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Nottingham Forest – 0
Southampton – 3

The saddest part of this weekend wasn’t so much another defeat, another goalless performance, another bamboozling post-match interview with Steve Cotterill, another game of mindless hoofball.  I can even begin to acclimatise to the lack of effort the team seem to put in (which is depressing), but – similar to the Leeds game – it’s the fact that Southampton didn’t really have to try.

Indeed, they were weakened from their regular line-up and – in truth – didn’t look all that good.  We just looked so much worse.  The scoreline is, if anything, flattering for us despite our reasonable start to the game where both Marlon Harewood and Joel Lynch ought to have scored.  The referee is a good talking point, he was awful, although Chambers did lead with his arm and make contact – it was probably ‘by the book’ the right call, but the decision was made thanks to the shameful reaction of Southampton players and bench alike.

So anyway, let’s try to get inside the head of the manager when contemplating the selection. “Hmm, Andy Reid and George Boateng both had excellent games at Ipswich, a game we won in… I know, I’ll drop them..”  Whilst I acknowledge that the gaffer has constraints to work under, I don’t think that he does himself any favours, and am rapidly starting to think he’s just as bad – if not worse – than Schteve McClaren.

Gunter    Chambers    Lynch    Cunningham
McCleary   Moussi    Greening    McGugan
Harewood    Tudgay

So, a four-four-two formation and a first start in his second-spell for Marlon Harewood.  A cagey start, the earliest opportunity of note falling for Dean Hammond, who picked up the ball outside the area, and must have marvelled as our centre halves just stood and looked at him whilst he picked his spot towards the far post.  I suspect it was going wide, but Camp couldn’t be sure and made a smart save at the expense of a corner.

On a slow run away from home and without their leading scorer, the visitors were pretty conservative in their approach – building possession, but invariably gaining territory – and often being assisted by a referee who seemed to deem every instance of their players falling over (which happened quite frequently) as being a foul.  One such freekick was whipped in by Fox, it was cleared – but badly, but fortunately the shot from Lallana was straight at Lee Camp.

Forest did start to make some progress in the game – a corner whipped in by McGugan was deflected off the head of a defending player, falling for Tudgay but slightly awkwardly, so he ended up heading over.  In truth, deflection or otherwise, I’d expect better.  Another opportunity came for Tuds after Harewood fed the ball to him, he went for a lobbed effort but didn’t get nearly enough on it so it was an easy save for the visiting ‘keeper.

A McGugan freekick from a long way out was blasted low by the midfielder, it went through the wall and ended up at the feet of Marlon Harewood around six yards out, Hooiveld put in an excellent block, although you’ve got to say the big striker could’ve done a lot better with a gilt-edged chance.  Sure enough, as Forest’s small portion of effort fizzled out the what-has-become-inevitable sucker-punch was sure enough to follow.

Southampton broke quickly through Jack Cork down the right (Jack Cork cost around the same as we paid for Greening, sigh!), he crossed in and the ball was squared back to Connolly, his shot was parried by Camp straight to Do Prado who gladly accepted the mission to slot the ball into the now gaping goal to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.  It brought the largely quiet visiting fans to life, whilst Forest fans – to their credit – tried to stay reasonably positive.

It wasn’t game over just yet – again, McGugan seemed to have got the knack of corners – this latest one was flicked by Luke Chambers at the near post, finding Joel Lynch at the far post who really should have at the very least hit the target with his header, instead putting it over.  A McGugan free-kick caused some consternation and brought a save from Davies, and a Lynch effort from long-range resulted in a decent save from him.

Wasn’t to be, half time – and losing.  It was to get worse.

Four minutes into the second half we were down to ten men – Chambers jumped with Connolly and won the ball, he lead with his arm, he didn’t ‘elbow’ him as such but there was contact.  It’s the kind of challenge you see dozens of times a game.  The difference with this once was that Connolly went down like he’d been shot, and pretty much the entire Southampton team (including the bench) reacted as if a crime had been committed.

By the book, it probably was a red card – Chambers’ elbow struck Connolly in the head – however, that sets a risky precedent and opens up naturally frustrated comparisons to the likes of Matt Mills overtly elbowing Blackstock with insufficient punishment in recent games.  We do seem to get little luck from referees lately.  On the bright side, Chambers will now be suspended for three games – because, I’m sorry to say, he’s been awful.  Defensive crisis or not.

Moussi was pushed back to defence with Tudgay moved into midfield.  Southampton started to seek to take advantage of their additional numbers, an excellent cross from Lallana found Do Prado who conspired to miss from just eight yards out.  They started to grow in confidence with the combined realisation that they had an extra man, and that we were – well – crap.  Lallana and Cork in particular started to dominate – the latter having a decent effort that Moussi needed to block.

Moments later they had doubled their lead – a clever trick from Harding saw him cut in and feed the ball across the box, a deflection saw it reach the miraculously recovered Connolly who could hardly miss from close range.  Cotterill’s response was to take off the ineffective McGugan and put on Paul Anderson, and moments later withdraw Harewood for Robbie Findley.  As this didn’t change much, he swapped Tudgay for Blackstock – who was half-applauded half-booed by the Southampton fans oddly.

Moments later they were singing for him to give them a wave – odd!  I guess they might have an influx of fans who perhaps aren’t quite in tune with those who’ve been around longer.

Southampton’s last goal was a decent hit, although you have to ask questions of Camp – Schneiderlin strolled forward with the ball to around the 25 yard mark and – unopposed – hit a decent enough shot inside the near post.  Camp got a hand on it I think, and really shouldn’t be being beaten from there like that.  He seemed to think the same and made a series of smart saves from Holmes and Schneiderlin – the pressure continued to the very death when Martin missed a sitter.

Most Forest fans won’t have seen the latter stages – the ground was more than half empty in the home sections long before full time.  In truth, I can’t blame them.  We were, and are, bloody awful.  If the rumours of significant changes to come are true, then I say bring it on.  I noted on Twitter last night that the only players I’d be sad to see leave us would be Morgan, Cohen, Gunter, Blackstock and Lynch.  I might add Raddy to that too – other than that I stand by it.  I was expecting some backlash from fellow fans, and whilst others added some extra names there wasn’t much argument.

As for the manager, coaching staff, Mark Arthur – hell, only Terry the Kitman as part of the general player-related staff that I have any fondness for.  It’s a sad time when you feel like that about the club you support – that you can count on your fingers the people who impact you as a fan who you actually hold in high enough regard to feel sad if they left.  We feel a more helpless case now than we did under Megson who, ironically, is doing rather well at Wednesday at the moment.

For my next trip to the City Ground I think I’ll take a book or the paper with me to pass the time, because the football being served up under Steve Cotterill is awful, and to make matters worse, it isn’t even effective.  The worst of both worlds.  If his was the best CV under consideration from the Forest board then I dread to think who else applied – Jedward? Kerry Katona?  I can understand why fans are pointing to Neil Warnock’s availability, although I can’t see that ever happening!