Just when I thought I was out…

… they pull me back in!

Nottingham Forest – 1
Doncaster Rovers – 2

Okay, I’ll be honest, nobody really thought that we were out of it – but well, I needed a way to cheer myself up and what better way of gratuitously quoting the Godfather?  After a decent mini-run of results Cotterill made changes, some were enforced (not least the last-minute changes due to injuries during the warm-up), others less so – either way, from looking quite balanced and with options we suddenly looked, well, not even one dimensional.

Initially my aghastness at McCleary being on the left started to look like a potentially shrewd move with Chimbonda struggling to deal with him – but there were too many poor performances today.  With injuries to Tudgay and Anderson pre-match, and one to Elokobi during the game, we are looking worryingly thin on the ground in areas again – particularly up front where we had to rely on the hapless Robbie Findley.

Even Cotterill didn’t have his customary bizarre excuse post-match – he sounded just as baffled as the rest of us as to why the lads just didn’t appear to put in the effort.  He also left an intriguing nugget hanging in the air around Findley before stating that he doesn’t talk about things that happen in the dressing room – so we know there’s a problem with the USA striker, but not what it is.  So anyway, here was the team that lined up, at odds to the scoreboard:

Wootton   Chambers   Lynch   Elokobi
Gunter    Moussi    Guerdioura    McCleary
Blackstock    Findley

The early running was with Doncaster in possession – albeit not creating much of note.  Forest actually fashioned the best early exchanges – coming from Findley which missed the target, and a distance effort from McCleary from distance giving Ikeme an early easy save to make.  It was clearly a game between two sides low on form and confidence.  Dex did well to create some space in the box but shot straight at the ‘keeper.

Probably our brightest moment was courtesy of man-of-the-moment McCleary who ran forward well, cutting inside and blasting powerfully from around 25 yards – putting it just wide, it wasn’t really clear whether Ikeme would’ve got anything on it or not.  As the Reds were easily stifled from further attacking our visitors started to tentatively probe foward, Piquionne was ready to shoot but Moussi was on hand to clear the lines.

It was the debutant who gave Rovers the lead though – he carried the ball forward as Donny had three on two down the right channel.  Rather than play it to his teammates he unleashed an absolute piledriver unexpectedly from thirty odd yards – whilst it was powerfully struck and looked to be swerving it was also bloody nearly straight at Camp from my seat (need to see it again, really) but took the ‘keeper by surprise and was in.  A real sucker punch right before half time.

So what had looked a disappointing but not disastrous first half had quickly become something more approximating an uphill battle.  One bright spot of a disappointing evening was actually noticing somebody actually manage to kick the ball through the hole in the world’s most poxy half time ‘entertainment.’  Yes, goal aside, that was perhaps the highlight of the evening for us on the pitch!

To mount the challenge for the second half Cotterill restored Andy Reid to the pitch, sacrificing Wootton, who isn’t a rightback, and moving Gunter – who is – back to that position, putting McCleary on the right and Reidy on the left.  I can kinda understand why he opted to give Reid a rest but, well, he needed to put somebody on the pitch who knows how to kick the ball to his teammates, with only Guerdioura and McCleary really showing much propensity to do this.

As far as starts to a second half go, this was bloody shit, though.  A mix-up in defence presumably between Elokobi and Lynch as it was down the left allowed El-Hadji Diouf as much space as he could want on the right to pick out an excellently placed cross to find a completely unmarked Kyle Bennett to convert from close range into a practically open goal to double the visitors lead.

It was nearly tripled as well.  The dangerous Bennett again the danger-man when he hit a decent low shot that looked to have Camp beaten, only for the Forest keeper to make a belated dive to tip the ball onto the post and eventually gather the loose ball under supervision from Elokobi.  It was so nearly a very very embarrassing evening’s work, make no mistake at all about this.

After a renewed attempt to get forward the Reds were left with another enforced change with Elokobi left sitting on an advertising hoarding at the Trent End – he was replaced by Cunningham (who himself had been a late addition to the substitutes thanks to the injuries elsewhere).  Doncaster reverted to a spoiling and timewasting style, which is unsurprisingly really given their predicament, and the Reds had very idea about how to break this down.

Until Guedioura picked out a lovely pass down the right to Gunter who’d got well forward.  His cross found Blackstock who’d found some time and space in the box to put the ball high into the net to get a goal back for the Reds.  One of my season ticket neighbours was convinced that this would herald the comeback to get a draw, I struggled to muster much by way of optimism, to be honest.

I’m sad to say I was very pleased to see Robbie Findley withdrawn – I have no idea what issues Cotterill alluded to about the striker, but regardless of this he was shockingly bad this evening.  McGugan replaced him presumably to play as an advanced midfielder – he kinda just strolled about though rather than grasp the opportunity that we were obviously hoping he’d grasp like he used to under Billy when reduced to substitute.

McCleary again was our principle source of danger – he cut in from the left and hit a decent shot through plenty of bodies in the box – Ikeme spilled it but re-gathered just before the onrushing Guedioura could get on the end of it.  Gradually we ran out of ideas and our main idea of attack seemed to be to pass the ball to Chambers to launch towards the now-emergency-striker Lynch up front – it was predictably ineffective.

A really frustrating evening – unplanned changes notwithstanding.  A lack of effort from some quarters, a lack of quality from other – it all added up to a deserved win for Doncaster who lift themselves from the bottom of the league.  Indeed, win their game in hand over us by two goals and they’d consign us to the bottom three again.  Just as we’d dared to hope we might open up a gap from danger we’re back up the famous creek with a super-slippery-gripped paddle.

However, to offer some balance to proceedings I suppose, most of us expected us to lose at Birmingham and beat Doncaster.  I suppose the end result on the points front would be the same – the disappointment is that goodwill that was starting to develop and the momentum we’d built up is eliminated, and the gauntlet is thrown down now for the players to restore that on Saturday when Millwall come to town.