t’s fair to say that better performances have been witnessed than the one turned in by the away side on this occasion.
The Terriers came into this fixture in buoyant mood under the relatively new stewardship of all round nice guy Chris Powell. Forest, on the other hand, were struggling to even tread water. Even so, the first half performance was something else: one to be filed neatly away in the drawer marked, ‘Worst away performance seen for a while’.
‘Stop the cross’. That nugget of simple but highly effective wisdom, seemingly engrained into any Forest fan who grew up watching any Brian Clough side and echoed by Martin O Neill and John Robertson on numerous occasions, might well have been uttered in Swahili today, given the painfully ineffective failure to do so. Sean Scannell took full advantage all miserable afternoon as he pushed high up the pitch, preventing Eric Lichaj doing anything else but twirl around in an eternal state of panic, never mind get up the pitch and be the marauding modern right full-back.
And dear old Henri Lansbury. Oh, Henri. Henri, where have you gone? Henri Lansbury, you’ve been gone too long. Could someone please make the old Henri come back? Could someone double-check all lockers at the City Ground for a tied, gagged and bound Henri Lansbury? If found, this current imposter can be unmasked and revealed to be the jealous and scamming ne’er-do-well who might just have got away with it if it wasn’t for some meddling kids.
But to single out individuals is a mite unfair; all were poor, bereft of confidence, which manifested itself in even the seemingly most simple of passes being laboured. It was painful to watch and even though a game of football is ninety minutes, this was over once ex-Tricky Tree Joel Lynch headed the ball home from a long throw, even before the final strains of ‘Mull of Kintrye’ had been belted out with usual gusto. Credit to Lynch too; solid all game and he celebrated his goal in front of his own fans when it would have been east to give it the big ‘I am’ in front of the 3,500 away fans. (Sam Vokes and Alex Baptiste take note; go and celebrate in front of your own fans and never dare to darken my days again)
Lynch wasn’t the only player with history. Grant Holt remains skilful in drawing the foul (like a version 2.0 Kevin Davies) and got Michael Mancienne and Jamaal Lascelles all hot, bothered and generally flustered. There was panic in the ranks, panic in the mind of Lichaj, panic in the gloves of Karl Darlow, on the right-hand flank that they skipped down. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in Nahki Wells casually glancing in a second goal from a Grant Holt cross delivered from the left wing. Maybe Colin Calderwood WAS onto something when he payed Holt out there way back when.
In unison, the away end wailed and gnashed its collective teeth
The second half was ever so slightly less bad than the first half. A tactical shuffle at half time saw the enigmatic Michail Antonio play more centrally in an effort to give Britt Assombalonga some more support against the big boys who were taking his pocket money from him. But if you ask Rio Ferdinand to write or tweet something erudite, eloquent and witty yet get disappointed on his failure to do so, you can have no real complaints. Similarly, asking Assombalonga to hold up long and high balls rather than pounce on the end of flat balls and get behind the defence isn’t really playing to his strengths. While Forest collectively pondered this quandary long and hard, Scannell skipped down the right, squared a ball to Holt who promptly slammed in a third goal.
Ex-Terrier Jack Hunt came on and was roundly booed. What happened to the galloping runs down the wing of the August, summer days? What happened to the marauding right back runs reminiscent of Brian Laws and then later, Gary Charles? This is what happens when a player and a team is utterly shorn of confidence. The art of restoring belief into a team is a little beyond my ken; like ensuring teenagers use capital letters for proper nouns. If I had a solution to this, I’d be considerably richer than I am now.
Here’s an interesting thought experiment: imagine if He Who Shall Not Be Named was in charge of the team today. Given the anaemic away display, which came to personify games away from the City Ground under his reign, it isn’t hard to imagine. Heads and platters and sacks would feature heavily in any post match analysis. But, and here’s the rub, there is a chap called Stuart Pearce prowling the sidelines: a man who steps up to the plate and is always honest with fans in his press duties rather than shying away from them or making excuses, a man who happily fronts a fan’s Question and Answer session, a man who is perhaps still finding his way around the greasy pole that is management in The Championship, a man who has had to change his approach in the light of injuries to three key players who are also leaders on the field, a man who deserves our unwavering support, the like of which he received from the sizeable away support in the closing stages of this gruesome game.
Of course, we are entitled to grumble and get frustrated but let’s refrain from howling for blood like banshees for a while longer, eh?