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Lancashire Red: Performance or Result?

1 December 2012

After the thrill of seeing us win at Molineux last week I’m sure I’m not the only one who envisaged us building on that success by stretching the winning sequence at Portman Road and here today. Amazing this confidence lark, don’t you think?

Wrong again.

With the kind of reality check this week, it’s probably time the real Nottingham Forest stood up to be counted. We’ve seen the best, against Cardiff, Boro’ and Barnsley to name but three, and the worst against Millwall and Ipswich, where confidence has given way to complacency, and making the recovery process somewhat longer to work though.

And though there’s little doubt that today was a good deal better than Tuesday, the expected backlash just didn’t happen. SOD’s programme notes made plenty of reference to the ‘on paper’ analysis of picking and developing a team, but for whatever reason some familiar failings are starting to creep in to proceedings which – and here was a very dominant theme expressed over several pages – if we are to ‘achieve anything this season’ need to be ironed out sooner rather than later. And what is this ‘achievement’ being referred to?  If it’s promotion (which I sincerely hope it is) some things are going to need to happen over the next couple of months, especially with a string of tricky fixtures coming up, beginning with the Dingles’ visit next week – a victory against them long overdue. Performances are all very well (don't get me wrong, we're getting plenty of those compared to this time last year), but it's results we need.

And on top of that, today rather confirmed Hull’s status as our new bogey team, since we’ve now failed to win any encounter since landing in the same division a couple of years ago and losing the last four in a row, making it well over thirty years since we won them in any sort of competition – 1977, I think. 

FLC Saturday 1st December 2012, 1500hrs
Nottingham Forest 1 – 2 Hull City
The City Ground

Cold and bright, light swirling breeze
Away fans
Some 1700 packed into Bridgford Lower, and were pretty dormant considering they were on their feet pretty much the whole time.
Has someone had words or what? Punctual kick-offs are becoming something of a regular occurrence at long last! Hallelujah!
The Match
Needless to say it didn’t do any good, and despite Forest’s continued efforts Hull decided to stop playing football and resort to timewasting instead, epitomised by Stockdale doing passable impressions of Jonny Wilkinson every time he lined up to take a goal kick, something only remedied by an 86th minute caution, along with three of his team mates for similar unsporting tactics. As is often the case when chasing a game, a cracking shot from Reidy drew a save from Stockdale at full stretch to tip the ball over right at the end, but somehow you sensed that once again this just wasn’t to be our day.
Plus of course, Hull had regained the lead through another very iffy goal. Once again we’d needlessly conceded another corner through some sloppy defending, obviously playing into Hull’s hands (now there’s a word!) as set-piece kings. The ball sails in from Koren’s kick, right across the goalmouth before being poked in at the far post. About as blatant as ‘that goal’ during a certain World Cup game in 1986 – how else would you justify a furious Camp running over to the Lino in front of the Main Stand in protest?
The only good thing to be said about this was it at least sparked the game into life, and two minutes before HT we were level after Sharp was brought down pretty clearly by Chester in a darting run for a through ball and after picking himself up made no mistake from the spot, firing into the roof of Stockdale’s net. Despite the intervention of HT this started the best period of the game in which we started to create chances, though it was a familiar story of failure to make them count. For once we had some width which certainly made a difference, though that was at the expense of having two up front, which didn’t change until Blackstock was introduced, by which time (with only 15 to go) it was really too late.
Radio Nottingham described first half akin to watching a game of chess. Personally it seemed more like watching the World Wet Cement-setting Championships combined with staying up to watch the outcome of the recent Police Commissioner elections, with virtually nothing to get excited about, save two penalties within 10 minutes of each other not long before the break: one highly controversial and the other about as nail-on as they come. The first followed a needlessly conceded corner after Hutton’s back-pass to Camp was wide of the box. Meyler advanced into the box then stumbled, Gillett having tracked him made the tackle and won the ball. The ref seemed unimpressed until the lino started waving his flag like a Jubilee reveller and the whistle to signify him buying that was decidedly late.  Protests predictably in vain – it was definitely NOT a penalty, and the Trent End voiced their fury as Koren calmly sent Camp the wrong way.
Sustained attacking play following the break saw plenty of action at the Trent End, and some good moves were created.
I hope I never see O’Driscoll play a lone striker again for a home match, which was tantamount to letting Hull have things their own way, never mind our lack of penetration up front, which is becoming too much of a habit this season. Had a bad feeling about both the needless corners conceded, the hand-ball incident for Hull’s second undoubtedly turning the game we looked the more likely to win, and we’ve once again fallen victim to some pretty poor refereeing.
Coppinger was a revelation with some neat passing at the right of midfield, and played his part in setting up some decent chances.
Cohen had an uncharacteristically off day, squandering a couple of gilt-edged chances and generally giving the ball away too much.
Gavin Ward – Lacked authority being easily convinced by his assistant for Hull’s penalty, even though he had a better view; also gave Hull little incentive to quit time-wasting late on given the tardiness in which he produced his notebook – Stockdale might easily have been a second card in that time.
Entertainment ValueProbably better split into two, given the contrast either side of HT: first half – 2/10, we’d have all nodded off had it not been so cold; second half much better, Forest playing really well until the controversial second goal – 6.5/10.
Promotion Rating3 – As a result of back-to-back defeats since last Saturday we’ve lost ground not only on the front pair, but our points tally has fallen four short of 2009-10, and now a point short of 1010-11 season. We look far too brittle at the moment as SOD struggles to find his best team, though ill-fortune through injuries has certainly exacerbated the problem.
There was much curiosity during the warm-ups over the identity of the player wearing 37 on the pitch, especially since he didn’t figure in the starting line-up or on the bench. Any clues, anyone?

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