Date: 14th February 2021 at 9:08am
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Written by kirsikka

After Tuesday’s reportedly exciting showing against Burnley, I was filled with anticipation for the match today. In his attempt to come up the outside and flank the other contenders for the job Woodgate gave an AFCB league debut to Pearson alongside Lerma with Wilshere in front of them with L Cook the man to miss out. Upfront Long was given the nod ahead of Surridge with Solanke set for an extended period on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Forest are starting to resemble a rescue home for former AFCB strikers with three now on their books, Glen Murray the man to start ahead of Grabban and Taylor.

The game was only a few minutes old when S Cook pulled up with an injury and had to be replaced in the heart of the defence by Kelly, making for a partnership with CCV which could be one we see a lot more next season.

On ten minutes Junior played a short corner, received the ball back and tried to curl it in to the far post, flying a smidgeon too far.

Then in the 27th minute, Kelly hit an excellent long diagonal ball to Smith on the right-wing who fires in a sharp early cross. Long threw himself at it but it was ever so slightly out of his reach. A good moment.

Beyond that, the half was so sterile you could bottle it and use it to help fight the pandemic.

To be honest, Woodgate had called it badly wrong in midfield. Everybody knows how Hughton sets up his teams, you could have watched a match he managed eight years ago to work out what he’d do and create a tactic to try and counter it. His team will create a really solid defensive shape, two lines across the park they’re so rigidly solid it’s like they’ve been drawn with a set square. Then try and pick up something on the break or from set-pieces.

What we needed was someone to zig-zag through those lines and cause them to crumble. Leave the Forest players unsure where one of our men will be at all times and introduce elements of doubt to their shape.

Instead, we had two defensive midfielders who sat and recycled the ball with short and slow passes along with the defenders, occasionally looking up hopefully only to see the four men in front of them mostly static with eight Forest players locked into position and filling up the space.

In recent weeks L Cook has gone off the boil but even then his form has been a touch above that of Lerma. If you were going to bring in Pearson it had to be at the expense of Jeff. I’m not saying Cook would have magically returned to his form of earlier in the season but he’d at least occasionally try to take it past a player and open up some space in the pitch.

I can’t call this a Hughton tactical masterclass as it was a result fed to him on a silver platter. I doubt he will ever have an easier clean sheet.

If we want to scratch around then there were a couple of times Smith got forward but it was a scrappy, dull, eventless poor first half.

I wasn’t expecting a triple change but I thought the break would see Woodgate do something to try and throw his hat into the ring for the job. Show some kind of tactical flexibility and ability to recognise he’d got it wrong. Nothing.

Most of the second half played out in much the same manner. Apart from a determination to give away lots of silly free kicks in areas where Forest could play it into the danger zone not a lot happened.

Brooks came on for the anonymous Wilshere and we had two minutes of purposeful play where we showed what we can do when we put a team like this under pressure before drifting back into playing like they’re shambling suffering side effects from high strength pain killers.

Murray nearly snatched a Forest goal from a corner, his flicked header going in at the near post only to be cleared off the line by Pearson.

Finally, on the 85th minute, the Cherries sparked into life. Presumably, we remembered it would be stopped after 90 and wasn’t a battle of attrition to keep going until someone collapsed from boredom.

In this short period we probed and looked like, if we played like that for a whole match, we’d probably break them down. It’s a shame we didn’t try it from the start. As it was one Junior shot deflected over was about all we got for our troubles.

0-0 and 90 minutes we should load up to YouTube where we might make a fortune with millions of hits offering it as a perfect cure for insomnia.

Conclusions and player ratings against Nottingham Forest – Click here.

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Your say…

red_house wrote…

Kelly obviously lacking the confidence to do anything other than pass backwards. Pearson was far too deep. Why start with Long, he should have been off on 60.

Personally, I would have started with the core of Tuesday’s team, Billing as a No 10 was a revelation, Surridge up front – no messing. It worked why change it? Hughton has basically created an effective Forest defensive block, we should have known this and thrown everything including the kitchen sink at them to undo it. The last I saw we wanted promotion didn’t we ?… something got lost in translation somewhere. No one really busts a gut, it was all comfort zone stuff, really disappointing. – Join the conversation, click here.

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