This is Going to Be One Mad Sunday Afternoon - Notes for Nottingham Forest
Friday, 5th May 2017 23:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Sunday’s final game of the league campaign at the City Ground by delving into their forums.
“The biggest game for years next week, fellas”, “We are now into goal difference territory”, “I will be a mental wreck on Sunday”, “I can see it all ending in tears”, “Ipswich will be a swine to play against, you just know it”, “If you think Ipswich will lie down for us, you really don’t know Mick McCarthy.”
“What a football club.” Saturday was a terrible day for the East Midlanders, their 2-0 defeat at QPR leaving them above third-bottom Blackburn on goal difference. Rovers play at Brentford on Sunday and will overtake Forest simply by matching their result and clawing back their deficit of two goals.
“Can anyone honestly see us holding our nerve next week?”, “This league is often about who has the most desire to win regardless of talent. Any team can beat another and I am seriously concerned as to what could happen next week”, “The other teams are fighting and look like they want to survive.”
“With this club, I fear the worst when the pressure is really cranked up”, “We aren’t down, but given how we are playing we look the most likely candidates”, “We could win next week and get relegated. I am terrified, it’s not going to be a good week”, “It’s horrible, isn’t it?”, “I’m so bloody nervous.”
A Catastrophe at Loftus Road
“This is a nightmare”, “Can we start today again, please?”, “Please Ian Holloway, just retire. Has he made a career out of just beating us?”, “Once QPR scored it was clear we weren’t going to score”, “Mentally weak as usual, there’s no chance we will beat Ipswich with that kind of pressure on.”
“Blackburn have no chance of winning both their games”, “I’m in an unexpectedly good mood today and think we will do it.” Forest fans arrived in West London full of confidence having seen their team beat play-off contenders Reading the previous Saturday, but this dissipated as the game progressed.
“I have got a bad feeling about this”, “No, 10-man Birmingham are leading Huddersfield’s reserves.” The game was scoreless at half-time but Reds were uneasy about how the pattern of the game was unfolding. “We have been sloppy so far, misplacing short passes and indecisive”, “This is killing me.”
“No! QPR score”, “Right after half-time again.” Conor Washington’s goal on 49 minutes sent a shockwave through the visiting fans but things quickly escalated. “We are in big trouble. Blackburn have scored against Aston Villa”, “It had to be, so predictable”, “I thought that we were definitely safe.”
“We’re doomed, 2-0 to QPR.” Joel Lynch’s headed goal against his old club on 60 minutes left Reds expecting the worst. “How can one team screw up so much? How is it physically possible to screw up as much as Forest does?”, “Devolving into shambles, I fear the worst now”, “All over, disgraceful.”
“We are incredibly fortunate to have Mark Warburton as our manager”, “Just look at what he has to work with. He deserves our backing”, “I feel for him. He knows what he is about and is trying to get the lads playing proper football. The trouble is that so few of them can do so with pace and style.”
McCarthy and Warburton
The 54-year-old one-time Brentford boss replaced interim manager Gary Brazil in March, with Forest having previously sacked Philippe Montanier in January. Fans have welcomed Warburton’s arrival and can see the side beginning to develop a brand of attractive football similar to his days at Griffin Park.
“I love Warburton’s football, it’s really easy on the eye. The longer we play it, the better it will look”, “Well done to him for playing football as it should be played”, “He will get us playing with non-stop pressing but we just don’t have the players, and in such a busy month we also don’t have the legs.”
“Anyone blaming him for us going down needs to give their heads a serious shake”, “He is doing a good job in the circumstances. If we go down it won’t be on him, it will be on the players and the owner”, “The answer doesn’t lie in the past, but in the future with Warburton and decent football.”
“If you wanted to write a book on how to poorly run a football club, you wouldn’t be able to add much more to what Fawaz has done to us. Five-year plan? Stick it up backside, mate”, “The Fawaz handicap”, “His track record is of sacking managers and finishing lower and lower every season.”
The 48-year-old Kuwaiti owner had been slated for his consistently poor judgement in recruiting and selling players along with sacking managers. “Our record speaks volumes about his ability to run a club. Relegation would be everything he deserves and the last thing fans deserve. He needs to go.”
A Mentally Fragile Team
“A squad full of bottlers”, “It’s a nightmare scenario. Forest have repeatedly demonstrated this year that we can’t handle pressure. Sunday will be horrific”, “We are mentally weak and come unstuck when put under pressure”, “As next week’s game is a must-win, I can see them bottling that too.”
“We are not seeing enough spirit, it’s the lack of fight that concerns me most”, “The players seem to give up at times”, “We really miss out not having leaders in the squad. Maybe we wouldn’t be so frail mentally if we had a few players who could inspire others rather than crumbling under pressure.”
“Under Warburton we see a slick passing game played at a snail’s pace”, “The passing game is good if played at pace and if someone has the nous to play a defence-splitting pass from time to time. We play with no tempo and invariably go cross-field”, “The opposition sit back, break at pace and score.”
“This squad is so unbalanced and unreliable”, “We have a weak squad full of poor players claiming big wages and youth players not equipped for a relegation scrap”, “Endeavour without quality is only good for division three”, “Even if we do stay up, this squad will definitely need a serious culling.”
“We generally play well against the better teams who come to play open football. We are unable to work out how to win when opponents adopt a negative approach”, “We need a strategy for teams that park the bus or defend for their lives and break. We seem to do better when teams attack us.”
Warburton has experimented in his brief time with wing-backs, but his starting XI at QPR (above) had the back four plus three midfielders he has preferred in recent games. The lack of quality is an issue throughout the squad but the biggest worry is the team’s weak heartbeat in central midfield.
“We need a no-nonsense centre-back. So many times, balls get swung into our six-yard box and we don’t win the first or second ball. We need someone who can put a head or a foot on it”, “The back four hold and keep the ball well but we are really vulnerable when teams run at us with the ball.”
“Midfield is a graveyard at the moment”, “A midfield of Chris Cohen, David Vaughan and Ben Osborn gets you where you are, in the bottom four”, “It cannot create chances and gives no protection to the defence”, “The midfield at QPR was static and terrible, all of them failing to do the same job.”
“You won’t get enough service to your strikers when your central midfield does not support attacks”, “Cohen and Vaughan together cause problems when they both start flagging after 60 minutes”, “Our midfield offers no quality in the final third. That final ball is always given away or poorly played.”
“The Burke debacle”, “Here’s a little more insight. In 38 games since the sale of Oliver Burke we only managed 36 points”, “This campaign was doomed when we sold him to RB Leipzig in August and did not bother replace him. We then did the same thing selling Henri Lansbury to Aston Villa in January.”
Forest 3 – 2 Reading
“Bloody hell, we don’t make it easy. What a win”, “A great win, too shattered to celebrate”, “I have no fingernails left”, “We were cruising against one of the best footballing sides in the league then we started to panic, the crowd included, but they ground it out”, “The last 15 minutes were horrible.”
Goals from Britt Assombalonga on 31 and 47 minutes and a low strike by Mustapha Carayol on 54 put Forest three goals clear and cruising to victory. East Midlanders’ nerves were left frayed at the final whistle after Yann Kermogant struck back twice for the Royals on 58 and 74 minutes.
“Park the bus! Park it now!”, “Throw this away and I will be devastated”, “We always give teams momentum at the end of games”, “A cracking game, we completely played them off the park until we let them score”, “Probably one of the most stressful games I can remember in a long time”, “
The only alteration between the starting XI (above) and the side which lost at Loftus Road a week later was the inclusion of Danny Fox for Daniel Pinillos at left-back. “At 3-0 up, Vaughan and Cohen ran out of steam and couldn’t keep possession”, “Those two goals we conceded could cost us.”
Cardiff 1 – 0 Forest
“Useless, useless bastards”, “Beaten by a side with absolutely nothing to play for, the alarm bells should be deafening everybody by now”, “Most teams would be bombarding the opposition in stoppage time but we just seemed to give up. Time to show some character, you bunch of wasters.”
“Nil-all at half-time, this has 1-0 Cardiff written all over it”, “Neil Warnock will have sussed us out by now.” Reds saw the writing on the wall as City won this Easter Monday fixture courtesy of Aron Gunnarsson 25-yard goal on 70 minutes. “We played pretty passes with no pace or penetration.”
“There was no real reaction to the defeat at home to Blackburn on Good Friday.” Forest fans were furious with the lack of character their side showed in what was an insipid loss. “Blackburn are trying to make a battle of it now unlike our titanic pile of rubbish which is slipping to the depths below.”
Warburton prefers to station his wingers on their wrong side, getting them to cut inside on to their stronger foot. When the starting XI (above) was announced, Reds were bemused at seeing winger Jamie Ward included as a mobile striker with the more physically imposing Ben Brereton out wide.
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Jordan Smith is one of the plus points in this awful season.” The 22-year-old youth product made his goalkeeping debut for the Reds in February. “Have we unearthed a gem here? He commands his box, he doesn’t flap, is not afraid to come and collect the ball and he is an excellent shot-stopper.”
“I hope fans realise how hard a job Smith has been given regarding playing out from the back. This kid is spraying passes with his left and right foot while under pressure in the no-mistakes area of the pitch”, “He looks very comfortable. With some keepers you feel nervous, but are assured with him.”
“Eric Lichaj is fine going forward, it’s just a case of whether he has the confidence.” The 28-year-old former Villa right-back “is a consistent presence in an unbalanced and at times shambolic side this season”, “He rarely gets injured, is fully committed and can play very well in multiple positions.”
Eric Lichaj v Birmingham's Clayton Donaldson
“Warburton likes to play a high defensive line with energy and width from his full-backs. The issue for Lichaj is that he is short of pace and lacks delivery. It’s not a criticism, more thinking about where he fits”, “He’s a selfless hard worker but needs to play in a more attacking style more frequently.”
“Daniel Pinillos is technically excellent. He never gives the ball away and passes with pace.” The 24-year-old ex-Cordoba left-back “is so composed and his positioning is perfect”, “He has always been very slow but he always has had very good anticipation and gives the defence a sense of balance.”
“Pinillos has had spells of looking like a solid footballer but he’s another who is an injury worry. I do fear for him against wingers who run right at him. He’s very reluctant to tackle but doesn’t get close enough to show them down the line either”, “He gives us a platform to build on from the defence.”
“Armand Traore doesn’t give you the same confidence as Pinillos.” The 27-year-old ex-QPR left-sided player “is so naïve with his positioning and we can be cut open with ease down his flank”, “He played wider earlier in the season but there has been a conscious decision to push him closer infield lately.”
Armand Traore playing for former club QPR
“Danny Fox is a liability at left-back but is much better playing as a central defender.” The 30-year-old ex-Southampton defender “wants to back off his man rather than go toe-to-toe with someone and get beaten like he does at left-back”, “Play him at centre-back or forget it, his positioning is inept.”
“Fox has done well recently but isn’t known for his one-on-one tackles so avoids them at all costs”, “He may have improved lately but he is a liability with the ball at his feet. He often invites pressure on to us with misplaced passes. He gets us into real danger three or four times per game doing this.”
“Matt Mills is a good defender, a good leader and he scores goals.” The 30-year-old ex-Bolton man “might really struggle is he has to play intelligently and confidently under Warburton with the ball at his feet”, “A reliable solid defender who can handle the physicality but he is very shaky on the ball.”
Matt Mills, clapping
“Joe Worrall is very young but is comfortable at this level.” The 20-year-old youth product “hasn’t made too many errors. He has a decent head on him, good positioning, reads the game well and he doesn’t give away too many freekicks. He doesn’t look uncomfortable when on the ball either.”
“Worrall could become the no-nonsense stopper we have not had since Wes Morgan. He definitely could but isn’t there yet”, “You look at him and think he’s a physical Mills-type player but he’s more of a sweeper and pretty good with the ball. Hopefully he will get stronger as he becomes older.”
“Mancienne is the kind of mobile, passing centre-half who fits into the way Warburton wants to play football.” The 29-year-old ex-Hamburg defender, who played for Mick McCarthy at Wolves, “has pace and mobility which compensates for the one-paced nature of our other centre-backs”, “He anticipates through balls and positions himself well.”
“Mancienne is largely uncomfortable under pressure, but put a Yann Kermogant or opposing centre-back against him and he gets beaten. He isn’t commanding enough”, “There is more to the role than being a decent footballer. Being vocal, being a leader and being aggressive are things he hasn’t got.”
“Matty Cash’s strength lies as a box-to-box player.” The 19-year-old youth product “has a big heart and a big engine. The defensive side of his game is suited to the holding role. The weaker side of his game is a tendency to run down blind alleys and his final ball is lacking but he’s a cracking prospect.”
“Zach Clough picking up the ball on the half-turn and attacking the box is something we have been missing.” The 22-year-old January signing from Bolton missed the QPR defeat with a hamstring pull but many Reds would welcome his name on the team sheet. “Zach is a number 10 all day long.”
Zach Clough falling over for previous club Bolton
“Clough has lovely quick feet, vision and an eye for goal”, “A game-changer who gives us something no other player in the squad can”, “He’s the kind of exciting unpredictable talent that gets you off your seat”, “Cockiness bordering on arrogance is sometimes an asset and Clough can carry it off.”
“Ben Osborn has immense movement and work rate.” The 22-year-old youth product “doesn’t steal the glory but makes the team tick, takes the ball and moves it forward to players better at creating and scoring goals”, “Any attacking player who lacks size and pace is better used further forward.”
“Osborn is tidy, energetic and consistent. He will attempt a pass if it is on. He keeps his position well, is disciplined and won’t go into hiding even if he’s having an off-day and misplacing passes”, “He has created one of the highest number of chances in the league”, “A useful player to have in the squad.”
“We never replaced the pre-injury Chris Cohen.” The 30-year-old Forest stalwart and former Glover “slows the game down and gives the ball away”, “He had lots of the ball in the Blackburn defeat but his distribution was terrible”, “He has poor at QPR, giving the ball away and often passing sideways.”
“Cohen was struggling for fitness in particular in the second half against Reading, so we dropped off and let them press forward”, “He’s a shadow of the player I remember before his knee injuries”, “He is just too slow and lacks creativity. Lots of passes, but he does nothing with the ball or just loses it.”
“We beat Reading despite Vaughan. His legs went early and when you go past him he is out of the game, then the tired tackles go in.” The 34-year-old ex-Sunderland man “was brilliant for an hour and then dropped too deep at 3-0 up”, “He was too slow to be near the ball when Cardiff scored.”
“Vaughan has a footballing mind and quality in abundance but he needs a physical player to do his running for him”, “You feel comfortable when he has the ball because he won’t waste it but he is deathly slow at recycling possession”, “We cannot get away with carrying him at the end of games.”
Wingers and Wide Midfielders
“Jamie Ward is a must-start against Ipswich. He’s about the only one who is made for this type of battle.” The 30-year-old former Ram “adds more aggression and effort to the proceedings”, “He is confident, motivated and works his socks off for the team”, “His closing and pressing are excellent.”
Jamie Ward playing for former club Derby
“You get 90 minutes of graft and little attacking threat with Ward”, “He’s an annoying sod to play against, niggly as anything and he never gives a full-back a moment’s peace”, “Never underestimate the importance to work off the ball”, “Just what you need scrapping at the bottom of the league.”
“Muzzy is up and at ‘em.” The 28-year-old former Middlesbrough winger “destroyed Reading’s right side, rinsing Chris Gunter one-one-one”, “It’s a waste asking him to play narrow when the one great thing he can offer is pace which is best used out on the flanks”, “The best player on the park again.”
“Just keep it simple Muzzy, attack the full-back and work on your crossing”, “He does nothing very spectacular, just running at and having the beating of his man every time. He just needs a better end product. It’s nice seeing him do the basics well. He’s not a ball player. Let him loose on the flanks.”
“Nobody is saying Apostolos Vellios is a world-beater but he showed earlier in the season he’s one of the few players who can turn a game.” The 25-year-old ex-Everton frontman “is the one player who has really excited me this season and seems to be pretty much superglued to the bench this season”.
Apostolos Vellios v Leeds
“Ben Brereton is extremely talented and mature for his age but not at Oliver Burke’s level of impact yet.” The 18-year-old youth product “is a physically strong striker and definitely a goal threat”, “He has the physicality as well as the nous and goals”, “If you are good enough, you are old enough.”
“While Brereton is better in the middle, I like him on the right. He reminds me of Michail Antonio with his direct running style. He has more space to operate in and full-backs are typically weaker”, “A great prospect, but is it too much to expect him to carry the burden of expectation at his age?”
“Britt plays, he scores.” The 24-year-old ex-Peterborough striker “continues to show why he’s our record signing”, “His goal rate is something ridiculous”, “A half-fit Britt is better than the majority of Championship strikers”, “There is no other player you would want in the box with a shot at goal.”
“Britt’s game is all about being on the shoulder of the last defender. He shouldn’t be dropping deep. The through ball from midfield is exactly what he thrives off”, “We need to find him these positions because his finishing is absolute quality. He has strengthened to make up for losing a yard of pace.”
Reds’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“We have to win by two goals or more to guarantee not going into the murky depths of League One for at least one season of misery and cup finals every week”, “They don’t deserve it but they need a rocking City Ground on Sunday. We can't affect events on the pitch but we can give it a good go.”
“A win of any description will be enough. Blackburn won’t beat Brentford by three goals. We will do it. Ipswich won't be up for the fight, rather be in our shoes than Blackburn's”, “We win. Blackburn lose. You can beat yourself up with the unlikely scenarios you want. This is the most likely outcome.”
Objective analysis from Forest fans is rare for Sunday’s game but the quiet consensus suggests that the day will have a happy outcome. They are worried that our style of play is exactly the one which they have struggled with all season, and they are concerned that they might fold under pressure.
“We need a game plan for McCarthy’s park the bus, counter-attack and set-piece tactics. They won't be as open like Brighton, Reading or Huddersfield. The longer we are hammering on the door at nil-all, the tension will grow. Throw everything at them early on and score to calm everyone's nerves.”
“We lack the mental toughness to get a result against McCarthy's team who will be difficult to play against, unless by some miracle as in the reverse fixture an early Forest goal settles the nerves”, “If Ipswich play an open and expansive game we should be OK, but with Mick in charge I can't see it.”
“When has McCarthy ever had his team play an open and expansive game? They will play like Blackburn, keep it tight and hope to get a goal from a counter-attack. We have shown to be pretty hopeless against teams that shut up shop”, “It’s going to be a 90-minute fearful slog.”
“This is a Mick McCarthy team, nothing fancy about them but he will send a team out to compete. The longer the game is goalless (or Ipswich score) the worse it will be”, “They will be set up to make it as difficult for us as possible. We will dominate possession without creating any chances.”
“A Luke Chambers 98th minute header will relegate Forest”, “David McGoaldrought is outside and wants a word”, “McGoldrick has scored a staggering five goals this season and three of those were against Rotherham and Wigan. I'm definitely sticking a tenner on him scoring the winner.”
David McGoldrick takes on Henri Lansbury
Forest fans are most worried about our Leicester loanee. “There was one Ipswich player that I was concerned about more than any other Ipswich player and that player is Tom Lawrence”, “I really, really hope Tom Lawrence is not fit to play. He is by far their most dangerous attacking threat.”
“The game is on Sky so the whole world can laugh at us. People crying in the centre circle at full-time, an angry mob throwing seats and calling for Fawaz's head on a stick. It’s not going to be a good day, trust me”, “It’s on TV, so remember everyone... No crying on the telly if we lose!”
“In a one-off game for both teams all things are possible”, “It will be like The Keystone Cops meets the Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “I fully expect the usual Forest bottle job. Imagine Blackburn will end something like 0-0 but we'll lose anyway”, “I’m terrified. For once Forest, please prove me wrong.”
The busiest Forest message board is the well-informed and friendly LTLF Forest Forum.
A Heartfelt Thank You
With this being the final set of notes for this season, I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your valuable comments, feedback and analysis over the course of the campaign. They are always greatly welcomed and just as always greatly appreciated.
I also want to thank Phil for all of his kind advice and for the time he has taken to fact check and proofread all of the notes this season. An equally huge thank-you to Gav who has taken so much time and care formatting the notes for the site and adding so many brilliant carefully-chosen images.
I will keep an eye on opposition message boards over the summer and will summarise any feedback on the forum if any major signings are made in the close season. In the meantime, I hope you have a great summer - it’s not really all that long until the fixture lists are out…
Photo: Action Images
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