It is difficult to separate the game from the issue of the suitability of Stuart Pearce to swivel around in the hot seat and play with one of those desk toy things where the balls swing against each other. There can be no denying that this is now officially a ‘thing’ – a ‘thing’ eloquently tackled here.
In short, it’s bloody miserable and we are worried about the state of things. Of course, events on the pitch here did less than a stoner when asked to do the washing up to dispel these feelings. Two wins in 18 games, one win in September, no wins on October, three defeats in November (with two victories against Norwich and Wolves sandwiched in-between – although it might be pointed out that at the time, both these teams were in the midst of shocking runs of form themselves), no wins in December and two clean sheets in fourteen games. Blimey, whichever way you look at it, this run plumbs new depths of ‘not goodness’. David Platt, Steve Cotterill, et al.
Psycho’s Team-O-Matic Randomiser went with the populist choice: Jamie Paterson and Britt Assombalonga recalled and the 3-5-2 formation consigned to the bin, allowing Michail Antonio to run at the opposition full back rather than be ran at by the opposition full back. Nothing could go wrong. If it did, there would be no one to blame apart from Terry the kitman for not ironing the shirts neatly.
Of course, many would argue that Forest were a little unlucky and that until the first goal, the boys in red were doing alright: shots on goal, neater and more precise passing, a sense of urgency and generally looking like a football team who knew each other’s names and had a plan to score more goals than the other team. But that first goal against went in, which was a bit embarrassing. Another quickly followed this, which was a bit of a shambles. A third? Not really a surprise since Pearce's men were still traumatised from the previous two.
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So, if the team selection generated a collective nod of approval, the blame would have to be directed towards the players. Danny Fox, Jamie Paterson, Jamaal Lascelles and Henri Lansbury at various stages all received, shall we say, ‘words of encouragement’. Indeed, Danny Fox’s performance made more than a few pine for Dan Harding. That’s some achievement. Are Greg Halford and Danny Collins still kicking around in a store cupboard somewhere? Your stock is never higher as a player than when you are left out of a struggling team. Things aren’t THAT bad but it does seem a shame that space cannot be found to accommodate Ben Osborn and/or David Vaughan.
It has to be said though that Gary Rowett’s team defended superbly: Paul Caddis and Paul Robinson each taking turns to shackle Antonio expertly which culminated in his second half ‘laying on the floor of the supermarket aisle’ tantrum, which was a bit embarrassing really, but spoke volumes about his utter frustration: our reliance on him as an attacking force is truly alarming. David Cotterill did a decent impersonation of Arjen Robben – high praise indeed but remember that this was against a Nottingham Forest defence.
Here’s a quick thought: to whom would you turn to as a replacement for Pearce? Neil Warnock is available. Imagine that…Michael Brown brought in from Port Vale to bring steel and leadership to the midfield. A shuddering thought. Having said that, there can be no denying that we are zombiewalking towards relegation and while for now it’s only a slow ‘Walking Dead’ pace rather than a running remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ pace, it’s a bit of a worry. What if the zombies speed up and start running? If they do, we’re gonna need a bigger stake. Besides, the majority of fans were supportive of Pearce to the end, a fact not lost on the gaffer himself who acknowledged this show of support: "I’m a very, very fortunate person. The crowd being like they are at this football club has sheltered the players from grief because they support me. But that won’t continue." He gets it.
Will it get better? It might get worse at Rochdale before it does but remember when West Ham United came a calling to our place a year ago in the FA Cup with a beleaguered Sam Allardyce under more pressure than a turkey in a pressure cooker? Remember www.sackpardew.com? Things can change.
All of which left this observer with the only real viable course of action after such a miserable afternoon: go home. Have a little cry. In the corner. Try it – it’s cathartic. If you’re struggling, this will help. (Thanks to @Trim_Bachelor)