonetheless, it doesn’t make any happier reading regardless of the distance into the season.

The first half wasn’t particularly inspiring from either side; for Forest it was characterised by infuriatingly wasteful possession in defence and midfield alike.  Aside from an early chance put over the bar for the home side, neither goalkeeper had a great deal to do – Paul Smith was the first called into action to deal with a shot that deflected off Fallon after Guy Moussi was the latest culprit in the great Nottingham Forest ‘give the ball to Plymouth’ extravaganza that was unfolding on the Home Park pitch.

After half an hour or so Argyle started to come more into the game, crafting half-chances for Gallagher whilst Forest pumped the ball aimlessly forward for the lively-but-surely-frustrated Nathan Tyson, who manfully attempted to do the best he could with the (total lack of) service he was receiving from his team mates.  As it looked like a half time stalemate was approaching, Wes had one of those ‘headless chicken’ moments we’ve so far been largely spared this season.

He had what looked like a relatively straight forward clearance to make having taken the ball from Gallagher, but it ended up bizarrely straight into Fallon’s path and headed goalward having richocheted off the cumbersome striker’s leg.  Another bizarre goal, another unlucky goal?  Perhaps, but ultimately, as with all the others, it was another preventable goal – and whilst I have been fairly quick to cite bad luck in previous games, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that we create our own luck in this game.

Late and rare involvement from Andrew ‘Play me or I’ll leave’ Cole and Nathan Tyson almost created us a chance to bag an equaliser before half time, but a couple of solid defensive blocks put paid to that, and the Reds were forced in at the break a goal down with some kind of comeback required of them.  The omens weren’t good.

The second half saw a change in personnel; Smoulderwood continues his policy of a half time withdrawal of players who’ve been booked – this time Perchy was victim, being replaced by McCleary to hopefully give the Reds more attacking potency.  This half started more brightly for Forest, bringing the first save of the game from Larrieu was none other than Andrew Cole; latching on to a through ball from midfield, the veteran striker shot from a tight angle, forcing the keeper to save with his legs.

More chances were being created, and at times Tyson and Cole worked well together to cause Plymouth some problems; not least when McCleary burst forward and played a pass to Cole who unfortunately couldn’t find the target, his shot agonisingly wide of the far post.  Cohen struck from range bringing another save from Larrieu; before the momentum was lost with Lee Martin hitting the deck and requiring treatment.

The home side almost capitalised immediately, Mackie turning Bennett inside out before cutting inside and thundering a shot off the top of the crossbar.  It became apparent that Martin wasn’t going to continue in the game, and Arron Davies was introduced; by now the home side were well in the ascendancy, calls for a penalty were unheeded when Mackie appeared to be making a meal of a challenge Benno put in on him as the ball came over aerially.  

Smithy pulled out his characteristically cracking save when a Plymouth substitute looked to be certain to double the home side’s lead.  Forest did have a late flourish, but alas Luke Chambers could only conspire to spanner the ball over from close range after a cracking cross by Cohen, and Larrieu was equal to a decent freekick from Cohen; and finally Cole was denied by some stout defending by the home side.

Once again we were faced with some fairly shambolic refereeing, Wes picking up a second booking for – well – sod all as far as I can tell.  In the aftermath both Cole and Tyson appeared to also pick up bookings for dissent; which capped off a rather rubbish afternoon as is becoming characteristic of the Reds away from the City Ground (and indeed, at the City Ground in the last couple of games).  This run of results is starting to get quite concerning.

I’m not sure that calling for the managers head is the answer just yet; although I have done so in the past with Smoulds, admittedly.  With dodgy rumours of Allardyce waiting in the wings, sometimes the devil you know can be the better option – but we shall see, I certainly don’t expect the outcome of the Sheffield Wednesday game to be decisive for his future though, we’ve had seemingly more obvious moments in the past when a sacking was called for and it wasn’t forthcoming.  So let’s keep some perspective.

Farewell Jimmy; Ireland, and other updates..

There’s a few things been occurring that deserve comment over the last few days.

Firstly a belated wishing of sympathies to our neighbours Notts County, who are mourning the loss of their legendary manager Jimmy Sirrell, whose name now graces a stand in their ground.  Being of an age not quite old enough, I have no personal recollections of him, but from what I’ve gleaned since then it seems that football has lost a real character, and Nottingham can now only reminisce about the time we had probably two of the most highly regarded managers in the game working within the city.  Rest in peace, Jimmy.

Secondly, fresh out of left field, Forest have announced a friendly with Ireland – yes, Ireland – to be played on the 9th October.  I for one am a little peed off that the notice for this was so short, I quite fancy a jaunt over to the Emerald Isle to cheer on the Reds, but alas unfortunately these days this poor blogger requires more notice than a week and a bit to be planning jaunts on cheap flights.  It’s a great opportunity for a bit of a jolly for those of you who can make it, so enjoy it!  I was going to suggest drinking responsibly, but unless you earn an obscene amount it’s difficult to do anything other than that in Dublin, in my experience!

The other news of note which you may or may not have noticed is that the Left Lion’s ‘Left Brian‘ column has risen like a reluctant phoenix from the ashes of last season’s petering out; a combination of lack of reminders, and me being a forgetful sod meant that my column with Nottingham’s premiere media gorgon ended with a mid-season whimper rather than the end-of-season bang that it perhaps deserved.  Or perhaps it didn’t; either way, myself and the powers-that-be at Left Lion shall be endeavouring to keep it alive this time around!

The final exciting news as the Reds build up to visit Plymouth is that, whilst we have the short-term disappointment of Robert Earnshaw’s lack of availability for the game, the news that McGugan, Anderson and Garner are all stepping up training and expecting to feature in reserve action soon is really rather exciting indeed; given our recent misfortunes in converting possession and chances into goals, the news that some of our (hopefully) potent attacking options are on the way back to contention is timely indeed.

Oh, and I still refuse to believe the appointment of Joe Kinnear to the post of Newcastle United manager isn’t some sort of elaborate hoax…

You must be jokin’ ‘ere..

It’s not Forest news, but Gary Megson was today joined in the top flight by another pilloried former-Forest manager. Troubled Newcastle United have appointed Joe Kinnear as an “interim” successor to Kevin “the bottler” Keegan today; until the end of October.

Presumably Joe’s CV must have been a bit sketchy on his time at Forest latterly; either that or the Magpies are intent on pressing the self-destruct button in style! Apparently Alan Rogers and Andy Impey are on standby for a shock return to playing, Sunderland is “just another game” and Shay Given is in intensive training involving coffee cups.

Surely it can’t be an April Fools gag a few months early? A shockingly bad decision unless Kinnear has had a brain, personality and body transplant. God bless you Dennis Wise, I can only think this must be the work of the poisonous cross-eyed dwarf!

Forest defence gets Lynched..

Forest have signed a defender on loan, he’s a full back who is typically a centre half.  A left footed one, he broke into the Brighton team as a left back, and has recently refused to play for them according to the numerous rumours doing the rounds.  Joel Lynch, that’s his name – apologies for that omission, and he joins on a month’s loan; presumably he will ostensibly provide cover for Bennett given his return to first team contention at the weekend.

So it’s a full back, kind of – indeed, he’s lined up left, right and centre back so is flexible – which is always a bonus when signing to play for Smoulderwood; it will be interesting to see if he’s been signed with an intention to feature, or whether the loan is simply a mechanism to arrange a trial. 

That said, I have actually heard of Lynch before and understand him to be pretty highly rated (and still young at just under 21), and these Brighton fans seem to have the typical mix of bitterness and disappointment that’s common to us all when a player looks set to be plotting their escape from a club.  Interesting that there are comments there that we’ve been ‘sniffing around’ him since August; perhaps we are the cause of his original unsettlement down at the Seagulls.

So welcome on board Joel; certainly our defence is a big talking point at the moment – given our proclivity to leak goals left, right and centre at the moment – and since you have a track record of playing left, right and centre, let’s hope you can be the man to add some miserliness that we enjoyed last season.

Has Cole spat his dummy out?

I don’t generally hold much truck with stories that originate from The Sun, which I believe this one does – but it does make interesting reading.  Reports are circulating that Andy (Andrew) Cole is unhappy with his lack of prominence in the Forest team of late; which – depending on how these reports are phrased – could be a very good thing.  The way that it has been reported, and the ‘quotes’ which have been selected, make it scan more negatively.

So far I’ve been pretty unimpressed with Cole, his first start against Preston yielded a fairly limited contribution, as have his numerous substitute appearances.  I think it’s great that he doesn’t want to just sit on the bench and collect his wages, however, I do think he needs to earn his place in the side – and frankly, so long as the likes of Earnie, Tyson, Martin and McCleary are available, so far he hasn’t.  When Garner is fit he might yearn to even get that place on the bench.

I was pretty chuffed when we signed him; he’d done well at Burnley last season (as suggested by the warm reception he received from their fans during their recent visit to the City Ground), and is an undisputed great amongst modern strikers (albeit somewhat over the hill!).  Whilst it’s easy to make judgements on body language, Cole’s hasn’t been great – he barely involves himself in the pre-match warm up routines, and when he does appear on the pitch he looks disinterested beyond strutting around the gaff – not a player eager to prove his credentials for a starting place.

So, should he indeed be having a tantrum about his place on the bench – he should stop it; because frankly with a fully fit squad he’d be lucky to even be there.  I want to see him proving he’s worth a starting place.  Of course, this could be a bunch of selective quoting making him look bad; in which case he should continue his pursuit of fitness, and, well, prove he’s worth a starting place! I do still believe he could prove to have a lot to offer us; but so far he hasn’t shown it, and he needs to.

Poor finishing and abysmal refereeing, but we got a point!

Respect the referee?  Its hard to do that in the face of such ineptitude.

Respect the referee? In the case of Karl Evans, that is impossible I am afraid.

Nottingham Forest – 0
Charlton Athletic – 0

A frustrating afternoon; one it would be easy to take out on the yet another utter useless git of a referee, or on the incredibly cynical behaviour of the visiting players (and of course, the subsequent failure to deal with this from aforementioned referee), but ultimately the take-home from this should be that we really should have done better with the multitude of chances we created in this game against a Charlton side who rarely offered much going forward at all.

We had the first solid chance of the game, a corner headed by Guy Moussi was diverted late by Earnshaw – bringing a great save from Nicky Weaver to keep the ball from crossing the line.  Shortly after he was called upon again to block a Martin shot at his near post – although having gotten into a good position, Martin really should have been looking to square the ball to Earnshaw or Tyson, both of whom were lurking ominously in the area.  Shortly after this Martin wonderfully skinned a couple of Charlton defenders before shooting just wide.

After another break forward Cohen burst forward with the ball, rather than elect to slip a throughball to either Tyson or Earnshaw the midfielder rattled a shot from range which Weaver blocked but spilled; Earnshaw pounced on the rebound but the big keeper was equal to the follow-up, and the linesman had his flag up anyway (didn’t lok offside to me either!).  A freekick was won after Tyson was (not for the only time) fouled which was flicked on by Tyson to Perch, whose header was just over.

In an unusual show of correctness, the referee spotted that despite Kelv definitely bringing down Varney (having tried to be too clever and arse around with the ball instead of making the clearance), Wes was covering and therefore a yellow card was appropriate.  Smith had his first real activity after this, saving a powerful shot by Bouazza before pouncing on the loose ball.  Charlton did start to put on some pressure towards half time, but it came to nothing and we reached half time pretty pleased with how things were going.

The second half began rather sloppily; Chambers had been withdrawn for Thornhill, with Perch slotting in at right back and Thornhill taking his place in midfield.  The referee seemed determined to give Charlton a freekick every time the ball was within 10 yards of Cohen, and to ignore the constant kicks, shirt-pulling and niggles from the Charlton players, who – to a man – went to ground should a Forest player so much as fart near them.  Needless to say Mr K G Evans fell for it every time, because he was a buffoon of the highest order.

After little was happening aside from a Martin snapshot, the loan man was withdrawn for McCleary who was almost immediately involved in a break forward, he eventually fed the ball through to Tyson whose effort on goal wasn’t the most challenging thing Weaver had to deal with all afternoon; frustrating because Earnie was in the box too – Forest’s final ball or shot was generally pretty poor this afternoon, and it’s annoying because Charlton were easily there for the taking.

The hard-working Earnshaw was withdrawn for the, well, not quite so hard working Andrew Cole, who in fairness was very nearly in the right place at the right time to open his Forest account.  Tyson did well to escape the attentions of the defenders who’d been kicking him around all game, and whilst he was forced wide he dug a decent cross out which evaded Weaver, unfortunately it was too high for Cole to connect and eventually ended up in a safe position.

Probably the best chance we wasted was to follow though, McCleary burst down the left and into the box, finding Thornhill inside the area who played the ball across to the far side of the goal with the strikers all running in – he looked to have done everything right, but nobody could quite get the decisive touch to give Forest a certain, and deserved (on balance of play, certainly not on finishing!) goal to get a much-needed win.

The referee rarely made a blunder in our favour, when Wilson clearly hacked a Charlton player and should have picked up his second booking; amazingly he was allowed to carry on.  However, unfortunately Thornhill wasn’t to be so fortunate.  He was booked earlier in the game for absolutely no reason at all – he’d basically won a header, the Charlton player – as all of them had all game – made a meal of it, he was booked.  The second booking was for a late challenge, although the ball had clearly I thought crossed the line for a throw-in.  

Fired up now, Forest continued to press, and after some great work down the left Tyson worked himself into a great position, but could only dredge up enough energy to fire tamely at Weaver.  Charlton did break though, and it was a tremendous reaction save from Smith that prevented Andy Gray from putting away what looked like a certain goal.  Interesting the swathes of fans who ironically cheered as he went for crosses, or took a rare opportunity to roll out a ball, were on their feet and applauding.  Two-faced bastards.

There was a lot of stoppage time, largely owing to the rolling around on the floor Pardew’s team of nancy-boys partook in throughout the game, but Forest were starting to tire and look frustrated; Ambrose had a late chance which Smith saved easily, and gradually the game petered out into full time, which was greeted to a cacophony of boos, all targeted at the referee, I might add – whose over-fussy and inept officiating may not have changed the result, but it hadn’t done much to improve the game either!

So, despite another shit referee and another set of cynical opponents brimming with gamesmanship, we were the architects of our own downfall this afternoon.  That can be viewed as a positive thing, because these are very much things within our power to change.  It was heartening to see Tys and Earnie working hard despite lack of service and lack of protection from the clown in black, as for Charlton, if that’s their way of playing I can see why they have to bus people from Kent over to try to fill a few seats at the Valley!

I think I might have over-estimated Charlton as contenders this season; as they certainly didn’t show that today – indeed, even when down to ten men Forest managed to keep them contained and break forward occasionally.  Today’s result ends three defeats in the league on the bounce, and that’s important, but a win would’ve been so much sweeter and I believe we created enough chances to have done that – so we must work to finish them off.  So we’re still in the drop-zone, but I’m still not too concerned about that just yet.

To see Pardew lashing out at the referee in the press is laughable, considering how that very referee allowed his despicable tactics and gamesmanship to carry on throughout the game.  Get back in your box you negative, cheating bastard.  You should be grateful you got a draw because you scantly deserved that.  Now kindly bugger thee off, you pointless, petty, blinkered man.

In memory of greatness..

Four years ago I was on my holidays, when my mobile phone went ballistic with the upsetting news of Brian Clough passing away.  As he’s a man who said himself that he wanted no profound epitaphs, I shan’t write at length here – but would encourage everybody to spare a thought for him as they wend their way to the City Ground, or otherwise.

If it weren’t for the amazing things that Mr Clough achieved at Trentside, I imagine I would not be writing this notw –  I probably would have succumbed to hunting glory along with many of my classmates, clad unfavourably in Liverpool shirts.  Thankfully when I was at that impressionable age, Forest actually weren’t a source of shame to follow – quite the opposite – and that bond which has been forged is a tough one to break – even through the David Platt years, and subsequent barrel-scraping leading to the worst spell in the clubs’ history!

I hope the club is to commemorate him appropriately, particularly in the light of the ill-thought out green jumper nonsense for the Sunderland cup game.  Rest in Peace, Sir Brian – let’s hope Forest can put on a show worthy of your memory this afternoon.

Video evidence…

Shoddy defending.  From both teams, admittedly!