Down, down.. deeper and down..

Middlesbrough – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

It’s sad to have to say this – but Steve Cotterill is clearly not capable, even by deploying his hideous brand of percentages football, of turning this around.  I would be delighted, come the end of the season, to have been proven wrong on this assertion, absolutely thrilled.  The final straw was getting to hear his post match comments this morning: “If we’d kept a clean sheet we would have won” – words defy me.

Straight out of the school of “If that had gone in it would’ve been a goal!” – as it is, we lost, other results conspired against us leaving us in a worse position with our next opponents, Coventry, managing to over-take us in the process.  Of course, with a points deduction looming Portsmouth too will be dragged into the mire having made steps to improve their position after – funnily enough – the departure of Steve Cotterill.

Anything less than a win on Saturday and we are staring down the barrel at League One, and we can only hope that the ridiculous length of contract handed to Cotterill was dependent on avoiding relegation – because, and it pains me to say it, it would be difficult to justify renewing a season ticket knowing that he was our manager next season.  Even if we were to buck the recent trend and avoid relegation.

So, perhaps with reasonable justification (aside from continuing to field Chambers and playing Gunts on the wing, of course), the man many are now referring to as ‘the Crucifier’ fielded the same team that did play with some merit against Watford last Saturday:

Wootton   Chambers    Higginbotham    Elokobi
Gunter    Moussi    Guerdioura   McCleary
Miller    Harewood

The first half an hour or so was, well, a pretty tame encounter.  The home side probably had the lion’s share of possession but were restricted to off-target efforts from range courtesy of Emnes and Jutkiewicz.  Similarly Forest, on a rare forward foray, saw McCleary fire over from the edge of the area having played a one-two with Marlon Harewood.

After this period of cautious exchanges the game did open up somewhat, largely due to the inability of both sides to keep possession.  Miller had an opportunity after carrying the ball forward some distance but missed the target from outside the box.  Miller was again the spurner of chances when he could only head a cross from Elokobi straight at Steele.  On the counter the home side saw Emnes blast well over from 25 yards.

Middlesbrough broke the deadlock on the stroke of half time – a corner wasn’t cleared properly, and the ball ended up with Emnes outside the area, he brought the ball into the area and struck goalwards – a deflection off Moussi making sure the ball went in and send Forest in to the no-doubt inspiring half-time team talk from Cotterill a goal down.  It was reported on Radio Teeside from their pitchside reporter that Steve Cotterill had been yelling at Chambers for passing the ball on the deck and not hoofing it into the corners.  Oh dear.

Injury to Miller forced one change, and he elected to withdraw the other striker too – and replace them with… Joel Lynch and Robbie Findley.  That’s right, the second half commenced with us a goal down, but fielding six defenders, three midfielders and one striker.  The communication of how this groundbreaking formation didn’t apparently make it on to the pitch because the half-empty Riverside Stadium was ‘too noisy’ (again, according to his post-match interview).

So, less than a minute into the second half with Forest all over the place the former Coventry striker Jutkiewicz did his old club Coventry a massive favour – turning Chambers on the edge of the area and putting a low drive past Lee Camp to double the home side’s lead.  It was looking like becoming a drubbing at this point – Rhys Williams ought to have done better when heading over from a corner, and Jutkiewicz putting one over from range.

I’m ashamed to say myself and a few others had considered a few more Boro goals might hasten the departure of Cotterill and be a price worth paying, since we were (and so it came to pass) going to lose anyway.  The Crucifier showed he had observed something from recent games and introduced Andy Reid for Wootton, giving him half an hour to make a difference – he immediately did.  A foul on Gunter gave us a freekick which Reid crossed in for Lynch (another player who I think merits more game time) flicked a header in.

Forest did look livelier – and when Kevin Thomson picked up two bookings in rapid succession it looked like an unlikely lifeline was being handed to us.  Guedioura came closest for us – smashing an excellent effort from 30 yards which struck the bar and didn’t quite cross the line.  The rest of the game saw lots of territory and possession but that old lack of creativity or ruthlessness infront of goal meaning the home side could hold on to their win.

If Mark Arthur or Frank Clark are reading – please rid us of this awful team selector, awful substitute maker, awful tactician and awful motivator.  I will concede some of his signings look useful – but you already have your next manager on the payroll.  Put Cotterill on gardening leave and give Sean O’Driscoll the reigns.  If you are reading Steve, do you honestly think you’re doing a good job?  Have the common decency to walk away.  You’re probably a lovely man, but by heavens you are a terrible football manager – and we’ve seen a few.

If his was really the best CV on offer of the forty or so reported applicants for the job, then surely we can sack him for fraud, or actually submitting his Football Manager 2012 achievements rather than his real life ones?  It is with reluctance, because I don’t like to promote dischord, that I have to agree with those that call for putting Cotterill on gardening leave.