Will we ever win again?

McClearys first half thunderbolt wasnt enough to secure the win

McCleary's first half thunderbolt wasn't enough to secure the win

Nottingham Forest – 1
Ipswich Town – 1

Ready for a trip to the theatre of misery?” quipped my companion as we set off for the City Ground this evening.  Football does rather feel like a chore rather than a pleasure these days, it has to be said.  But duty is duty, and I took my place amongst the 19,000 plus crowd on a cold Tuesday night, the attendance bolstered somewhat by an impressive following from the murky depths of East Anglia on a school night.

So, the first news of the day was that Lee Camp was indeed – as expected – found in goal replacing Paul Smith.  Home debuts were also given to Fletcher and Anderson in midfield as Forest lined up in a four-four-two formation with Anderson on the right and McCleary on the left, with Cole and Tyson upfront.  A familiar back four consisting of Chambers, Morgan, Wilson and Bennett.  

It was a mere three minutes into the game that Forest had the ball in the net, although McCleary was rightly flagged offside as he slid the ball into the net at the back stick from close range.  He had another shot shortly after, which was wide from distance.  Ipswich winger Walters hit an absolute piledriver from miles out at an angle, but luckily for us it struck the underside of the bar and was eventually cleared with Camp nowhere near it.

Eventually we did score, rather shockingly.  Paul Anderson was played through with a lovely through ball by Andy ‘Andrew’ Cole, unfortunately his first touch took the ball too far away giving the visiting ‘keeper enough time to close down – but we did win a corner.  Cohen took this, and it was half cleared to McCleary who hit a powerful drive from 25 yards that nestled into the corner of the net, much to the shock of the home fans who didn’t quite realise how to react to our first goal in ages!

At the other end Camp had a couple of moments where he needed to be on his toes to come out to thwart the lively Walters who seemed to be bypassing our defence at will.  Indeed, it’s worth pointing out the defence, because they were pretty calamitous this evening, but none more so than Bennett, practically every time he touched the ball it was met with chants of ‘that’s why you’re going down!” by the Ipswich fans as another simple pass was put into touch etc.  I don’t think his withdrawal before half time for Lynch was wholly down to injury.

We had the ball in the net again, Nathan Tyson heading and the ball crossing the line despite a strong touch by the keeper.  I’d need to see a replay to be sure, but I am currently convinced that he wasn’t anywhere near offside as he ran from behind the defender to get his head on it.  Of course, what we see in the heat of the moment isn’t always accurate, so I’ll reserve judgement for now.

And so half time came with Forest enjoying a rare lead over opponents.  Immediately as the second half kicked off Lynch took a nasty knock, but played on – and still impressed more than Bennett managed whilst semi-conscious.  Ipswich were starting to knock the ball around more confidently though, which is always a worry, and were gradually starting to look like they might prove more dangerous than they had in the first half.

The breakthrough for the visitors came when Quinn broke down the left hand side of the penalty area, and naively Anderson stuck a foot out.  It was soft, but there was contact, and it was in the area – so whilst Quinn made a meal of it, I was in no real doubt that if you follow the laws of the game, then it’s a penalty kick.  Miller spanked it hard to the bottom right, Camp guessed the right way, but couldn’t reach it.  A disappointing way to lose the lead.

Doubly disappointing was the referee not giving a penalty when Tyson appeared to be clearly hauled back by McAuley at the other end; McAuley I think had been Town’s man of the match, although he benefitted from some very soft refereeing as he kicked and hacked at Tyson all night with little or no recompense from the referee.  He’s a big lad but he has some pace as well – probably best known for his time down the A46 at Leicester.

McGugan was introduced for Cole, and quickly tricked his way to a shooting chance, but his left footed drive, whilst well struck, was straight at Richard Wright in the Ipswich goal, the final real chance of the game came to Wes Morgan who planted a header firmly into the ground, and about two yards wide, from a great position after a corner.  Ultimately, it was the same old story for Forest – either a poor final ball, or a poor final shot.

Ipswich looked a bit like us in that regard – it’s true that their defence actually looked comfortable stroking the ball around in patient build-up play, unlike Wilson, Wes and Chambers who generally look like they’ve only just been introduced to a football at times.  I was impressed with Lynch though.  But back onto Ipswich, whilst they knocked the ball around well in defence and midfield, they too lacked the killer pass or finish.

This means it took a moment of naiveness from Anderson – who had a good game except for this – to give them a chance.  Which is always frustrating, because once again we’re the architects of our own downfall.  Whilst Camp had no saves of note to make, his collection of crosses was solid, and even as a huge fan of Paul Smith, I do admit his distribution was generally a cut above.  I would be interested to compare their abilities at shot-stopping, and see how fans react should his eagerness to get off his line backfires.

On to the fans – I thought it was pretty shameful that significant chunks of them were booing whilst the game was still going on.  To be honest, I’m not a fan of booing after a game but can understand it – but during the game?  Let’s face it, whilst it’s annoying, we’re on the back of four straight defeats, so in that context, perhaps a draw isn’t that bad?  Well, it is – I know – but stop being so bloody fickle – I was willing Forest to score, not just because we so desperately need a win, but because I wanted to see the transformation of the booing folks around me.

In other news, one of the trailists from Arsenal, James Dunne, has apparently signed for us – I’ve no idea whether that’s permanently, or a loan, or what!  The other two lads have returned to the Gunners.  And so there’s another three days to go, and then another trip to the theatre of misery to contemplate; it’s surely not good when trips to see your team play becomes a portent of doom for you, is it?

Clough in bronze, Clough on screen!

Brian Clough rarely escapes my thoughts, this week he’s rarely escaped both the local and national press.  Today in the Evening Post, for example, the forthcoming statue unveiling has been given a rather exciting prelude – that of Barbara Clough, widow of Brian, proclaiming Les Johnson’s effigy of Clough to be ‘just perfect‘, high praise indeed, from the person above all others whose opinion counts!  The full piece is available to read on the Evening Post website – and it certainly makes the countdown to the unveiling all the more nerve-tingling!

On the national press front, a Daily Mail reading nazi sympathiser (sic) alerted me to more Clough-related news which I hadn’t been aware of, in Charles Sale’s column.  This news is that ITV Sport are working on a major documentary about the Great Man.  The way Sale writes about it is that it is to be couched as a more realistic alternative to the movie adaptation of David Peace’s ‘The Damned United’; and will certainly prove more realistic given the reams of archive material ITV have of Clough, and is being suggested to be a celebration rather than a character assassination which harsher critics than I have levelled at Peace’s portrayal of Clough.

So that’s two Clough-related things to be looking forward to – certainly I anticipate them with a greater degree of excitement than I do tonight’s visit to the City Ground; although with both Smoulds and Magilton under pressure to deliver improvements, it could just be the jump-start we need to get our season back on track.  Gosh, that sounded almost optimistic!