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Lancashire Red: Cruel Reminders

2 November 2013

Definitely feeling mean tonight! (Cue the cat running for cover) If this report has an air of sour grapes about it then you’d probably be right.

We’ll get on to today’s game in a minute. The last couple of weeks have demonstrated just what a frustrating experience being a football fan can be, especially this one. Never mind events on the pitch where Forest are concerned, since there is enough going on elsewhere to make the hackles rise. Last week whilst listening for updates from Huish Park during that dire programme the BBC call Final Score (long overdue to be re-christened Final Bore) I just watch the presenters and pundits’ noses get increasingly brown as they incessantly sucked up to The Filth in their turnaround at Old T as if it was the only game in the entire world that mattered; and perhaps not surprisingly this theme continued into MOTD later on.

Needless to say a win was a priority today in the wake of five points dropped in the two games where a minimum return of four points was expected by most of us. So much then for my stats regarding the 13th fixture, now no longer lucky, and which didn’t bode well for today’s 14th fixture, one which we have lost the last three seasons in a row.   With scoring goals becoming something of a problem of late, the arguments regarding the calibre of our strikers will continue to rage on, with missed penalties becoming something of a recurring nightmare, and a good number of us wondering why Blackstock had to be farmed out on loan to Leeds. A large section of fans will no doubt consider that his time with us has passed, and that he is no longer in Billy’s plans. An equally large section (including myself) will argue he’s (hopefully) gone to get some match time under his belt so he’ll be in better condition when he returns in January. My only fear here is he’ll like it there too much (can’t think why, mind) and consequently want away from here and will be neither use nor ornament. Not that Dex has displayed any negative attitude during his time here, far from. But a goal with his very first touch of the ball against Huddersfield last week will no doubt have endeared him to Leeds’ fans already, despite his contribution to that wonder-win at Elland Road 18 months ago.

Blackpool, then. Our recent record against this lot (the play-off season of 2009-10 excepted) is on the whole not bad, though interestingly better results achieved away than here on Trentside. The sequence we’d be looking to break therefore was the duck where home wins are concerned. Unfortunately the only sequences broken today were our unbeaten home record and scoring in every game this season.

The Championship, Saturday 2nd November 2013
Nottingham Forest 0 - 1 Blackpool
The City Ground

Blustery and showery, occasional sunshine
Away fans

It’ll obviously take at least another promotion or play-off final to bring the glory-hunters back. Now we know the extent of their core travelling contingent – all 900 of them.
Maybe someone should set the dressing room clocks to be four or five minutes fast. The teams were barely out on the pitch at the stroke of 3 o’clock, so yet another tardy start by almost four minutes.
The Match
Sadly it was a distinctly fortuitous goal which was to be our undoing. Yet another in stoppage time – becoming something of a habit, this. A move involving Ince, Chopra and Tyson was partially cleared by a tightly packed Forest defence, but only as far as Dobbie, one of the few remnants of the play-off side who turned us over four times in 2010, and of course it had to be him who stuck the knife in late in the second half to kill us off three years ago. Here, he let fly with a low drive from 20 yards, which squirmed into the bottom corner. A more ill-deserved goal you will struggle to see and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to feel pig-sick as I legged it back towards the car for another long drive home to be accompanied by wave after wave of torrential downpours (though thankfully not by smug Tangerine fans having beaten the traffic). Hours later and it still hurts. Football can be a cruel game and today was one of those classic examples of it.
The second half got underway and Forest began to play really well, with disciplined defending and any foray into Blackpool’s half was considered without any unnecessary risks taken. This still left us hoping to hold out for a nil-nil above anything else, but the longer time went on the more likely we looked to achieve it or even still nick one as Blackpool became less disciplined with ill-considered shots on goal (and going anywhere but) and simply losing possession cheaply. Halford replaced Henderson whilst Blackpool (minus of course that popular fellow Paul Ince) became more attack-minded with three changes, two of them ex-reds: Nathan Tyson (warmly welcomed by the home fans whilst warming up, roundly booed when he eventually came on) and Michael Chopra (a distinctly lukewarm reception all round). Further changes for Forest saw Vaughan leave to a standing ovation to be replaced by Reid, and Mackie’s contribution was equally acknowledged by the fans as he made way for Paterson with a couple of minutes still to go. It might be argued that these changes were a little on the late side for trying to nick a late winner, but equally we’d played well and in a settled manner throughout the second half, so why change it before it was necessary?
Like I said, it’s on incidents like this that games turn. And less than five minutes later insult was added to injury when Bishop was pulled down at the other end by Abdoun who’d been dispossessed. However valid the penalty awarded it still rankled in view of the injustice at the other end, and to make matters worse Abdoun was deemed last man and so had to go.  I’m not a fan of gamesmanship but in this case I welcomed him taking his time to leave the field as Ince lined up impatiently to take the spot kick, and as he eventually did so Karl Darlow appeared to grow massively as he flapped his arms before diving to his right to block the shot and the subsequent follow-up. We jumped up and cheered almost as loudly as if we’d just scored before the reality of the situation began to sink in. There was still ten minutes to go till HT meaning almost an hour to play with ten men. The prospect of winning this one had distinctly nosedived and the fans became despondent in a way we often do when we fall a goal behind. Well, that’s how it felt at least, and yet whist the score remained goal-less there was at least a chance of getting something from the game even if it wasn’t the win we all craved. The priority now was to try and hold out to HT before Billy could get them in to regroup. Not easy with the double whammy we’d just suffered. Although we’d rather lost shape since the dismissal it was Cohen who came closest to breaking the deadlock with a fine low 20-yarder that Gilks had to stretch to keep out.
The one occasion there was a body in the right place however, was the incident which changed the game. Henderson was following up a loose ball as Blackpool’s defence opened for the first time. He advanced into the box and was clearly brought down by Broadfoot. It was right in front of the Trent End who howled for the penalty to be awarded, and howled even louder when the ref waved the appeal away (so why was Hendo not booked for diving, then?). Thoughts fly back to three years ago when Blackpool’s Charlie Adam used to win penalties like this almost all the time.
This took some time to get going. There was an unfamiliar feel to the Forest line-up, with Lascelles deputising for the injured Wilson, and the surprise relegation to the bench for Andy Reid. Apart from being against a former club (and an unhappy experience at that) I personally didn’t get this one. Likewise Radi, who was missing altogether.  The main interest however was the inclusion of new loan signing David Vaughan who wasted no time in blending in and looked assured on the ball. In contrast to recent games where we’ve more than coped with the physical side to things (and conceding a few too many fouls and cards in the process) it was Blackpool who were responsible for the stop-start with a lot of clattering of red shirts. Chances were few and far between with the first real danger coming from a Stephen Dobbie free kick from 25 yards which took a wicked deflection before Darlow was able to block the shot with his legs. At the other end young Lascelles tried a long-range shot when he really should have noticed some red shirts in better positions, but it was Mackie out on the right and Abdoun on the left who were showing some real quality out wide. Unfortunately with little presence in the middle there was the same old problem of no end product and this is now starting to be a major worry. On several occasions we saw Mackie totally isolated in possession up field with no-one within a hundred miles of him – why?
The penalty save was undoubtedly the high spot as it was the only thing we really had to celebrate all afternoon. A solid contribution by David Vaughan bodes well for the next few weeks and gives us further options in midfield.

The two penalty incidents (though one might argue that with our track record this season we probably wouldn’t have scored from ours anyway had it been given) and conceding that scabby goal right at the very end having held out so well. Billy is reported to have questioned whether the goal should have stood, though I’m not sure about that, despite it hurting so much.

Absolutely no doubt about today’s MOTM: Karl Darlow by a mile. That said, the impressive debut of David Vaughan and contribution of Jamie Mackie both deserve mention also.

Lansbury was uncharacteristically quiet and Lascelles looked distinctly nervous during the opening period, and needs to be more aware of players around him when venturing forward. Abdoun of course will now have three games to think about following his actions leading to his red card.
Michael Naylor – Taking the game as a whole he did a reasonable job. It’s too bad that denying Henderson a clear penalty classes as a game-changing decision (we might not have lost Abdoun five minutes later of course) so I’m afraid that puts him up along with all the other poor refs we’ve had this season. Par for the course – big sigh!
Entertainment Value
3/10 – backs-to-the-wall encounters rarely make for entertaining stuff, though there was the occasional lapse into flowing passing football in the way we know and love. Blackpool were arguably the most physical side seen on Trentside so far this season and whether that is due to the tutelage of their absent manager or not, it is unedifying stuff and wont be winning back many plaudits should the Tangerines scrape back to the Prem any time soon.

5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
Promotion Rating
3 – Incredibly we’re still in 6th place tonight after both Reading and Udinese ‘B’ slipped up, but it’s a worrying dip in form we find ourselves in right now, with only one point from the last three games, two of which ranked high on the winnable list. As things currently go I don’t see us taking six points from our next two with both the Foxes and The Dingles not only in form but looking supremely confident with it. Yes, pride does come before a fall (as it often seems to in Leicester’s case), but unless we find a solution to our lack of end product very soon the promotion boat is in danger of preparing to sail without us. Points-wise we are now on an equal number of points after 14 games as we were in 2009, the difference being that back then we were in the ascendency as opposed to the rather indifferent run we find ourselves in now. In Billy we trust, and today was one of those setbacks we were bound to get, just as he said we would. But the cries for a prolific striker of the calibre of Rhodes, Ings, Vokes and, (ahem) Sharp will continue to get louder as the pressure on those we already have continues to mount. As fans we can only wait, but hours after getting back from the game and I’m still feeling really frustrated by it all.  Maybe Billy is wishing for that magic wand after all.

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