As is their wont, the stats tell their own narrative. Forest won more aerial duals, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, had a higher pass completion and had more shots on target. So why did it look like an unwholesome mess out there on Saturday afternoon?
Well, that’s the thing with stats: they don’t measure the awkwardness of the body language that was on display. They don’t account for the tackles or closing down that were absent from the performance. And as for the alleged eight shots on target, in my mind’s eye, all I can envisage is Alex Smithies effortlessly throwing his cap on them. In fact, it’s the shots that were off target that, paradoxically, came closest to a goal: Thomas Ince’s effort that rippled the side-netting and Chris Burke’s sumptuous curler that rattled the bar.
But let’s give some credit to the Terriers. They were tenacious in their appetite to win the ball, epitomised by a heroic tackle by Joel Lynch on Ince as he bore down on goal. Harry Bunn and Sean Scannel terrorised our poor full backs on the wings and created numerous opportunities with their dangerous crosses, like we suspected they would. Indeed, the full back situation is developing into a ‘situation’. We are all too aware of the problems we have experienced at left back and despite a lengthy list of loaness drafted in to fill the gaping void, we currently have Dan Harding, Danny Fox and occasionally, the right footed Eric Lichaj to play this role. Here’s that left back loanee list:
Year: Appearances: Goals:
Alan Wright 2007 9 0
Nicky Shorey 2009-10 9 0
Ryan Bertrand 2010-11 19 0
Clint Hill 2011 5 0
Paul Konchesky 2011 15 1
Greg Cunningham 2011-12 27 0
George Elokobi 2012 12 0
Alan Hutton 2012-13 7 0
Danny Fox 2014 14 0
Despite this, most would agree that although Nicky Shorey runs him close, our best performer in this position has been the magnificent Chris Cohen. (Oh, Chris; how we need you, more than ever.)
But maybe that’s part of the problem (well that and bucketloads of individual errors); the club’s default position seems to be to ‘get someone else in’ and when they perform below par, try someone else there. Underpinning this approach is perhaps the desperation to be up there, mixing it in the top two and if we’re not, there must be a fundamental problem that needs fixing. Maybe this pressure stems from the, at best, ill advised promotional campaign entitled, ‘We’re ready for promotion, are you?’ and more recently, the numerous #promotion tweets that flew around at the start of the season helmed by Sean O’ Driscoll. And let’s be honest, the start to the current season had us all hovering over the ‘P’ button.
But first we need to re-assert our identity as a club. This is still in its embryonic stages and will need time to develop. For what it’s worth, wouldn’t it be great to be a club that is once more renowned for blooding academy youngsters successfully? We have already seen evidence of this with Ben Osborn in the picture and Jorge Grant and Tyler Walker hovering around the margins of the first team. Most would also love to see us using wingers (after all, who doesn’t love a tricky winger jinxing past a full and then stopping to allow the full back to recover and then do the same again? Oh, just me then) high up the pitch in order to get on the front foot and establish a dynamism to the attack.
Once again, Stuart Pearce has brought in players with exactly this in mind. Regarding Jamie Paterson, we can only speculate. Finally, despite the anger and frustration vented by the sizeable away following, especially upon the triple substitution that discounted Paterson, the fans were fully behind the team, particularly in the closing ten minutes in which we sang, chanted and loudly asserted our pride. This is how we should face the slings and arrows of away defeats, no matter how hard it may be sometimes.
Of course, we will get frustrated. Of course, we will wonder why Pearce has selected (insert name of own favourite scapegoat right here). Of course, we will curse a player’s inability to pass to a teammate. Of course, we will sometimes wonder just exactly what they’ve been doing in training for the week. And of course, we’ll wonder why we bring everyone back to defend set pieces. But underlying this, surely above all else, we want a sustained period of stability from which we can lay solid foundations for the resurrection of the club’s identity and development.
With Pearce’s appointment, the process is in place but it’s going to take a little longer yet for it to happen.