Miller time for Forest with lucky win..

Watford – 0
Nottingham Forest – 1

It was ugly.  Forest reverted to a formation not seen since the early nineties, or used by particularly belligerent people on FIFA or in Football Manager (or indeed, back in the dark days when Danny Cullip joined two other central defenders in our ranks).  It was always going to be ugly.  Kind of understandable though, we have shipped too many goals, we needed to get a clean sheet by hook or by crook.

So Clint Hill made his debut as a third centre-half, with Lynch and Gunter asked to provide the width for our attack alongside three central midfielders and two strikers.  A 5-3-2 converting to 3-5-2.  The kind of crazy plan that could actually work, surely?  Or a final act of desperation as Steve McClaren tries his twentieth change of formation? (sic).

It looked a little something like this:

Gunter   Chambers   Morgan   Hill   Lynch
Greening    Moussi    McGugan
Findley  Miller

It was a sluggish start from both sides – Watford aren’t on a great run either, particularly at home where they’ve yet to register a win – whilst we’re well versed in the difficulties Forest have been suffering.  It was the home side that created the first opportunity – former Reds striker Joe Garner connecting with a Forsyth cross, but slipping as he struck it and missing the target.

Forest’s first chance fell to debutant Hill, who rose unmarked in the centre of the area to connect with a Lewis McGugan freekick that was just a little too high for him to be able to get over it to put his header on target.  On the break Carl Dickinson – a left back signed by Watford in the summer (are you watching, Forest?!) – looked dangerous but was well marshalled by Greening, having to settle for a corner.

Fans must have been clamouring to pop a bet on Joel Lynch for first goal – he had two bites of the cherry, latching onto a Miller flick on and hitting a shot at Loach’s near post which the keeper saved.  A cross or pull-back might’ve been a better option, but it won us a corner from which Lynch found himself with a free header at the back post which he really should’ve put on target – it went just wide.

At the other end Watford had perhaps the best goalscoring opportunity of the game – it fell for Joe Garner, after a nice bit of skill and an excellent cross from Marvin Sordell on the right hand side.  Garner got infront of Chambers and glanced a diving header towards the bottom corner which Lee Camp did very well to get a hand on to put it wide for a corner.  Camp seemed in general to have a bit more of his ‘strut’ back, which is good to see.

Lame claims for a penalty when Hill won the ball were nearly as bad as those our fans made at the other end earlier in the game when Moussi had performed a ludicrous dive that negated any contact he might have met.  After the home fans penalty appeal the referee ended up with further jeers from the crowd when he gave the Reds a freekick after Camp was impeded.

Half time and it looked like what I suppose it was – a slow and ponderous game between two struggling sides.  Both had created chances, but not many.  Forest had looked more solid in defence, but by no means impervious, but had really struggled to create much for Miller and Findley, both of whom I feel could’ve worked a little harder.

It’s not surprising their service suffered when you sacrifice a midfielder for a defender.  Lynch was probably our most dangerous outlet – which doesn’t speak too highly of Lewis either.  As Steve McClaren spent the game commuting between the stand and the touchline, we could merely hope that he’d have seen something with which to inspire an improved second half.

The second half didn’t start particularly energetically either – a nice ball by Moussi gave Gunter the opportunity to put the ball towards Miller who didn’t seem to be on his toes, allowing a challenge to come in to prevent an effort on goal.  Good work from the impressive-again Joel Lynch released McGugan to put a cross in, which was a little too high for Miller to profit from.

As the Reds started to run out of steam though, Watford tails were starting to prick up – that change in emphasis we’ve seen a few times already this season, when an opponent realises that we’re not actually all that composed at the moment, and if they press us they will unlock opportunities to cause us damage.  That’s what the home side started to do.

Forsyth was slipped through one-one-one with Lee Camp who was out quickly to him, and happy to make the save with his legs – it was a poor connection from the Watford player who should really be looking to clip the ball over Camp into the empty goal.  Moments later Eustace had all the time in the world on the edge of our area to clip a ball to the back post where Garner opted for an over-elaborate diving header and put it wide.

Just as on Twitter I was lamenting how lazy Miller had been, I had the delightful serving of humble-pie to enjoy as a long kick forward by Camp was left by Watford’s big ugly centre half presumably as he’d had a shout – either way, he missed it, his partner missed it, the keeper wasn’t out quick enough and Miller was able to get a touch on the ball to put it past Loach and into the net.  A great piece of opportunism.

Realising quite how fortunate we were Forest started to look a lot more withdrawn, understandably.  Derbyshire was introduced for Findley who’d struggled to get into the game at all in the second half.  Reid came on shortly after, replacing Lewis McGugan.  Forest were increasingly sitting deep and Watford throwing a little more caution to the wind, so it was nervy stuff for the Reds.

Yeates struck a freekick from range which perhaps was designed to get a touch from a player in the box, it didn’t and Camp was in the right place to make an easy gather.  Tudgay was introduced for match-winner Miller, and within a couple of minutes had profited from a defensive mistake to pick up the ball, step outside a defender to hit a decent left-footed strike from the edge of the area which Loach needed to dive low to save.

The last chance came for the home side, Eustace side-footing an effort through a crowded box which Camp saved, fumbled then gathered.  A more powerful shot from Eustace would surely have produced a goal for the home side.  It would have been frustrating, but hard to claim that they weren’t good value for a draw on the balance of play and chances over the course of the game.

Still, as McClaren himself said – it was a horrible win, but it was a win we needed.  We profited from some good fortune at both ends of the pitch, just as other sides have done against us – so whilst Watford will be feeling hard done to, I’m not going to feel too bad about it – needs must, and those much-needed three points put us up to eighteenth in the table, above Watford.

I’m not sure that 5-3-2 is the answer, though.  Whilst Lynch continues to catch the eye, it doesn’t seem to be a formation to bring the best out of Gunter.