Watford set themselves up with three at the back, detailing their other players to hunt down the ball. When lesser teams do this, they tend to leave gaps in their formation through a lack of understanding and organisation; this did not happen and they managed to maintain their 3-4-2-1 system nicely - at least for the first hour.
They had every opportunity to press the ball, because Forest continued, surprisingly considering the change of personnel in midfield, with their entertaining style of passing and possession football. Gonzalo Jara and Guy Moussi occupied the important holding midfield area, and attempted to do the same job as Reid and Vaughan.
Our defensive midfield were clearly much less confident on the ball - but to be fair they embraced this style of football and were actually spraying the ball around nicely for the first half-hour, along with the defenders. I was particularly impressed with Guy Moussi's willingness to accept the ball, but more on him shortly.
The problem was that Forest could not maintain possession in the Watford half. The four Watford defensive midfielders were working very hard to prevent space appearing and supported the three defenders admirably, and The Reds' attacking midfielders subsequently struggled to get on the ball. Davies appeared to have instructed Reid to spend a lot of time on the wing - possibly to get crosses in - but Paterson and Abdoun were not physical enough to keep the ball when in the central area.
Davies also opted to play Greg Halford in attack; this was a clear indication of where he thought The Garibaldi would find their success - in the air. While this turned out to be correct, Halford struggled to keep the ball, proving an easy a target for the three Watford defenders.
With Forest finding it tough to keep the ball in Watford's half, not only did they struggle to make an early breakthrough, but things were becoming more and more nervy at the back, as Watford tried to force Forest into playing more direct football (see diagram, right. All images on Forest Boffin are enlargeable when clicked). This is where Forest missed the likes of Vaughan and Lansbury, because although Moussi and Jara did not panic and stuck to the game-plan, it's not playing to their strengths - something Watford clearly understood, and they exploited it well.
I simply must talk about the crowd's reaction during the first half. They were quiet from the off - perhaps not surprisingly for such a cool night, but there seemed to be a sense of waiting for Forest to make a mistake. Apart from a ten minute spell in the first half, The Reds were well in control of the game - yes they were struggling to break Watford down, but the crowd became frustrated very early - you wouldn't think we had gone 11 unbeaten.
But my main issue is the abuse directed at certain members of the Forest team. Dan Harding has always been an unpopular member of the Forest squad, and was hesitant for the first Watford goal, but every time he plays he has to ignore disgraceful abuse from the fans. It's important for Forest's wing-backs to make positive runs and join in with the passing - but woe betide Harding if he gives it away!
When Guy Moussi was selected I thought Billy Davies would have to change Forest's style of play - for a ball-player he is not. I was wrong however, and to my surprise Moussi was not just joining in with the patient approach, but instrumental to it by constantly making himself available for the ball. He always looks on the brink of collapse when in possession, but is better than he gets credit for.
Moussi was subjected to verbal abuse, there were exaggerated groans when he was perceived to make an error, he was wrongly blamed for both of our goals, and - probably the thing I hate most because of the impact it must have on the players confidence - subject to ironic cheers when he completed a pass. I am all for fans having opinions about players, but I find it bizarre that some choose to inflict this negativity on them during the game, at a time when it could make them even worse.
Luckily we have a gem in Moussi - not in his ability perhaps, but certainly in his will to battle through this adversity, and to his credit he was still hungry for the ball and making himself available, putting himself in the firing line despite the knowledge that he had lost a vocal proportion of the crowd. It was an exceptionally brave, if not technical, performance.
And just to hammer the point home, The Moose didn't even have an especially poor a game. I've read somewhere that he gave the ball away "constantly" - he was in fact dispossessed only once, and had a higher passing accuracy than Andy Reid. WhoScored.com have him down as statistically the third most effective player on the pitch (please look at his stats, see here).
There's an argument that Forest were unlucky to find themselves 2-0 down just after half time, but from a Watford perspective you'd have to say they did exactly what was needed - up until the first Cox goal it was a perfect away performance - they had restricted The Garibaldi's options coming forward, and buried their chances when they appeared.
But then Davies got involved - as we're used to seeing. The Scot is exceptional at tweaking things to correct tactical problems, and his error in playing Greg Halford was corrected at half time, with Simon Cox coming on. As suggested in my preview, Cox helped Forest hold onto the ball in wide positions, giving them a foothold in the game and immediately Forest had The Golden Boys on the rack.
My theory on why Davies started with Halford rather than Cox is simple; it's possible Billy had spotted a weakness in Watford's game, and thought we'd have success with crosses and headers - this certainly turned out to be the case, and Halford has the knack of scoring this kind of goal, but was not clever enough to evade the Watford defence in the build up.
The main thing that hurt Watford though was Forest being able to keep the ball in their half of the pitch. This allowed Andy Reid to get on the ball and start pulling the strings. The Reds' second goal is a particular example of the magic which Reid is capable of producing - his inch-perfect cross was spun from the outside of his boot and was the kind of thing you don't see often at this level.
By this time Forest were rampant, and even Moussi was back in the fans favour. As Davies said afterwards, he did actually have an excellent second half, and must be given a lot of credit for dealing with the animosity directed towards him. We've seen players crumble when barracked at Forest, their confidence shot, but Moussi never hid at any stage. I know my rating of 10 (see left) is wildly excessive, but in the circumstances, as a gesture against his detractors, he's welcome to my first ever 10/10. It's closer than some of the rubbish people were shouting at him from the stands.
I didn't mean for this match report to turn into a swipe at the boo-boys (yes, there were even a few people booing at half time - 11 games into an unbeaten run); everybody at The City Ground was entitled to an opinion - but there is a time and way of expressing those opinions that doesn't have to intrude onto the pitch. There were times during the last 15 minutes of the first half when the players were clearly apprehensive of losing the ball, picking up on the crowd's unrest - it is no coincidence that this coincided with Watford's best spell of play.
I'll probably get stick myself for telling people they shouldn't shout horrible things at spoilt footballers, that they're paid enough to take it and so on - but that's not my concern. My concern is that it's counterproductive, it drains confidence and makes it less likely Forest will play confident, attractive, winning football.
Sometimes, reading message-boards, Twitter and listening to what people are shouting in the stands, you'd think Forest were struggling. I particularly liked it when someone behind me shouted "same old ******* rubbish Forest!" We were 11 games unbeaten! We need to have more confidence in general. I'm just hearing that Forest have signed David Vaughan for the rest of the season, and it's rumoured Hobbs is in Nottingham... and we're 12 games unbeaten. So yes - let's have some of the same old rubbish against Yeovil on Sunday Forest!
Thanks for reading, thanks to www.whoscored.com for statistical help, and COYR!