Of all the New Year games attended, I can think of only one experience more miserable than this, and that was the 5-0 drubbing at Boundary Park six years ago. Nothing like irony to suggest we might be back there very soon if Oldham hold us to a draw this coming Saturday? Perish the thought.
Today was my fourth visit to Ewood Park, where I’ve seen Rovers do nothing but win. A new candidate for top Bogey Ground since we’ve not won there since we were both Premiership sides, and that was when we were (both) all but down. Were it not for the fact it’s only a 20-minute drive from home I’d probably not have bothered. But this is a club who’s been through the mangle over the last 18 months for goodness sake! I know we’ve not had it easy either, but who was in the better position going into this game? BBFC: Owners so unpopular even their fans are still chanting abuse at them after back-to-back wins, attendances well down, pressure to return to Prem at first time of asking (and looking unlikely to do so) no manager. NFFC: Well-received new owners, progress acknowledged by fans, attendance steady if unspectacular, new manager welcomed at first game. In other words, a golden opportunity to turn the knife – rather like we did at Wolves – and continue the good work started on Saturday.
Instead, I return from Ewood Park wishing I hadn’t bothered, having seen a Forest side looking like they were all out on the town last night. It was a typical Ewood Experience (with miserable weather coming as standard): No creativity, no discipline, no goals, no points, and no joy. Today simply wasn’t good enough.
FLC, Tues 1st January 2013, 1500hrs|
Blackburn Rovers 3 – 0 Nottingham Forest
|Weather/Conditions||Typically Ewood Park: cold, wet and windy.|
|Away fan experience||A friendly car park 10 minutes away, still selling Christmas wreaths. Pre-match beer was found at the friendly Fox & Hounds just five minutes’ walk from the ground. Having a 4th row aisle seat enabled me to watch the game seated along with a few others close by, but predictably the majority chose to stand. I must have been sat with the thirstiest or most-in-need-of-the-toilet fans given the constant to-ing and fro-ing of people along my row throughout the entire game.|
|acilitiesF||I’d forgotten how cramped the concourse area is behind the seating area, making it a nightmare at HT to move about, whether queueing for the kiosks (surprised to see no chicken on the menu!) or finding the Gents. The facilities themselves are as good as I remember them from last time, although I decided not to avail myself of the local pies given a correspondent on these pages had a less than pleasurable experience last time out, and the local Mackydee’s was more than satisfactory this time.|
|Programme||Not the highest of quality, but a reasonably interesting read, albeit still with SOD’s details in the visitor’s feature, despite Danny Murphy’s column accurately documenting the recent managerial change.|
Fifteen minutes later the ref put us out of our misery and for the first time in any away game I’ve attended this season, a chorus of boos was directed to the players, and you really couldn’t blame the fans for venting their fury. I felt fortunate I was going to be home in twenty minutes, unlike most of the travelling support.|
The only amusing part of all this was that despite being three goals up, a large contingent of home fans could be heard venting their fury at the club’s owner Shebby Singh. I wonder if they’ll still be doing that if Rovers achieve promotion this season, however unlikely a prospect that may be?
Three minutes later came further misery when our defensive frailties were yet again exposed when we failed to deal with some good work by Kazim-Richards who had once again advanced virtually unchallenged before sliding the ball neatly towards Henley. That voice close behind me murmured Thre-Nil, which it soon was. With Harding completely outmanoeuvred, the ball was slid back for Kazim-Richards to lash the ball past Camp before making a complete prat of himself by goading the travelling support with a stupid jig, and rightly earning himself a yellow card. Game over.
For a while we toiled in an attempt to restore parity, but already it felt as if today it just wasn’t going to happen. Sharp had a header tipped over by Kean, but that was about as close as it got. Even the substitutions (Cohen and Blackstock) when they came felt distinctly too little too late, and Blackburn were stepping up to kill the game off. This came into fruition with 15 to go when Pedersen exploited our weakness at left back before crossing towards Jordan Rhodes. A voice close behind me murmured Two-Nil, which it soon was. Despite Rhodes having his back to goal he managed to turn and slot the ball past Camp for his second goal against us with two different clubs.
The second half was only a couple of minutes old before Forest’s afternoon began to go decidedly pear-shaped. Josh King picked up the ball around the half-way line and cut through our defence like a knife through soft butter before a neat lay-off for Ruben Rochina. What did we do? Backed off of course, and by the time Ayala was in a position to intercept Rochina was poised to shoot. There may have been more than an element of luck the way the ball rebounded off his leg before it flew past Camp and into the bottom corner, but I doubt he’d have missed if he’d been one-on-one.
Being seated so low down I was hoping to see plenty of the ball played to feet, and though it was difficult to see just how much space we had when in possession, Blackburn as expected were right in our faces, affording us little time on the ball. We, by contrast seemed to give them ample room which suited them fine. As a result we were scrambling for the ball deep in our own half and only just managing to keep them out. At the other end it was the same old story with coming up against the usual brick wall in the final third and long balls hoofed into nowhere areas beyond the reach of Billy Sharp who never had less than two defenders marking him all afternoon, with Olsson more often than not climbing all over him. It was a scrappy and unproductive first half with neither side creating much.
A well-known phrase comes to mind: if it ain’t broke… So why McLeish had to make four changes to the side which performed well on Saturday, well I just didn’t get that one. Only one of those was justified with Ayala coming in for Ward whose loan spell had ended.
|Highlights||Were there any from a Forest point of view? A couple of half-chances with Cox and Lansbury going close early on, and a Billy Sharp header being saved in the second half – that’s about it really.|
|Lowlights||The backpass incident before HT resulting in a free kick inside the Forest box (Collins’ attempted clearance being caught by Camp), but that was nothing compared to the second half capituation in which we virtually waved three goals through like the Customs Green channel at the airport.|
|Hero||No-one today, sorry!|
|Zero||Despite my previously defending Camp, Harding and Moussi, all three rightfully attracted criticism from the travelling support.|
|Referee||Geoff Eltringham – displayed typical homer tendencies through failure to book Olsson for climbing all over Sharp.|
|Entertainment Value||2/10 - Without doubt the worst game I’ve seen this season, especially the first half.|
|Promotion Rating||4 – In post-match discussion with sceptical Rovers fan we both agreed the promotion boat has definitely sailed without us or Rovers, especially with Cardiff now up to 56 points, and who’d begrudge them of promotion having gone so close three seasons running. Our owners and management (those of them who still have jobs by the end of the month) could do a lot worse than look to them to see how they’ve persevered.|
If McLeish was trying to offer positives from today’s game, then I’m afraid he was at a different game to the disappointed Forest fans at Ewood Park today. Sorry, but it was that bad.|
The final game of the Festive Four, and it makes disappointing reading. Given our league position prior to Watford, the minimum yield ought to have been seven points. Instead we’ve managed a measly four – only one better than last season’s miserable festive offering.
The game kicked off promptly at 3pm today, despite Forest winning the toss resulting in changing ends. If they can do it all on time then why can’t we?