A miserable 3-1 defeat at home to Brentford means Nottingham Forest haven’t won in 10 games, putting Stuart Pearce under pressure. Roman Filipowicz offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
The last time I wrote a match report for Seat Pitch just happened to be the last time that Nottingham Forest won. So, when they asked on Twitter if anyone was willing to share their thoughts about the clash against Brentford, being a superstitious soul I put myself forward. After all, the omens were good: a midweek match, like against Fulham; against a London team, like Fulham. What could possibly go wrong?
I’ll be totally honest, the Forest team I read about an hour before kick-off wasn’t the one I was expecting, with all three of Michael Mancienne, Kelvin Wilson and Jamaal Lascelles being named in the starting XI, and Britt Assombalonga not. Were we playing five at the back? Who was up front? Were we using a false nine?
The reality turned out to be nothing so exotic, as Mancienne was moved forward to play in a deep-lying midfield role, with Henri Lansbury and Ben Osborn ahead of him. Jack Hunt and Danny Fox were the starting full-backs with Chris Burke and – making his City Ground debut – Thomas Ince ahead of them. Michail Antonio was named as the lone forward. In theory, this would afford the defence more protection.
It took precisely 17 minutes for this theory to be blown out of the water as Brentford’s Moses Odubajo ran past a static Burke and into the penalty area. His attempted pass wasn’t cleared by Lascelles and fell to Jon Toral, who crashed the Bees (looking suitably bee-like in their yellow-and-black away kit) into the lead. In the carnage that lead to the goal, Jack Hunt picked up a knock which lead to a lengthy delay.
Hunt would eventually be replaced, but not before a long-range Fox effort was tipped over by visiting keeper David Button. Eric Lichaj took Hunt’s place and it wasn’t long before he made his mark, in the worst way possible. His woeful back pass fell straight to Andre Gray who calmly slotted under Karl Darlow to double the visitors’ advantage. The scoreboard, however, proudly proclaimed the score as 1-1. This mistake looked like the only way we’d have any joy.
And it should have been worse before the interval as, after Lascelles had had a header tipped over, Jonathan Douglas missed a great chance after the Forest defence stood watching a through-ball. Then another execrable back pass – this time by Kelvin Wilson – again found Gray. This time his shot was smothered by Darlow and went out for a corner. The half-time whistle was greeted by boos from a few around me, and to be honest it was hard to disagree with them.
The break drew the two biggest cheers of the evening so far; as Assombalonga warmed up and one of the half-time challenge competitors confidently stroked home his 55-yard shot – the first time anyone had managed this all season.
Less than five minutes after the game restarted, it was effectively ended as a contest. Another direct run by Gray was unceremoniously halted by Wilson upending him. Alex Pritchard thumped the resultant penalty straight down the middle to put Brentford 3-0 up. Soon afterwards it appeared that Assombalonga, who had replaced the hapless Lascelles at half-time, had pulled one back. Antonio’s cross was dropped by Button and knocked home by the Forest striker, but the referee deemed a foul and the goal didn’t stand.
The shock of the scoreline prompted more intensity from the Reds but by this point the Brentford horse hadn’t just bolted, it was galloping round Aintree on its way to a creditable finish. Ince and Lansbury zinged decent efforts narrowly wide, an Antonio drive was tipped round the post and Fox saw a free-kick saved too, before he fell awkwardly following a leap and was stretchered off. As the third Forest sub Jamie Paterson had already taken to the field, they were forced to play the last 15 minutes with 10 men.
This was probably their best period of the match and it brought the one high point. Paterson’s crossfield pass found Antonio wide on the right, and he cut inside before larruping a shot past the helpless Button to at least give the home fans something to applaud. That was all though, there was never any real hope of a miraculous comeback. Brentford weren’t overly troubled again and 3-1 was how it finished.
It was bad. Really bad. The Bees could’ve had at least three more goals and the ones they did get were the result of unforgivable defending. They harried us when we had the ball but we didn’t seem to do the same, allowing them to cut through us at will. Wilson was poor and Mancienne’s previous confidence is a distant memory.
The only crumbs of comfort were Ince and Antonio. The Hull loanee showed enough to suggest he’ll be an asset while he’s with us, but his pace, drive and creativity got scant reward and little support from his teammates. Antonio really is an enigma. He’s built like a kitchen appliance, yet sometimes tumbles at the merest hint of contact. He always looks on the verge of losing control of the ball but when he gets it right – as he did with the goal – he’s unplayable. For all his seeming clumsiness though, his contribution in goals and assists so far this season cannot be questioned.
I made my thoughts on Stuart Pearce clear in my preview of this match and the result hasn’t changed them. His players need to start performing for him though, and soon. It’s easy for me and other fans to say that he should be given time but we don’t pay his wages and control his destiny at the club: Fawaz does. I sincerely hope that an upturn in results will mean that the owner is spared the need to make a difficult decision, because as we’ve already seen in his time here, he’s not shy of making them.