Forest are Hammered..

Nottingham Forest – 1
West Ham United – 4

Where to start.  Going forward we actually created some chances, but another home game of concerted and dedicated defensive suicide meant that our visitors didn’t really have to get out of second gear to register an impressive looking scoreline.  A really frustrating afternoon – particularly after a promising start.  The Forest website calls it a rare poor defensive performance from Forest.  Did they not see the Leicester game either?  Or the Notts County one?  I could go on…

Despite seemingly finding a side with balance and the right blend of attacking and defending at Wycombe, McClaren opted to fiddle and put Cohen back to left back to accommodate George Boateng in midfield, leaving Joel Lynch on the bench.  Interestingly his first substitution early in the second half would restore the team to how it should have started, but it was too little too late.

Any visiting West Ham fans, this might well end up a whole lot of navel-gazing and general reflections on our woes rather than a detailed match report, you’ve been warned!  Here’s how we started:

Gunter   Morgan    Chambers    Cohen
Majewski    Greening    Boateng    McGugan
Miller    Findley

The opening exchanges were fairly timid from both sides, with no real end product from either side.  With twelve minutes on the clock a McGugan corner found the run of Findley at the near post, but the American striker couldn’t get a decent connection and it appeared to bounce off his shoulder and into the West Ham fans in the lower Bridgford end.

There was promising stuff building from the Reds though – some lovely skills from Lewis saw him jink he way past a couple of defenders into the West Ham area but put his shot over the crossbar.  Shortly after an inswinging Cohen freekick was expertly dealt with by Robert Green, having to wait ’til what looked like the last second in case anybody headed the ball back across him.

So we were holding our own, and sure enough the inevitable occurred – a quick break forward culminated in a Matt Taylor cross which Luke Chambers conspired to put into his own net.  This of course woke up the visiting fans, but also the visiting side – a few minutes later a corner found an unmarked Tomkins, who headed it back across to an unmarked Nolan who had the easy task of heading it in.

Again, Forest had moments going forward – a lovely pass from Majewski set Miller free in the box, his shot getting round Green but just wide of the post too as the ‘keeper seemed to have his angles spot on.  Moments later an excellent cross from Gunter was met by McGugan with a powerful left-footed volley that Green turned onto the post before saving the rebound.

The Hammers were threatening to extend their lead too, though – a deflected attempt by Faubert went only just wide before Carlton Cole took advantage of further clown defending from the Reds with a goal closely resembling their second.  A cross from O’Brien found the unmarked Reid, who headed it on to the unmarked Cole who headed it into the goal past Lee Camp.

It should really have been four too, a hesitant Lee Camp didn’t get out to the striker quick enough and but for Wes Morgan on the line he would’ve had his second.  Nolan too should’ve netted his second goal after good work from Cole found him around six yards out with not a marker in sight, but he put his shot wide.

Another good run from Miller was found by Majewski, as the powerful striker burst into the box he lofted the ball over the advancing Green but just over the goal too – meaning we went in at the break three goals down.  In a way it was harsh, but if you defend like that you get what you might not deserve on balance – coupled with the excellence of Robert Green in the West Ham goal.

The second half saw the Reds labouring to look like they were attacking, and West Ham content to sit back and let them.  With twelve minutes of the second half gone, Steve opted to change the side to the one he should have started with, he released Cohen into midfield, and withdrew Boateng to bring Joel Lynch on to cover the problematic left back position.

Not long later he threw on Derbyshire and Reid for Majewski and McGugan.  Raddy had been our best player by far so I was pissed off to see him withdrawn.  Findley moved to the right, Derbyshire joined Miller up front and Reidy waddled around on the left.  Chants of ‘You Fat Bastard!” by A-Block toward Allardyce were unfortunately timed in this regard!

We snagged a goal finally when Cohen and Lynch did well on he left hand side, culminating in a cracking delivery from Lynch to Robbie Findley who made no mistake from close range.  Why oh why the club put the ‘goal music’ on is beyond me – and why oh why did so many Forest fans dance to it?  Dear me.  Completely embarrassing, and on national television too!

Unfortunately there was some more idiotic defending to come for the Reds – a fairly routine ball into the box was missed by Greening, and hen found its way to Winston Reid at the back post, guess what, unmarked, enabling him to pop the ball seemingly through the seemingly translucent and not-particularly-interested Lee Camp.

Forest did – to their credit – continue to labour forward, but it was increasingly like watching a fly trying to piss off a slumbering lion.  West Ham only really deigning to react when they really needed to – indeed, it was the snoozing big cat that came closest to adding to their lead, an effort from Nolan deflecting off Morgan and ending up just wide with Camp wrong-footed.

As less principled fans streamed out to cries of “Is there a fire drill?” from the West Ham fans, those of us who remained really wanted the final whistle to end our misery – it came just after Robbie Findley had beaten his man and put the ball past Rob Green, only to find a defender on the line to calmly prevent us from getting a second consolation effort.

A disappointing afternoon indeed, and it given our problem is with a zone comprising 80% the same players we’ve used for the last couple of seasons it points to a change in training emphasis – certainly Chris Fairclough moving on as coach could be a factor, as well as perhaps expecting footballers to ‘play from the back’ who aren’t capable of it might be problematic.

The result is a ‘Bermuda triangle’ zone between Camp, Chambers and Morgan that – whenever the ball goes into it – causes all manner of chaos for us.  The captain’s armband weighs heavily on Luke Chambers, who is generally more highly thought of by Forest fans than he has ability anyway, and Lee Camp seems to have lost all of his powers of organisation and vocalising.

Whether the ‘keeper really did fancy that move to the Premier League, whether he’s sulking that he was overlooked for the captaincy and is leaving the shouting to the also-increasingly-muted Chambers is unclear – but certainly he’s looking a shadow of his former self.  Coupled with Cohen at left back who works hard but is often out of position, and it’s no wonder we’re so shaky.

If McClaren can’t see these problems then we could be in trouble – because our defensive bedrock has been the foundation of our recent successes.  Expecting the likes of Wes and Luke to be ball-playing centre halves is silly, but also expecting our fullbacks to provide our width leaves them too far apart when we’re caught on the break and prone to leaving a massive gap in the middle – one that Boateng and/or Greening aren’t filling.

We are seeing the difference between Billy and Steve’s ideals here – Billy had his defence well drilled to ‘do a job’ – he also had Paul McKenna on hand to patrol infront of them to remind them what their job was.  McClaren’s more open style allows players to have a bit more autonomy, unfortunately in the case of some of our players, they need to be given uncomplicated jobs.

Otherwise we end up with defensive displays like yesterday.

Having said all that – there are positives to be taken – we created good chances today and we won’t come up against a ‘keeper of Green’s calibre again this season barring at the Boleyn Ground.  Give Lynch a chance at left back and simplify our defensive players coaching and we could plug these issues at the back.

I would like to see us attempting to recruit players capable of playing to Steve’s template at the back – Gunter certainly can, and there’s possibly room for Morgan or Chambers, but not both.  I would certainly be tempted to divest Chambers of the captain’s armband, and Lee Camp needs a massive kick up the arse.  Sounds simple when you write it down, doesn’t it?

The most important lesson of yesterday was, though, to stop playing Chelsea Dagger when we score a goal.  Please.