Everything but the goal..

Nottingham Forest – 0
Blackpool – 0

This afternoon was one of those frustrating afternoons.  Not because Forest were rubbish, well, not entirely, but because no matter what we did it seemed like we’d never ever score.  Even though Blackpool didn’t bother turning up, and we got to play some men in B&Q uniforms instead, we couldn’t win.  Whilst our opponents basically went for spoiling tactics, some of our promising attacks finished in a poor effort on goal or a decent save from man-of-the-match Paul Rachubka.  I imagine the visitors today will return to their comfort zone of directing customers to laminate flooring and rawl plugs.

The first half was the pick of the halves; the first chance fell to the visitors but it was easy for Camp to gather; our first decent chance was a fantastic ball by Thornhill through to Moloney who was motoring down the right flank, his early ball into the box looked perfect for Tyson to latch on to, unfortunately the striker put it wide.  Tys was looking lively though, winning a freekick and earning former Stag Alex Baptiste a fairly early booking.

After my lambasting of corners and freekicks, today was a very marked improvement – and this freekick found the head of Wes Morgan whose header looped onto the top of the bar, albeit covered all the way by their ‘keeper.  Morgan again came close after the ball fell for him from a tight angle, who volleyed powerfully from six yards – Rachubka did well to close the angle and to hold onto the ball to prevent any further danger.

The hapless Joel Lynch (I’m sorry to single him out, but he was an unmitigated disaster every time he touched the ball this afternoon!) was withdrawn with a dead leg for the return of Julian Bennett.  I was excited by this prospect, and then felt a little depressed at how desperate our situation has become.  Bennett was a late addition to the bench at the expense of Paul Smith, a fortunate decision there!  

Forest continued to press, I commented to my neighbour that it was the best game I’ve seen from Thornhill, he commented very aptly that he was playing against probably the worst central midfield we’ve seen for some time.  Blackpool were by and large awful – which makes it worrying we never got the breakthrough against them, I would say we were moderately less awful than them – but ultimately we share the points, so the margin can’t have been that great.  Tyson had another effort – this time on target – which was aved well by Rachubka.

The next chance fell to Garner who headed powerfully from close range forcing the ‘keeper into a smart save, diving to his left.  It was from a corner, too – we actually had a LOT of corners this afternoon, and only about three of them were rubbish, compared to the normal 90%!  It’s true that our attacking of the ball once it reached the box clearly left something to be desired, but I guess the lads haven’t had much practice of that for a while – so they need to get used to the idea first!

Next probably came the chance of the game, Cohen delivered a great freekick into the box, picking out James Perch who conspired to miss the target completely from only six yards.  He’ll be kicking himself for that, another below-par performance from Perchy from a passing and attacking point of view – as ever he did good work tracking back and covering his defensive colleagues; which I imagine nobody will have noticed.

Tyson had another chance just before the break as the ball fell to him after a defensive mix-up, unfortunately he was rushed into an early shot which hit Rachubka giving Forest yet another corner.  My neighbour joked that Blackpool had worked out that the ultimate defensive tactic against Forest was to keep giving us corners, which was a little cynical, but amusing nonetheless.  The general mood at half time was a mixture of resignation that we’d never score, with a tinge of that optimism that football fans can never quite quell, despite years of bitter experience.

The second half started with Anderson cutting in from the left and doing well to fashion himself a shooting chance, unfortunately he didn’t get nearly enough power behind the strike making it a relatively simple save for Rachubka – although it did give us yet another corner.  Blackpool had probably their best spell in the third quarter of the game, without ever looking particularly threatening.  Perch picked up a very soft booking will will see him suspended now for our next game.  Blackpool put the freekick wide.

Best effort went to Cohen who cut inside from the right and into the area, striking a decent effort that brought probably the best of numerous saves from Rachubka.  With goals hard to come by, it probably made sense to bring on Earnshaw from the bench at the expense of the increasingly ineffective Garner.  He almost got himself almost into a goalscoring chance when Thornhill headed the ball into the six yard box, but the striker wasn’t quite able to reach it.

Another corner (corner number fifteen according to the official site) found Bennett who headed against the crossbar, but time was running out and they were unable to capitalise on their efforts.  It didn’t help us that the referee was clearly on secondment from Rugby where it’s okay to manhandle players, because he let the Blackpool defence get away with what looked like blatant infringements when challenging aerially; but that’s kinda par for the course.  All in all, a good performance – but we need wins, and we’re not getting them.

Boos and calls for Smoulderwood’s head greeted the final whistle, which is kind of inevitable, as people’s memories of a game we actually played some good stuff in are erased in the midst of a result that wasn’t wanted.  Who knows what the answer is, certainly not I.  We did actually make up some ground and go to third from bottom today, however, with results elsewhere going how they did, this afternoon has to be considered a massive missed opportunity to make up more ground.  Two home games against two poor teams should have yielded more than one point.

Our next opponents are Southampton, followed by Doncaster, then Norwich and then Charlton – these are all the teams that are around us at the foot of the table, so these games are all huge.  A run of results in these fixtures could see us clambering precariously towards safety.  Or worse still, becoming further embroiled in a desperately unwanted relegation battle.  Let’s hope the Forest fans are singing ‘Jingle Bells’ at St. Mary’s next week, then maybe we might just celebrate a Merry Christmas.   Not that we’re exactly famed for our runs of results over the festive period…

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