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.

Gunter    Morgan    Wilson    Cohen
Anderson    Moussi    McGugan    Boyd

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.

20 Responses

  1. Not sure why but really looking forward to Barnsley on Tuesday night. In part because as NFFC succintly points out McGugan is not the answer to the midfield conundrum that McKenna’s injury has brought about, & Billy (I’m sure he knew anyway wise old sage that he is) & Forest fans should finally realise this. Fantastic going forward but defensively inept, a luxury we cannot afford, certainly away from home. So unless we can fill that avoid by moving Cohen centre or bringing in another combatitive midfielder, we can kiss automatic promotion goodbye.
    However, do not despair since I feel as though saturday may have lured the baggies into a false sense of security, so we can still get in there. Plus if we don’t get automatic better to have just missed out than to have “choked” from a position in the top two. So come on Red’s fans let’s get behind the boys & ‘will’ them into the top two. YOU REDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. If I had a blog (which I don’t), I would headline my next entry as “McGugan and Chambers – a game of two halves”!!

    As nffc has eloquently already stated, McGugan is not the answer to replace McKenna and I thoroughly agree, but I think there is another issue. McGugan and Chambers are apparentely “best mates”; they used to share digs and now live next to each other in “Footballer’s Houses” in Nottingham. However, whilst McGugan thinks that he is owed a 1st team place and wanders around with the attitude and arrogance of a lazy teenager, I have increasing respect for Chambers who whenever needed gives his all. Now, I am not suggesting that may be enough, but based on yesterday’s performance it goes a long way in my book.

    In the 1st half, we clearly demonstrated that McKenna is a key player for us and will be a very big loss. Despite McGugan’s apparent press comments that “he could fill the gap”, he can’t and never will. McGugan is a luxury, but unfortunately for him, he isn’t as skillful, industrious or talented as Raddy. He needs to take a very hard look at himself and decide whether he wants to continue to enjoy the riches of being a professional footballer or not. If he does, great, but (and it’s a big but), he really needs to start working very hard and get rid of his arrogance and apparent disinterest. Otherwise, if I was Billy, I would send him out on loan to a League 2 side where he will have the shock of his young life to perhaps persuade him.

    Not surprisingly, he was substituted at half-time, but did anyone else notice him sauntering along the touchline to the bench about 10mins into the 2nd half?? By comparison, Chambers came on in the 2nd half and gave his all. Now, in the long-term, that may not be enough, but you can’t complain about his commitment to the cause and having seen all the players together recently, you can be sure that Chambers is much more part of the team than McGugan. Also, that enabled Cohen to move into midfield and for me, he gave an oustanding performance that if we had equalised during the ‘hoofball’ that was the last 15mins, Cohen would have thoroughly deserved Man of the Match.

    Once again, nffc has given an excellent report and like him, I don’t think the chase for 2nd place is completely over, but as I commented a few weeks ago – a trip to London on 22nd May (with McKenna back in midfield) is much more likely.

  3. We are well and truly fucked without McKenna and well it really seems to me as I always say at this time of the year that it would be much better for us to stay in this league than go up because at least we can win some games here. Bring on the Championship next year because without Mckenna we ain’t got a hope in hell of going up

  4. Good report NFFC, although I sympathise with Davies’ team selections.

    McGugan isn’t McKenna, no argument there, but we can’t blame Davies for assuming he would at least offer SOMETHING. Sure he isn’t going to go snapping in to tackles but at times it was like being closed down, or even having some opposition players on the pitch at all, seemed a complete shock to him. No manager can legislate for his central midfielders struggling to complete 3 passes each in 45 minutes.

    With Perch out with an ankle injury it was a 50/50 call over playing Cohen at leftback and losing out in midfield, or playing Chambers there from the start when he had a mare last time out. We know McGugan can play well in the middle, I’m not sure Chambers can play well at left back (although he did ok), so I understood the call. Like you say, if it had worked, and if McGugan had managed even a 6/10 performance then it would have, then Davies would be a genius, but what is important is that when it didn’t work, Davies made the change that was needed.

    Haven’t seen the replays yet so will save comment on the pens, although I saw Cohen’s was nailed on when it happened.

    Ultimately, what we missed yesterday was the same thing we have been missing for about 5 seasons prior to this one, and that’s real leadership in the middle of the park. Sure the lads came out and gave it their all after a b*llocking from Davies and co, but I think our second half was as much about them sitting back/bottling it as us raising our game. For the record, and for the haters, it was McGoldrick putting his foot on the ball and turning in midfield a couple of times that seemed to catalyse everyone else at the start of the second half. I’m not his biggest fan but credit where credit is due.

  5. Maybe Billy “I’m a 4-4-2 man” Davies needs to rethink his formation, especially away, and rather than tinker with the front line, change the defensive lineup. Wes in the center, Wilson to the left, Chambers to the right and Gunter and Cohen as Wingbacks – both have the energy and stamina to fulfil these demanding roles and it would also give Gunts more cover as he’s been woefully out of position several (costly) times of late.

    Just a thought.

    • It’s an interesting thought, could work.

      I’ve yet to see Forest make a ‘three at the back’ (which is basically what this is) formation work though, but you’re right that Cohen and Gunter do have the engines to deal with it.

      Makes central mid three tricky though – Anderson isn’t really suited to a more central role, although Boyd might be…

      • I know I’m stating the obvious here but none of this would be necessary if we had a proper left back. Moving Boyd into the middle is like putting Cohen at left back. Yes they can do it but the team is weaker because they are not their best positions. We have to replace like for like in order to keep the team working at its most efficiently. McKenna and Left back are the positions that need working on. He’s tried Lewis in McKenna’s spot but I would of thought Moussi or Perch are far better bets for defensive midfielders. As for left back its clear that Cohen is much better for the team in midfield. Why not go with Gunts at left back and Chambers right or just do what they did yesterday and throw Chambers in at left back. Too risky? What’s the deal with Lynch? How come he’s always injured? I remember him putting in some really good performances towards the end of last season but do you reckon he could do as good a job as Perch or Chambers?

        It makes you think if we’d of sorted out left back how many more points we’d of had. But its also a pretty good testament to a team that without a recognised left back we’ve done so well. My only hope is that this squad is built on instead of dismantled if we don’t get promotion. Remember what happened the season after the last time we nearly got promoted?

        • Tis a fair point.

          Although I think Boyd can play well in that role (yet to see him try it for us, of course – but I’m pretty sure he played there against us at Peterborough and looked decent enough).

          We can only pontificate, it’s down to Billy to sort it out – you’re right though, we really should’ve signed a left back!

        • BD said post match that lynch and Perch are injured.

    • I was giving the same idea some thought the other day and, if we had Mckenna fit, I would have liked to have seen it given a go over the next few games. However, with him out Cohen simply has to play in the middle of the park so a patch up job at left back seems our only option 😦

      Personally if we lose at Barnsley tonight I’d give Blackstock a rest and play Adebola up front on his own for the remaining away games, as we’re pretty much gurenteed a playoff place so would want Dexie fit as can be for them.

  6. mcgugan played well last week. he was not at fault for the first was the whole team.
    The moose was there to do mckenna’s role and mcgugan was there for raddy. I think looking at his options davies did the right thing. I think at half time lewis had to make way to get cohen in there more so than wanting rid of mcgugan.
    lastly to come back as they did will do them good, i will be there on tuesday and fully expect to see the boys get three points. Keep the faith…

  7. Cant help but feel we are getting found wanting at this point of the season.Billy said a couple of weeks ago that 75% of this team played in leage one and im sorry to say some of the current side dont cut for me.

    If we had brought in 3 good players in window i think we might have kicked on but alas we didint and billy had a right to be banging his drum hes no fool.

    A playoff place is a huge achievement but im not convinced about the bottle of the current team we still need a lot of work.Keep the head down lads i think automatic promotion is beyond us and not realistic.

    U reds

  8. I just hope they continue the 2nd half performance at Barnsley.!!
    Just watching the Barcelona/ Valencia match . While they were showing the replay of Messis second goal he had scored a third !!!
    Incredible player…Watch the goals if you missed them !

  9. I m not going to slag the boys off for such a dire firts half, but that pretty much sums up our season, and level as a team. Not quite there for promotion this season.
    But, I keep stating this, what on earth is the rush? It’s only BDavies that expects promotion (forget the bshite about not bothering) but as a club, it’s a steady push for promotion we need, and if that takes a couple of seasons so what.

    I’m very happy with a play of position, and who wouldn’t be? I remember last time we got into the play offs, we ended up flogging our best players and the rest is history.

    Thankfully Forest won’t need to be in that position again, so Forest fans, maybe look forward to a couple more seasons of this


  10. As an armchair farn, the barnsley gane will be the first one i’ve made since newcastle at home- been looking forward to it for ages, so i hoping that we can carry on where we left off in the 2nd half and break the away streak!

  11. I wasn’t there on saturday but from reading the report and comments I can’t help but question the team selection for this game…

    1) Our best and most creative player is Majewski and he didnt even get a kick. Was he injured? tired? unsettled?

    2) Our most natural goalscorer, Earnie, was left out of the starting line up once again. This one was perhaps more predictable but surely this is too negative. We had/have a real chance of automatic promotion here and should surely be ‘going for it’?

    I really hope that both Raddy and Earnie are back in the starting line up vs Barnsley. You need your best players on the pitch!

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