Forest stumbled, floundered and blundered to a first home defeat to Huddersfield Town since actual 90s footballers Peter Ndlovu and Kevin Gallen inspired the Terriers to their last victory at the City Ground late in the year 2000.
It was exactly the kind of result and performance that could drive a human being to shake the hand of and introduce themselves to weltschmerz, but it’s been an emotionally turbulent enough season anyway, so a defeat to a fellow mediocre side in a game with little riding on it is probably not a significant enough reason to chuck stinky cheese around the place or to close the cutlery drawer with excessive force.
The performance was characterised by sluggishness right from the start and Huddersfield did a fantastically effective job in restricting Michail Antonio’s effectiveness to that of a discarded potato. Dougie Freedman told it like it was:
We were disappointing in the first 25 minutes. We didn’t show enough energy.I feel that, since I’ve been at the football club, the huge output of energy that was required to lift us away from the bottom of the table is now catching up with us. That showed today. I think players are breaking down through injury and we’re just running out of steam a little bit.In the second half I thought we had enough opportunities to at least take something from the game, but if you don’t take our opportunities at crucial times you’re going to get beaten in this division, no matter who you play against.Huddersfield took their goal very well and we’ve got to go away and examine how we’re going to get better in the first 25 minutes.
Indeed, as the game wore on, Antonio increasingly resembled a man running through caramelised jelly. But it would be unfair to single him out as the only one looking absolutely jiggered. Kelvin Wilson looked like he had finally jettisoned the fridge he’d been carrying on his back, only to replace it with an actual glass ceiling that prevented him from jumping. In front of the back four, Michael Mancienne appeared to be wearing some of those comedy glasses that blur your vision, thus utterly demolishing your chances of making an accurate pass beyond five yards. When it came to dead ball delivery, David Vaughan was having a bad day: so overcooked were the majority of his deliveries that if he were playing kerbie, the house opposite the road would be in dire need of a glazier and a brickie.
Up front, Chuba Akpom, on occasions, looked every bit the precociously talented Arsenal youngster, but on others, looked like a precociously talented Arsenal youngster that will slip down the leagues like Quincy Owusu-Abeyie (before you ask, he’s currently struggling at Boavista). Danny Fox had some people wondering whether Dan Harding might, could possibly, maybe, perhaps do a better job at left back.
The deciding goal came just as most fans were mounting up the dizzying amounts of grit and determination required to queue for some half-time sustenance. Jacob Butterfield produced a sumptuous pass that split the Forest defence like whatever device was used to split the atom and Sean Scannell stole in behind Eric Lichaj to scoop one over Karl Darlow.
It didn’t take too long for Dougie Freedman to dust off the laminated tactics sheet entitled, ‘chuck the youngsters on’. Tyler Walker, Ben Osborn and Oliver Burke were told to do some extra stretches before having their boots checked by the assistant referee. It is difficult not to get excited by such players and it was their introduction that inspired a few shots on target and even a disallowed goal: a marginal but correct decision. Walker and Mancienne ensured that Terriers keeper, Alex Smithies, earned his post match rubdown too. But in truth, it was these young whippersnappers who were seemingly left to grab the team by the scruff of its collective neck and as talented as they are, surely that’s not their role. More senior players should be doing more pointing, shouting, cajoling and so on and such forth.
Four games of this tempestuous season remain, of which only two can be said to be of any real significance: Watford on Wednesday and Ipswich away. Sure, that’s now three defeats in four games but already the process of building and preparing for next season is underway. Let’s save our teeth grinding and brickbats for later, for now.