Reds pay the penalty for wasteful finishing..

More excuses from Cotterill, although in fairness, he does have some grounds for complaint at the officials

West Ham United – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

We appear to have two stock scripts at the moment – be bloody awful and roundly beaten, or suffer misfortune (oft of the refereeing persuasion or perhaps a moment of slack defending) and lose because basically we can’t either provide the final ball or finish to opportunities we may carve out ourselves.  This was one of those games.  It’s easy to point the finger at the referee for the first penalty, but there was plenty of self-inflicted issues too.

A few changes to the FA Cup game – a welcome return to Wes Morgan who appears to be subject to an advanced courtship from Leicester, so probably won’t be here much longer.  His return restored a degree of order in the back four we haven’t seen from Chambers or Moussi.  Similarly likely-to-leave McGugan returned along with McCleary and Marcus Tudgay to the starting line up – those missing out being Boateng, Anderson, Reid and Findley.

Gunter    Morgan    Lynch    Cunningham
McCleary    Moussi    Greening    McGugan
Harewood    Tudgay

An early opportunity spurned by the Reds when West Ham seemed to be on their heels as the Reds took a corner.  McGugan put in an uncharacteristically good delivery which found Tudgay – who conspired to put his side-footed effort over the bar from ten yards out.  West Ham too carved opportunities – when McGugan lost the ball in midfield it was played out to McCartney on the left who put a teasing ball across the six yard box, with nobody in position to covert.

At the other end McCleary put in a good run and a low cross that missed most Red shirts but found McGugan, who put his shot over from around twelve yards from goal.  A lot of Forest pressure followed, albeit with limited end-product as we’ve become accustomed – although McCleary again was making some opportunities for us – pulling the ball back to Tudgay who looked to have got a chance on target but for a deflection from Winston Reid.

An injury to Cunningham saw a necessary early change from Cotterill, he opted to push Gunter across to left-back and bring McCleary to right back with Anderson coming off the bench to play infront of him.  Unfortunate because Garath had been a good outlet for us going forward.  Anderson was almost a super-sub though, a good run from McGugan saw him cut back from the goal line who was prevented from getting a shot away by Faubert.

From the home side perspective they had plenty of moments too – a poor clearance from Lynch fell for Collison who brought a decent save from Camp.  Then came the moment of madness from the referee – a Collison cross struck the arm (down by his side) of Moussi who had his back to play (heaven knows why) – poor decision from the referee as we are becoming resignedly accustomed.  Noble made no mistake and blasted it into the top corner giving Camp little chance.

Forest behind at half time, and the fans somewhat left focusing on a ridiculous refereeing decision and perhaps conveniently forgetting some of our own profligacy infront of goal and in the lead-up to a goalbound opportunity.  That’s not to defend the referees decision, of course, it was ridiculous.  But we must try to consider the bigger picture and understand areas of improvement we can influence.  Seemingly referees will always be bumbling idiots – and rarely to our benefit!

The second half wasn’t a bad start from Forest – McCleary was still posing problems for West Ham, he won a corner courtesy of a decent cross in the early stages.  The corner was taken by McGugan and found the head of Tudgay – his looping header ending up just over the bar.  Another chance created and taken by Gunter – a solid run forward and shot which brought an excellent save from Robert Green.

Another good corner from McGugan went right through the danger area before clipping the far post and going out.  Frustrating.  An uncharacteristically early change from Cotterill saw the casual Jonthan Greening withdrawn for Dexter Blackstock.  As seems to be the way with our substitutions, it seemed to herald somewhat of a revival for our opponents – Collison breaking through to a one-on-one with Camp, the Forest keeper making a good save.

West Ham were turning up the pressure, their substitute Henri Lansbury bringing another excellent save from Camp.  The pressure bore fruit in the end with the awarding of a second penalty.  At the time I thought it harsh, having seen the replay I’d put it in the ‘harsh-but-seen-them-given’ category, it’s easy to forget referees and linespeople just have one look – and I can see how that look might’ve made them think Gunts deliberately handled the ball.

Anyway, Noble again stepped up and this time placed it low into the corner, sending Camp the wrong way in the process.  This got their tails up and Noble could’ve been walking away with the match ball as he found a way between the Forest defenders but put the ball wide with the hat-trick very much in his sights.

Cotterill’s final change was to replace the largely ineffective Marlon Harewood with Ishmael Miller.  Marlon got a good reception from the home fans – which is unsurprising, he did well for West Ham back in the day and was kind enough to not provide a fat lot of trouble for their defenders in the game to boot!  Forest were still under the cosh, Camp again made a decent save this time from Baldock – it ended up with Collison who fortunately mis-kicked.

Another opportunity for a third goal fell to Carlton Cole, who had done well to get away from Wes Morgan and get himself on the end of Faubert’s cross, his header though was off-target.  The consolation goal was a good ‘un, but too late – a lovely hit from McGugan beat Robert Green all ends up from 25 yards, but with 93 minutes on the clock it was only ever going to be light relief.  Still, our first goal against someone that isn’t Ipswich in god knows how long.

Maybe it’s a start.  I’m not holding my breath, though.  There were undoubtedly positives to be taken here, but a lot of recurring negatives where we don’t seem to be making much progress.  With January rapidly running out we need to do whatever business we are going to do (which hopefully involves replacing the likes of Wes Morgan with another defender (or two!) given how short we already are in that particular area.