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The Sooner This Season Finishes, the Better - Notes for Nottingham Forest
Friday, 13th Apr 2018 11:45 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at the City Ground by delving into their forums.
“What is our longest run of games without scoring a goal? This must be getting very close now”, “We are a team in freefall at the moment and not having scored in six games is frankly awful. It’s all about closing the season out now and a summer of rebuilding yet again”, “It’s all about next season now.”
Forest head into Saturday’s game 18th in the league table and and 10 points below Town. They look safe for this season and have avoided last season’s final-day escape from relegation, but they are on a poor run of form, losing their last three and failing to find the net in any of their last six games.
“There have got to be some serious questions asked after this run of games”, “We will luckily stay up because there are several even worse teams than us”, “We need to get to the summer and regroup, but I would not be surprised if we don’t win another game between now and the end of the season.”
“We are dire, but that is what years of instability gets you”, “Everybody complains that constantly changing the manager wrecks any chance we have of making progress. Then we lose a few games and everybody starts questioning the manager’s future.” Many Reds want patience and stability.
“Doing the same thing over and over end expecting different results. Stop sacking managers”, “Aitor Karanka was the sixth different manager to take over a Championship meeting with Brentford in our six most recent clashes. If you want to understand the malaise here at Forest, this is it in a nutshell.”
“I don’t think Aitor Karanka is going anywhere soon. Everyone needs to get over it and get behind him and the team for the remaining games”, “He has only had three months so it’s unfair to make a definitive judgement on his attacking credentials until he has had the benefit of a summer window.”
The 44-year-old former Middlesbrough manager replaced Mark Warburton in early January. Forest embarked on an extensive squad rebuild and signed 10 new players in the transfer window. They are seen as a more resilient outfit than under Warburton but their lack of goals and creativity is a worry.
“Karanka’s tight, pragmatic and contained football is the polar opposite to the NFFC I love”, “In his last season at Boro they scored three goals in his last 10 games. He had the lowest number of goals and it looks like this has only got worse”, “He makes Dougie Freedman look like Kevin Keegan.”
“He is fortunate to have come in halfway through the season with nothing to play for. People would be more questioning if there was something still riding on the season”, “I sense that he would rather keep it at 2-0 down and know we had not conceded for 45 minutes, rather than just going gung-ho.”
“We have not improved under Karanka yet he has signed a new team”, “The three months he has had mean nothing for this season but could mean a lot for next season. He can see who will fit in his squad and decide who else he needs. Sack him now and the process will have to start all over again.”
On Being Hard to Beat
“We are shocking to watch”, “Being hard to beat gets you only so far. I want to watch players with a swagger and a smile on their faces thinking about scoring goals”, “The majority of Karanka’s signings are solid players who do their jobs well. They won’t run the length of the pitch and smash a goal in.”
“Goals are the lifeblood of a club and our inability to score is draining the life out of what is left of the season”, “Our lack of goals is becoming a bigger concern than our lack of clean sheets earlier in the season. We need some ruthlessness”, “The problem is that the ball won’t go in the ****ing net.”
“When we have possession, we don’t know how to penetrate opponents. Our attacks offer nothing when you mix in the odd aimless long ball”, “We work the ball well around the box, but not enough people get into the area when the ball goes wide. We go inside and end up shooting from distance.”
Karanka’s starting XI (above) for Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to Brentford had his familiar four-man back line and three midfielders but he pushed Ben Watson from playing a in holding role to sit alongside Adlene Guedioura in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Jack Colback screening the defence in central midfield.
Being solid in the centre and more vulnerable out wide is a simplistic but quite accurate summary of Forest’s work in progress. Keeper Costel Pantilimon and centre-half Toby Figueiredo both arrived on loan in January and they have strengthened the backline with Danny Fox switching inside from left-back.
“Defenders don’t get isolated in Karanka’s system, but I’m weary of the inability to defend crosses and our constantly conceding from corners is unacceptable.” Full-backs Tendayi Darikwa and converted midfielder Ben Osborn have been criticised for their defending and for not adding width to attacks.
Reds like their new solid centre. “Central midfielders under Karanka play deep and tight”, “The problem isn’t in central midfield. Ben Watson and partner Jack Colback have been shrewd signings and have been so tight in the midfield pivot that they are masking our deficiencies at the back.”
Wingers Matty Cash and Joe Lolley are seen as lively operators but playmaker Lee Tomlin divides opinion, with some questioning his lack of consistency operating centrally and others unhappy with the lack of support he gives his full-back when he is stationed on the left flank.
The biggest issue to address is obviously the need for a new striker this summer. Ben Brereton is a bright teenage prospect but lacks experience at this level. Apostolos Vellios’s lack of consistency is not trusted. Many have noted that the form of veteran Daryl Murphy has tailed off since November.
“During games now, I find myself muttering the same refrain. Bugger the three points, just give us a goal to cheer”, “We compete and have more possession but we are just abysmal in front of goal. Too many touches, too slow to react and taking wrong decisions. Just put the bastard thing into the net.”
Nottingham Forest 0 – 1 Brentford
“I’m scratching my head as to how we lost that. Brentford didn’t have much threat but we somehow conceded a corner from nothing and they got a lucky bounce”, “It doesn’t matter if we played well or not. We lost. It makes no difference. We have not scored in six, so stop trying to defend them.”
“This is going to end badly.” Brentford picked up their third 1-0 win in a row after Bees’ right-back Henrik Dalsgaard headed Josh McEachran’s corner home on 81 minutes. Home fans feared the worst even when their team played brightly before the interval with Brereton’s shot hitting the bar.
“I’m scratching my head over how we lost that”, “It was an entertaining match. Two teams played proper football. The difference was that one team defended and attacked properly and the other was spineless and stubbornly unable to defend corners”, “Will we ever learn to defend corners?”
Middlesbrough 2 – 0 Nottingham Forest
“Hands up who thought we had a cat in hell’s chance of scoring after going 2-0 down”, “I expected a loss but I’m still frustrated”, “Giving away early goals has plagued is this season. We seem to do it in nearly every game”, “It looked like the players’ minds were on Majorca and not Middlesbrough.”
Karanka’s return to his former club got off to the worst of starts last Saturday after Daniel Ayala finished in the top corner against his former club after just seven minutes. Boro went on to double their lead after Ayala set up Stewart Downing’s low shot on 31 and the hosts happily shut up shop.
“Tony Pulis [Boro manager] puts 10 behind the ball after scoring from two set pieces”, “Boro scored twice and sat back to save themselves for the next game. As a result, we looked the better team but for the fifth consecutive game we failed to score or land a meaningful shot. The savvy team won.”
“We seem to be playing to keep a solid defence.” Fans felt that the starting XI (above) would be too ill-equipped to hurt Boro if they fell behind and their fears were well-founded. The lack of movement from Vellios and a lack of penetration from central midfield allowed the hosts to see out the game.
Millwall 2 – 0 Nottingham Forest
“I’m sat on the train home, soaking wet. I didn’t expect anything out of today and Millwall are on a good run”, “As often with Forest, loads of pretty football but no end product again”, “Millwall are a cynical team. They have a style and stick to it”, “We just gave them one of their easiest afternoons.”
“Oh dear, what a start. They score after 27 seconds.” Shaun Williams headed the Lions in front in the first minute and Lee Gregory added a second for the East Londoners firing home on 33 minutes. The visiting Forest fans felt that they lacked the physicality to compete with the play-off-chasing hosts.
“Damn, I hate Millwall”, “It was horrible to watch but Millwall maximised every opportunity and they knew exactly when to load men forward. We simply got bullied there”, “Millwall have stayed true to their strengths and have played to them. They know who they are. We don’t know what we are.”
Many Reds felt that the inclusion of Barrie McKay in the starting line-up (above) was a mistake as he struggles in physical battles. In an attempt to shake things up, Karanka switched to using wing-backs (below) which one fan described as “utterly abysmal. We couldn’t get the ball out of our own half”.
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Having big Costel Pantilimon between the sticks now has played a really big part in our defensive improvement.” The 31-year-old Romania international and January loan signing from Watford “fills me with confidence. His size, presence and leadership contribute to calming those around him.”
Bradley Johnson (Derby County) v Costel Pantilimon
“Pantilimon is always talking to and cajoling the defence”, “I didn’t expect to see such sharp reflexes from such a tall keeper”, “I thought he would struggle with low shots but forgot his legs are five feet long and he uses them well”, “He should claim crosses more frequently and with more confidence.”
“Tendayi Darikwa is the definition of a player in need of a leash. He makes so many tactical blunders. His positioning is so often wrong although it has improved under Karanka.” The 26-year-old summer acquisition from Burnley “is an excellent athlete but he doesn’t have much of a footballing brain”.
“I’m far from convinced by Darikwa. He seems a bit of a blunderbuss and rarely gets down the line or delivers anything decent into the box”, “Watch the space forwards get against him because he’s too central or caught up field. A right-back should firstly be able to stop crosses and attacks out wide.”
“Eric Lichaj had an uncharacteristic red mist moment against Burton.” The 29-year-old ex-Villa right-back was dismissed for a poor challenge in February and has been a fringe player since then. “He is reliable than Darikwa but his final ball is often poor because he plays at 100 mph in the final third.”
Eric Lichaj and Clayton Donaldson
“Ben Osborn is a player with flair and bags of talent but he’s not a left-back.” The 23-year-old youth product “gets dominated by out-and-out wingers”, “I have lost count of the number of times he has been targeted. He gets turned inside and out every week, putting the effort in but rarely tackling.”
“Osborn is exposed constantly at left-back and slowing us down in attack”, “He’s wasted there. We miss his energy in midfield and he’s not big or strong enough to be a full-back in this league”, “He is energetic and has quick feet. He tries to be positive going forward, but he gets rinsed most weeks.”
“It has frustrated me that people think Michael Mancienne is a ball-playing centre-back.” The 30-year-old one-time Chelsea man “still has his uses with his versatility but is nowhere near composed enough these days with the ball at his feet”, “He is very uncomfortable and he flaps under pressure.”
“Joe Worrall was the only defender who brought the ball out from the back before Christmas. He is a lad who looks like a leader in the field.” Burnley made a failed bid for the 21-year-old youth product in January and he has made a couple of recent cameo appearances. “Our most complete defender.”
“Danny Fox was out stand-out defender against Brentford, excellent on the ground and in the air.” The 31-year-old ex-Southampton man “used to masquerade as a left-back but his recent stint as a centre-back has won me over. He is not the best technical player but he’s very solid and he tries.”
“Fox is good on the ball as well. He can pass the ball forward and he doesn’t panic under pressure. He was never mobile enough as a left-back but is in a much better position now”, “His attitude has been brilliant. He never complained and he gave his all even when he was getting so much grief.”
Tobias ‘Toby’ Figueiredo
“Toby looks like an astute acquisition.” The 24-year-old January loan signing from Sporting Lisbon “in a centre-back who keeps it simple. He’s rock solid and clears everything that comes near to him”, “He looks really composed at the back”, “I didn’t know that Portugal made no-nonsense tough nuts.”
Hope Akpan (Burton) v Tobias Pereira Figueiredo
“Toby seems to love a battle. He wins pretty much everything in the air and he doesn’t mess around with the ball. He has really stood out”, “What most impresses me about him is his ability to play one-touch passes, moving the ball quickly along the backline. This has been missing for a very long time.”
“Liam Bridcutt spreads the ball around, breaks things up and gets forward as well.” The 26-year-old August buy from Leeds “is a good option in games where movement and energy may come in handy. He isn’t spectacular but he keeps the ball well. He’s good at collecting and redistributing the ball.”
Liam Bridcutt (Leeds)
“The jury is still out for me on Adlene Guedioura.” The 32-year-old, who rejoined Forest after leaving Boro in January, “is a box-to-box midfielder out of the top drawer, but his lack of match fitness has been evident on the pitch. I think that he will feature prominently next season”, “He hasn’t got the legs to join attacks.”
“Guedioura picks the ball up in brilliant positions but a lack of options ahead of him means he ends up playing difficult passes forward”, “He needs to calm down his tackling. He dives in stupidly and takes himself out of the game”, “A lot of the ball goes through him but he seems to be off the pace.”
“Lee Tomlin’s dribbling in close quarters is fun to watch. People don’t get near him.” The 29-year-old January loan signing from Cardiff “is definitely a Marmite player. He has skill, guile and creativity but he also winds opponents up and can be niggly”, “Moves break down if he isn’t attacking the box.”
Lee Tomlin (Bristol City)
“Tomlin can be too much of a passenger in a crucial playmaker role and he clearly doesn’t suit the up and down brief on the left flank”, “He’s extremely talented but if he’s having a bad game he’s next to useless and a passenger. He lacks the pace and energy to influence a game when he is struggling.”
“Kieran Dowell has scored regularly from midfield in his first full season playing at this level.” The 20-year-old loanee from Everton “has great touch and vision, and an absolute wand of a left foot”, “He can create and score. He can also hit the ball consistently with no back-lift and he does it brilliantly.”
“Dowell still has to work on the defensive side of his game. Several times he has stood and watched it playing around him rather than chasing down the ball”, “He has had game changing moments but he isn’t a high-energy player and he disappears for periods. This is an area he will need to improve.”
“Jack Colback has been unspectacular but fine.” The 28-year-old former Town loanee arrived on loan from Newcastle in January. He has slotted in smoothly to a holding midfield role but several Forest fans have wondered if he might be a viable option in their problematic left-back position.
“Colback does the dirty work but he doesn’t play the ball forward and gives it to Watson”, “A tidy player who adds energy and calmness but we need more creativity in midfield”, “He is great at his job and shows great positional awareness. He rarely misplaces a pass and constantly nicks the ball.”
“Watson is one of those players you trust implicitly.” The 32-year-old was signed as a free agent in early February having left Watford in the January window. “He’s strong in the tackle and more often than not he finds a red shirt”, “A proper midfield general who will always come away with the ball.”
Ben Watson (Watford)
“We win headers and second balls in midfield with Watson there”, “We have needed a few tough nuts in the team. We have one here and he can also play a bit”, “I like his charges up field to press a defender’s mistake”, “He’s a vocal player who has also brought some vital leadership to the team.”
Wingers and Wide Midfielders
“Barrie McKay oozes talent but mentally is suspect.” The 23-year-old July arrival from Rangers “has had plenty of performances where he has been kicked once and didn’t bother for the game”, “He may suit Karanka’s style of football but might suit one of the more progressive sides in the league.”
“If McKay wants a future at this club, he can’t pick and choose who he plays against in case someone gives him a kicking”, “He’s frustrating, he has the same vision as Tomlin but his acceleration over five yards gives him an advantage”, “He needs runners for his through balls, or to create space for him.”
“Matty Cash’s decision-making continues to be poor, but he offers more than McKay.” The 20-year-old “is one of the most technically gifted players our academy has produced in years”, “He always wants the ball, no shirking or letting others do the work. I really love his enthusiasm for the club.”
“Cash doesn’t have a natural instinct in front of goal. He has good technique and striker the ball well but he heeds composure”, “The thing I like about him is that he gets bashed about but gets up and goes again. He needs to work on his final ball but could become a huge asset in the next few years.”
“I like Joe Lolley a lot.” The 25-year-old January purchase from Huddersfield “is the kind of direct and aggressive player we have not had for a while”, “He has decent pace, takes players on and is willing to have a go. He’s also a very willing supporter of his left-back”, “Such a refreshingly direct player.”
Nottingham Forest's Joe Lolley and Ben Brereton
“Lolley seems to be often at the centre of things. He looks purposeful when driving at defences and making them worry”, “He feeds off anything and as soon as he gets the ball you know there is only one thing on his mind. Dribble through defenders to get a chance on goal for him or a team-mate.”
“Ben Brereton looks far too weak to cope with what he is being asked to do.” The 18-year-old youth product “has generally looked lively but he dithers when he has excellent openings”, “Just shoot on sight, Ben. That’s the third game in a row where he has started and fluffed his one decent chance.”
“Apostolos Vellios is a statue. Pigeons are going to start crapping on him if he doesn’t move around a bit.” The 26-year-old one-time Everton striker “is rooted to the ground and beaten to the ball when he only has to take two steps towards it”, “He’s a decent striker but looks as if he has checked out.”
Liam Cooper (Leeds United) v Apostolos Vellios
“Vellios has done absolutely nothing every time he has started a game”, “His style of forward play is dying rapidly. If you are a number nine, you need mobility and hard work more than anything”, “He is about as agile as a steamroller. He could have gambled on so many crosses but he stands still.”
“I get why Daryl Murphy was signed. He started like a train but is struggling to live up to the hype now.” The 35-year-old one-time Town frontman has missed recent games with a calf injury. “He played a key part in ensuring we were well away from relegation in the early part of the season.”
Adam Webster v Daryl Murphy
“The Republic of Ireland losing out on World Cup qualification seems to have had a huge effect on Murphy. He hasn’t had the same drive since they lost out”, “He is a model professional but has not been at the level he should be”, “His form seemed to dip after the November international break.”
“Murphy is at that age where if you lose form and fitness, it’s impossible to get it back again”, “He has performed admirably here and for his country. He could be a brilliant option off the bench if next season if we need to see out a game or if we are chasing a goal and need a to bring on a target man.”
Forest Fans’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich will get a new manager bounce this weekend”, “Let’s hope Forest win as it surely has to be the most winnable game”, “We do quite well against these at home, so I’m voting for a Forest win. I just hope the crowd remember how they are meant to react when one of those goal thingies go in.”
“If we don't score in this game, it's a missed opportunity to break the hoodoo.” Reds are viewing the game with cautious optimism with 55 per cent of them predicting a home win, although it must also be added that 40 percent don’t think they will break their scoring drought in Saturday’s game.
“This is our best chance of a win”, “We need a lucky goal, an outrageous deflection, a goalkeeping screw-up, a rebound off a defender's arse, a freak gust of wind, a ridiculously soft penalty, a flash of lightning that blinds the entire Ipswich defence. Anything, we'll accept it. We have no pride left.”
“Mick McCarthy just quit with immediate effect in his press conference after Ipswich’s win over Barnsley tonight. Fair play to him”, “He has done a good job keeping them competitive with very limited resources. Unless they invest this summer, they will struggle next season without him.”
“Ipswich have no manager and nothing to play for”, “He has been great entertainment through the years. I hope he doesn't retire, although if he did by winning that game and then sticking two fingers up to the boo boys by quitting on the spot, it would be a perfect Mick McCarthy way to end it.”
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