Lewis is still sure he can fill McKenna’s role..

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Preston thrashing averted, but we still lose..

Lewis: Not the answer to the missing McKenna conundrum

Preston North End – 3
Nottingham Forest – 2

Well, how on Earth do you sum up that?  Three-nil down at half time after a pathetic, abject and shapeless showing enabled Preston to capitalise with two excellently taken goals and a penalty.  Three nil a half time – and indeed, a performance that warrants it – makes even the most ardent fan have a think about perhaps resuming activities in the  pre-match pub rather than sit through another 45 minutes of it.

Of course, the majority stayed – and it was a half worth seeing – the Reds battled back and took the game to Preston in 45 minutes of the near total dominance that the home side had enjoyed against Forest in the first half.  Sadly for us there was insufficient opportunity to get the equaliser (thanks at least in part to the referee), but at least we saw our lads show a bit of fight after such an appalling first half.

To my mind, Billy Davies got his team selection wrong today – of course, it could have been a stroke of genius and sometimes you have to try these things to see, but his actions at half time suggests he might agree with me.  Lewis McGugan can not fill the Paul McKenna role – we’ve tried it now, it doesn’t work.

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Wilson    Cohen
Anderson    Moussi    McGugan    Boyd
McGoldrick
Blackstock

It wasn’t long into the first half that Forest fans were commenting that Preston looked dangerous on the break.  Chris Brown headed just wide with Camp not too sure as he went to go for the save.  Preston looked to attack in numbers as Forest floundered and struggled badly to keep the ball as the midfield sat too far away from the defence, giving Preston all the time in the world to win the second ball – pretty much every time.

Twenty minutes in and the home side took a deserved lead – three of their lads broke against two of ours and Mellor picked out Wallace who was running in from the left to have a clear run at Camp – who, if we’re being really picky, could’ve closed down a little faster – but it was a very good finish under the Forest captain and saw the ball nestle just inside the far post.

In a very rare Forest first half foray Anderson broke and tried to find Dex and/or McGoldrick – somehow finding the exact half-way point between them.  And then it was two, a Preston cross came in and Chris Cohen inexplicably rugby-tackled Billy Jones which saw the home side awarded a spot-kick that was tough to argue with.  It wasn’t hit particularly well by Davidson – hard, low and down the middle, but it was enough to evade Camp’s dive his right.

The third goal was a bit special, though.  Matthew James – on loan from Manchester United (where else? 🙂 ).  A throw-in was taken to Walace who squared it to James whose 20 yard shot was easily a match for Camp – he had no chance at all.  A great finish, one that was applauded by the increasingly disgruntled Forest supporters who’d been generally in a great mood until, well, until the match occurred I suppose!

Whilst he was providing nothing in terms of defensive cover, Lewis did almost pop up with a goal in the first half – cutting in from the left his curling, dipping shot from 25 yards was only just wide of Lonergan’s far post.  However, the first half was all about Preston – and Sedgwick should have at least forced a save from Camp after an excellent cross from Davidson.  Brown too should’ve netted after Mellor nodded the ball down to him in the box.

So, whilst 3-0 is – in anyone’s language – a disaster, it could have been a lot worse.  Clearly changes needed to be made in both tactics and personnel – and I almost second-guessed what Billy would do, but not quite.  I was expecting McGugan to make way, as he isn’t fit for purpose for the defensive midfielder role – that’s not me making a scapegoat of Lewis, he just isn’t defensively minded, and doesn’t work hard enough to play that role.  Much like Raddy wouldn’t be much good at it.

I was expecting to see Cohen restored to midfield, Gunter moving across to left back and Chambers coming on at right back.  It was close, he just stuck Chambers at left back and put Cohen in the middle.  I would think Billy was lamenting his lack of including Perch on the bench who would have given him more options – but you pays your money and you makes your choices.

The second half immediately looked better – Cohen crossed to Boyd whose shot was blocked, and then the restored midfielder took part in a strange role reversal to win the Reds a penalty.  It was Billy Jones – who won Preston’s penalty after being felled by Cohen – who brought down Cohen in the box to see the Reds awarded a quick chance to get back in the game.  Dex took the ball, placed it and put it in the bottom right hand corner – it was a good job it was well placed as Lonergan had gone the right way.

Forest had their tails up, and the travelling fans awoke a little to get behind them – and Cohen was teed up by Blackstock and McGoldrick but blasted over.  Cohen returned the favour by heading to Dex whose shot was pretty far over.  Billy shuffled again, putting Earnshaw on for Boyd (I’d have had Earnie on earlier personally), but it wasn’t long before he’d had an impact – Dex doing really well to control the ball and feed it through to Earnie who deftly put it past Lonergan with 14 minutes left on the clock.

Big Dele was the last change for Anderson as Forest continued to press the home side.  In terms of actual chances Chambers spooned one over and Earnie hit the side netting – but the most frustrating part of the afternoon was Dexter being hauled to the deck in the penalty area – and then getting booked for diving to add insult to injury (I’ve watched again on the FL show too, and still think it was a penalty!).

This inconsistency of refereeing is infuriating – a number of times home players went down under challenges theatrically which he waved on, so where are those bookings?  Time and again their players kicked the ball away after the whistle which seems to always illicit a yellow card for Forest players – nothing in this instance.  I suppose yesterday at least there was a Ferguson in the dugout.

With West Brom winning it starts to make ascending to second look challenging, but there’s still plenty of games left – however, automatic promotion does rather hinge upon sorting our away form out.  Luckily we have an opportunity to do so on Tuesday evening where a trip to Barnsley awaits us.  As for what we’ve learned after yesterday, we’ve learned that McGugan can’t play the McKenna role, and that away from home at least we need more substance in the middle of the park.

It will be very interesting to see how we line up against the Tykes next week.