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Club News

Lancashire Red: Striker Light

14 December 2013

One of those days in many ways: as good a day to gain on The Dingles and The Foxes going head-to-head as it was a bad day to slip up. Unfortunately for us, today’s result fell more into the latter category.

Same old problem, that lack of a finishing touch. We’ve seen it all before and we’ve heard it all before, and you could really taste the restlessness all around the ground today, and that’s not even including the one or two boos to be heard at FT.  Whilst personally I think the booing seems a tad harsh (to which I will return later) hearing various comments before KO today about an unconvincing performance at Hillsborough last week despite the pleasing result, a growing sense of unease starts to creep in.  That’s now nearly three months since most of the fans have seen a win, which sure as hell ain’t promotion form, whatever position we currently hold in the table.

Fixture
The Championship, Saturday
Nottingham Forest 0 – 0 Ipswich Town
Venue
The City Ground
Weather/Conditions

Chilly but dry, strong wind whipping up.
Away fans

Just over 1000, most of whom sat dormant and had little to contribute as far as atmosphere went.
Timekeeping
Wonders will never cease! Someone must have adjusted the dressing room clocks for the first punctual kick-off for several weeks.
The Match
Otherwise I don’t know what the answer is. Recalling Dexter Blackstock from Leeds seemed a pretty good idea until he limped back here last week, his season over through, you guessed it, injury. Personally I would still welcome Billy Sharp back to City Ground, though now he seems to be hitting form I wouldn’t bet against him choosing to stay at The Madejski.
Granted, the plan has certainly unravelled in recent weeks with hideously bad luck on the injury front, and to say we’re seriously missing key players like Cohen and Wilson is a massive understatement. All the same, to see a subdued-looking Billy sat in the dugout today instead of the more animated figure in the technical area we used to see worried me, especially in the absence of the inspirational Cohen. I wondered if today’s Daily Mail article by the highly annoying Charles Sale had irked him like it did me, as if he had nothing better to do than dish the dirt over the stuff on shenanigans going on at Forest.  Whatever.  I have always sympathised with frustrated fans who have booed the team off at the end of a bad performance, and two years ago I was with them week after week doing the same as I think it’s the paying fan’s right.  Not today. Compare the team spirit there is now to when Ipswich’s captain today used to be ours. The jeers he got today (especially from A Block) served as a timely reminder of the depths to which we’d sunk in a few short months in 2011, and of Luke Chambers’ descent from hero to zero status after a few untimely pops at elements of the Forest Faithful. I know which version I’d rather have, and it’s not the one that included Christmas 2011.
Don’t get me wrong. I may be expressing frustration at the way I’m seeing things at the moment, but after all’s said and done I am absolutely one hundred per cent behind Billy, whose return to Trentside in February righted the massive wrong committed by the previous regime two years ago, and the ridiculous tweets calling for him to go are about as senseless as the board’s decision to sack him in June 2011. Who would these tweeters rather have instead? Another McLeish/Megson/Cotterill nightmare? Someone to outdo Paul Ince in the World Red Card-collecting Championships?
So plenty of dominance, but no goals. Sounds familiar? Too right. Abdoun started trying too much of the fancy stuff on his own, either passing the ball aimlessly to a blue shirt or trying to see how acrobatic his falls could be when tackled. Chalobah missed a free header at close range from a Reid free kick when he really should have done better, prompting further questions why it just isn’t happening for him in a red shirt especially when you compare it with his form last season. Cox squandered arguably the best chance when an exquisite cross from Reid in from the right was met at full speed only for him to blast it straight at the ‘keeper.  Too many wild shots today, as in recent weeks, just crashed against defenders at close range when you just wished they could take a split second the pick their spot. Another weakness was why (twice) the ball was slid back to Lascelles to try and create something under pressure when the likes of Lansbury and other more experienced midfielders more suited to a playmaker role were standing like spare parts. Worst of all – and this has been a failing for some time now – was the lack of red shirts in a forward position whenever we get forward, either from good build-up play or catching them on the break. It’s as if the spare bodies seem to lose themselves in midfield leaving the usually lone frontman totally isolated. A 4-2-3-1 formation with Cox’s tendency to stray wide and deep obviously doesn’t work, though why Billy chose to wait until almost the 70th minute before changing to a more conventional 4-4-2 with the introduction of Hendo I just didn’t get.
Memorable for a 15-minute period during the first half in which Forest totally dominated with some crisp passing – once they’d remembered of course that the ball was bobbling about all over the place given the windy conditions and eventually managed to pass it on the deck – and created a few decent chances with Cox, Abdoun and Lansbury all going close, and Mackie tested Ipswich ‘keeper Gerken with a powerful shot having denied Cox seconds earlier. The momentum was interrupted somewhat when Cox appeared to be felled by Gerken and appeals for what looked a pretty stone wall penalty from some angles were flatly waved away. I’ve seen the playback and it looked close enough – I’m sure that ref we had against Burnley would have given it – against us of course. This coincided with a period in which noise from the fans in the stands was at its highest level, for thereafter it was downhill all the way. Nonetheless we were not only the better side, but we were also keeping Didsy (making his first visit back to City Ground in Ipswich colours) well away from being able to inflict any damage, restricting him to a couple of long-range efforts and frustrating Daryl Murphy in the proceedings. The second half continued in much the same vein, albeit far less spectacularly as further chances went begging.
Highlights
The 15-minute period of attacking football midway through the first half showed Forest to be as good as they have been this season; and apart from a second consecutive clean sheet to stifle one of the Championship’s form teams, er, um, that’s about it, I’m afraid.
Lowlights

Failure to put chances away, yet again. D3rby notching up a 6th straight win.
Hero

Darlow pulled off decent saves the few times Ipswich threatened; Harding was excellent today, especially going forward in the way we know he can, but also covered well at the back when needed; Abdoun was a constant threat during the opening period (but that wasn’t the whole story – see below).
Zero

Abdoun’s trickery in possession is all very well, but failure to create any credible end product is starting to rankle among the fans, and the theatricals cut little ice with the Trent End in the second half. Four goals in five games may statistically class Cox as ‘in form’, but that doesn’t exempt him from criticism (or the fans’ wrath) for wasting chances like he did today, nor is he likely to rank among the Championship’s more prolific marksmen of Rhodes/Ings/Vaughan calibre for being so wasteful.
RefereeScott Mathieson – The (non) penalty decision upset many home fans, though I have to admit he got it absolutely spot on since Cox was already going down before he was upended, and Cox’s rather theatrical fall did him few favours. On the other hand he might well have booked Cox for diving which would have seen us reduced to ten men since Cox had already been booked for a lunge on Nouble when Ipswich broke through earlier on. Allowed the game to flow and played advantage wherever possible, which can’t have been easy in the latter stages given how scrappy it got.
Entertainment Value
4/10 – despite having occasional moments of drama, overall this was a poor game.

5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
Promotion Rating
3 – Just as we failed to capitalise on Leicester and Burnley sharing the points, D3rby turn the knife with yet another win and Reading and Leeds (who loom large over the holiday period) take their turn to capitalise at our expense. It’s still a merry-go-round as one by one different teams trip up, though for us to get back in the race we need to start winning at home. Our current form is somewhat reminiscent of the 2000-01 season where the away fans were, for a while at least, having much more to smile about until injuries cost us dear. Something positive in January’s transfer market (like someone who can get that ball in the back of the net) needs to happen to avoid this season ending in the same disappointment that that one did.

Misc
Today’s ‘Well he would say that’ award goes to Mick McCarthy for describing the ref’s decision not to give a penalty as ‘fabulous’. Never mind the fact we’ve all seen them given at one time or another, it makes you wonder how he would have described the decision had it gone the other way instead, even if his initial feeling at the time it happened was that it was a pen.

Sigh. Well that’s enough for now. I really hope Billy’s Christmas list for Santa bears fruit, whoever might be on it, though some helpings of better luck in general wouldn’t go amiss either. On that note may I wish everyone a Happy and peaceful Christmas.  Lancashire Red coverage will resume for the fixture against Leeds.

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