Nottingham Forest – 1
Derby County – 2
As my brain slowly recovers from an alcoholic fug it’s quite difficult to imagine how a game against Derby could start any better. It’s customary in City Ground matches against them these days to have a good start for us – but could it really be any better than their goalkeeper getting sent off whilst conceding a penalty. A penalty Andy Reid did an excellent job of striking into the net? It can’t really.
So, pretty much a full game against ten men and already a goal to the good – as far as starts go, Steve McClaren could not have dared hope for better in a game that could win him a lot of favour from a set of fans already questioning his ability to shape his squad into anything other than hapless bunch of goons. But of course, Forest can plumb unexpectedly capacious depths when in search of the ultimate expression of haplessness – and they exceeded themselves yesterday.
Steve persisted with the myth that Chris Cohen is a left back and that Joel Lynch doesn’t exist, lining up with the same side that he picked to face Southampton last weekend:
Gunter Morgan Chambers Cohen
Majewski Moussi Greening Reid
As already noted, a great start – a Miller knock down found Derbyshire in the area. Miller carried on his run, Derbyshire found him – he ball was past fielding who absolutely body-slammed the big striker to prevent him applying the finishing touch. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and sent Fielding off. It was the right decision, but a pretty brave one considering it was so early in the game.
Derby withdrew Cywka to be replaced by substitute keeper Legzdins – it took a while, but eventually the kick was taken by Andy Reid, struck confidently and sending the keeper the wrong way. Forest enjoyed a lot of possession, the official site suggests that Forest pushed forward and put Derby under pressure but the fact is we passed the ball sideways a lot in the middle third of the pitch, with Derby content to let us and limit our opportunities to get forward.
It’s true that Lee Camp had little to do – but we were painfully bad at trying to test out Derby’s reserve keeper too. After around half an hour Chris Cohen went down pretty much under his own momentum, looking seriously hurt. The referee didn’t stop play – and by the book, he shouldn’t as it wasn’t a head injury. Derby didn’t have the ball in a threatening position, and could’ve kicked it out – but again, if the boot was on the other foot, I’d have been screaming to play on.
Why Ismael Miller decided to spend the entire build-up to the goal standing over the prone midfielder-cum-leftback, why our players kept appealing to the referee instead of dealing with Derby who were moving forward, why Jamie Ward was able to stroll past Majewski (who put in a spectacularly appalling challenge that thankfully didn’t make contact!), Chris Gunter and then managed to put a frankly awful shot through the increasingly invisible Lee Camp at his near post to send the Derby fans into raptures.
An absolutely disgusting goal to concede on any measure you care to name. Our players must play to the whistle and the lack of professionalism all over the pitch was an absolute travesty. That’s before we get on to the goalkeeping merits of letting such a feeble shot in at your near post – a real blunder from start to finish. Cohen in the meantime hobbled off, refusing to use the stretcher that was brought on, to be replaced by Joel Lynch.
Derby were now looking much more confident – realising that despite their lack of numbers, they were actually playing against a team that was a lot less than the sum of its’ parts. They didn’t commit too much forward understandably though, and Forest did manage the occasional break forward – Miller was threatening if a little directionless at times – he teed up a good chance for Wes at one point but the big defender squandered the opportunity.
Lynch clipped in a dangerous ball which Legzdins flapped at jumping with Miller, the referee was perhaps a little over-lenient, there was no foul play but as the keeper realised he’d made a mess of it he went to ground and got the freekick. Shortly after a crowd-shout for handball won us a freekick for what looked anything but, it was put into the box by Reid (an unusually good delivery from him) and was handled in the box, but this time it wasn’t spotted by the officials. Probably just desserts really.
So, half time and we’re drawing one-all against ten men having enjoyed the lead from pretty much the first attack. People muttered about playing against Swansea with ten men and how that went, people pointed out Derby aren’t as good as Swansea were – others painfully pointed out that we weren’t as good as we were last season. People were contemplating the embarrassment of merely drawing against ten man Derby. Oh if only that were all we’d have to contend with!
The second half saw Forest again enjoying a lot of possession, but creating very little by way of direct goal-threat. Majewski was looking more involved and set up a chance for Reid whose shot was just over. Probably the first meaningful threat on goal we’d mustered since the penalty (aside from the Miller-keeper challenge which was called as a foul). Miller hit a tame effort from the edge of the area which represented our first shot on target since the penalty.
A freekick from 25 yards or so had us wishing McGugan was on the pitch – as Reidy lined it up we speculated whether it would hit the wall or knock out an unfortunate fan in the Trent End, as it turns out he struck it well towards the top corner – but the ‘keeper was equal to it and palmed it out for a corner. A corner which, predictably, posed no threat at all upon the opponent goal and was cleared. We might as well just get referees to give our opponents a goal kick when we get a corner – it would save time.
Findley replaced the ineffective Greening with half an hour remaining, and certainly provided a bit of much needed pace to our side. Lynch, putting in an impressive performance at left-back that I hope McClaren took note of, put in a few excellent crosses – the latest cleared well by O’Brien. Derby had their moments too – indeed, they should’ve taken the lead when an excellent cross found Hendrick unmarked at the back post four-yards out, he conspired to head wide with three-quarters of the away end celebrating a goal.
There are few things as entertaining as that moment a section of the ground thinks they’ve scored then realise they haven’t – we enjoyed it, of course, it would be the away end that would have the last laugh. In the meantime though Findley was causing some problems – a nice ball to the back post almost found Derbyshire, but he couldn’t quite apply the killer touch to it to give the reds the lead. McGugan was introduced for Reid, whilst Nathan Tyson was introduced for Derby.
Lewis improved our corner-taking, but a decent delivery was headed wide. Then disaster – defending a corner we did the usual keystone cops routine, falling nicely for Hendrick on the edge of the area – and, in fairness to him, a cracking finish to sweep the ball into the bottom corner of the net. It’s hard to say it, but they deserved it too – admittedly as much down to our own incompetence as their merit.
The goal at least gave a hint of urgency from some of our players – a cross from Gunter was headed goalward by Derbyshire but it was an easy save for the keeper. Derby defending in numbers, as you would – even when they had corners there’d be one or two white shirts in the box. Lynch had a good chance, chesting the ball down and blasting goalward but the keeper was equal to it – Lynchy perhaps could have looked to square to one of two or three of our lads in the six yard box.
Derby defended well though, and whilst the Reds did lay siege to their penalty area at times, our chances were well limited. Lynch again was provider and Derbyshire had a good chance that was well blocked by Anderson. The final chance fell to Chambers – who struck a volley well from ten yards, but – well, he’s a centre half, it was off target. Camp joined the last attack but it made no difference and it was game over.
Steve McClaren has said it wasn’t acceptable – that’s a bloody understatement. He’s turned an opportunity to galvanise the fans into an almost unbelievable story of incompetence and buffoonery that heaps yet more pressure on to his side. There were protests against the board – or specifically Mark Arthur – in the second half, but frankly on the pitch is McClaren’s bag – and with the squad at his disposal he should have been able to mastermind a much better performance than that.
As I noted on Twitter yesterday in the throes of a marathon drinking session – I can take losing, I can even take losing to Derby, but what I cannot stomach is losing without putting up a fight. That is what was embarrassing here. This goes right up there with the Oldham aways, Plymouth at home, Chester away type games – those games were portents of some of the lowest times this football club has ever experienced. I really hope that I’m jumping the gun a bit in categorising this latest embarrassment with those types of game.
With rumours of Kenny Burns being relieved of match-hosting duties because of comments he’s made in his Evening Post column it would seem that either the club are determined to alienate and annoy fans in every way possible – or, of course, that people who are making such claims are doing so to stir more bad feeling towards certain people whom they clearly have an issue already. Whichever is true it doesn’t change the fact that such things are symptomatic of things being a mess.
If nothing else this game has made me absolutely certain that I won’t be attending Tuesday’s game against Newcastle United on Tuesday. I imagine that many will feel the same, and who can blame us? Somebody made the analogy of Forest being run like a game of Snakes and Ladders – and they’re right, and yesterday we landed on a fucking massive snake – and there aren’t many potential ladders in sight…
Completely irrelevant to the game but worth pointing out that Nathan Tyson conducted himself pretty well – the half-time warming up saw him booed with each touch, so he cheekily raised his foot to miss the ball. After the game he didn’t initially join the celebrations, he picked up Raddy who’d dropped to sit on the pitch, and went round our squad before subtly applauding the Derby fans once most of our fans had cleared. Shows a bit of class, does that. Well done Nathan.
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