Nottingham Forest – 2
Leicester City – 2
That difficult start to the season continues for the Reds, although it has to be said upon seeing the starting line-up, it wasn’t too difficult to divine the potential pitfalls we would encounter. Steve replaced the injured Reid with Lewis McGugan, and opted to drop Raddy for George Boateng.
A frustrating afternoon for the Reds with a happy ending – to some degree – that goes some way to papering over the cracks of a spectacularly hapless first 70 minutes of the game. Still, a point is a point. Plus a bit of deja vu – a 2-2 draw with Leicester at the City Ground, with a stoppage time equaliser (that stoppage time brought about by cheatery and play-acting from Leicester players). Some things will never change!
So, anyway, our initial line-up was a little something like this, and might disjointed it was too – as, frankly, I would expect anybody to anticipate from a cursory glance at it…
Moloney Morgan Chambers Gunter
Cohen Boateng Greening McGugan
The early exchanges were fairly flaccid from both sides – which was kind of what I expected from two sides that have hardly set the league on fire as yet. It took a quarter of an hour for either side to sting the palms of a goalkeeper – it being, of course, Lee Camp called into action – making saves from a Nugent header, and then from Bamba – both from corners.
After 18 minutes all looked calm, the Reds were building from the back – the fullbacks were pushing on, Greening had the ball in midfield and played a criminally short pass to Chambers, it was intercepted by Fernandes who burst clear, but wide thanks to Morgan busting a gut to get across – he midfielder had the presence of mind to cut it back to the unmarked Nugent who put it in the empty goal.
Suspicions of offside, maybe – I thought Nugent looked a little ahead of play and the ball pulled back wasn’t square or back, but slightly forward – but that’s probably nitpicking really, plus the nature of the counter-attack thanks to our clumsiness on the ball meant the linesman wasn’t exactly in line anyway. A real frustrating episode, one that Greening will be keen to forget!
It seems we don’t learn either. It wasn’t long before it was two – and again, we were architects of our own downfall – with Danns latching onto a poor ball again in midfield, his effort was cleared off the line but it fell to the unmarked Fernandes who crashed it home from close range to capitalise on our extraordinarily generous play.
Naturally enough the Leicester fans (who did that daft “turn around and jump up and down” thing – I think it looks bloody ridiculous anyway, doubly so when only half the fans seem to understand what’s going on and join in) started to enjoy themselves, and the opportunity to goad the Forest fans. Who, like me, seemed to mostly be being anaesthetised by an almost impossibly bad Forest performance.
Leicester will, and should, be looking back at this game and asking serious questions about why they couldn’t capitalise further upon our awful play. Moloney was struggling at right back, our midfield lacked pace and bite, and Gunts – whilst giving 100% – isn’t a left back. That said, he put in the one decent delivery of the half for us, finding Derbyshire in the six yard box who conspired to barely connect with a header to miss the target.
Half time was greeted with boos, and – whilst generally I don’t condone such actions – it’s difficult to argue against it today, we really were that bad. Shambolic at the back, wasteful in midfield and non-existent up front. A decent side would have been absolutely out of sight by the break, fortunately Leicester don’t quite look the finished article yet either.
As the second half drew near Robbie Findley and Ishmael Miller came out a little early to warm up with Haisselbank, and sure enough both were introduced in straight swaps with McGoldrick and Derbyshire. It might be a little harsh, both strikers had little or no service, but it did seem to have made a real difference.
Leicester played their part in their downfall, with little forward impetus, content to sit and absorb the limited threat they expected Forest to pose. A freekick was spanked into the wall by McGugan after Greening was hacked down by Wellens, a break from Danns resulted in a cross right across the six yard box and out for a goal kick.
To be frank, the change came for us with the introduction of Raddy, who replaced Brendan Moloney. Gunter was restored to right back (as important a change as Raddy’s introduction), and Cohen pushed back to left back. Suddenly the Reds sprang to life with about fifteen minutes of normal time remaining.
A flick from Miller on a Camp kick put Findley almost through – the American’s shot was good but Schmeichel – who’d had nothing to do up until now – was equal to it, parrying it back into play where Findley couldn’t get the rebound on target. A minute later Miller did well to hold the ball up back to goal at a tight angle, and turn and shoot – again, the Leicester keeper was up to the save.
The change in mood on the pitch was echoed in the stands – as the fans started to realise an effort was being made, and repaid the favour – and the breakthrough came on 79 minutes when a Gunter cross richocheted around Findley, Mills and Schmeichel. The eagle-eyed referee spotted a handball by Mills, on seeing the replay, I’m not convinced it was deliberate. But you have to take what luck you can get!
Schmeichel was booked for acting like a prize arsehole before the kick was taken, as was Mills for the handball itself. The penalty was taken expertly by McGugan – the keeper dived the right way, so it needed to be right in the bottom corner which it was. Schmeichel probably sealed his man of the match award for Forest by hurling the ball away in disgust – and being booked for it, and therefore obviously sent off!
A pause while the visitors put on their reserve keeper – ironically it was the man who gifted us three points last season, Chris Weale. He replaced Neil Danns and Leicester retreated into a world of defending and falling over and feigning injury a lot. Even their fans joined in by refusing to throw the ball back right away when it had found its way into the away end.
With normal time almost at an end a freekick on the edge of the box was lined up by Lewis – it looked decently flighted by clipped the wall at the expense of a corner. The previously gloating visiting fans were incredibly quiet by this point, despite the goads of quietness during the time they had a two goal cushion – and this nervousness was reflected in their team as well.
Five minutes of stoppage time was announced – probably about right with the number of substitutions, the red card kerfufflery and the amount of ‘injuries’. It was in the fourth minute of this time that a Cohen ball in evaded Weale who looked badly positioned, and fell to the back post where I fancy it was probably a Konchesky own goal – but undoubtedly Boateng looks to be claiming it. A real relief.
What this shouldn’t do though, is paper over the cracks of what was another – for the most part -bloody awful performance. A better team than Leicester would have really put us to the sword today – and, indeed, on another day we’d never have got that penalty and the referee might well have seen a push for our second. We got very lucky.
Hearing McClaren in his post-match interview he seems well aware of this, at least – let’s just hope that he can work a way through it. He spoke of wanting 2-3 more bodies in – and even uttered that fateful phrase ‘stellar signings’. We really do need to add some penetrative attacking players into the mix, because at the moment we’re about as much use as a dildo made of sponge.
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