Thursday, 27 March 2014

Forest 0 Charlton 1

Forest entered a new era of uncertainty on Tuesday night as they lost to a very poor Charlton side. After the removal of Billy Davies, The Reds were led by academy Director Gary Brazil, but anyone hoping for an improvement from the 5-0 defeat against Derby was sadly disappointed.

We saw a return to tradition as Forest were set up in a cautious 4-4-2 - possibly because Brazil wanted to keep things as simple as possible considering the short amount of time to make plans. Notably Gonzalo Jara and Jonathan Greening were the two central figures - a pair of defensive minded players in the middle of the pitch, which would prove pivotal. Clearly the team were instructed to play more direct football, through to the two strikers. We got a rare chance to see a duo up front - the last manager had gone off this idea; as the team was released I was left wondering whether Brazil's tactics would show up Davies' one up front preference...

Charlton played a conservative 4-5-1. The Valiants' game-plan was to sit back and absorb pressure, ready to spring forward and pinch a goal on the counter-attack, with Cousins, Ajdarevic, and Ghoochanneijhad (that's the last time I'll be typing that out) willing to get forward. I have to say, our opponents were particularly bereft of ideas, and were there for the taking.

Indeed, while they were actually getting enough men back to defend, Charlton looked particularly porous when Forest tried to play the ball through the middle. This was not due to a lack of organisation in my opinion, more that their players were unable to track the runs of the Forest forwards, Cox and Henderson - both of whom were put through on goal in the first half, only to miss the target.

This was an opposition team ripe to be cut apart by the passing, concise football that we have become used to seeing Forest play over the past year - but it just wasn't there. Whenever The Garibaldi got players on the ball deep in the Charlton half, they looked dangerous and capable of finding the runs of attackers.

However, this was not happening enough, instead the attack and defence seemed to be playing as two different entities. Too often, there was a long way between the defensive six (including the two central midfielders) and the strikers and wingers, who at times seemed to be playing as four forwards. Crucial in this tactical problem was that there was a huge swathe of space between the defensive midfield and strikers - there was no attacking midfielder to bridge the gap between attack and defence. Instead, Forest relied more than usual on direct balls from Greening and Jara.

To highlight how much more direct Forest were, they played 99 long balls in total (22 more than Charlton). The defensive midfielders, who were kick-starting Forest's attack, played a total of 42 long balls between them - far more than usual (when Forest have played two defensive midfielders this season, they have played an average of 12.44 long balls between them).

This obvious and unimaginative tactic played into Charlton's hands. We've seen a lot of good football at The City Ground under Billy Davies - key to which was his gradual build up of possession in the opposition half, but on Tuesday this was gone, instead, most of our possession was in deeper areas.

Post-match, BBC Radio Nottingham's Colin Fray stated that the first half was an improvement from the Derby game; make no mistake, this was not the case. At least against Derby Forest were trying to come forward with passing football, playing with guile but coming up against a very good, promotion hunting side, and being caught out by some clever movement.

He said Forest looked more stable at the back - they should have, against a Charlton team, reluctant to come forward, who had up until then won only one game away from home. The truth was Forest were as big a mess at the back as they were disjointed going forward, and a very ordinary Charlton side were able to create chances - one in particular where Marvin Sordell found himself in space, with the freedom of Nottingham, only to shoot against the post.

The Forest defence looked shaky for the whole game - partly due to the separation between attackers and defenders. The 4-4-2 formation should give the wingers ample opportunity to help and support their full-back, but because they were so far forward, Abdoun and Mackie were not doing this. Fox and Halford were thus left isolated at times

The second half was even worse. Brazil recognised that the gap between defence and attack needed to be bridged and brought on Jamie Paterson to play in attacking midfield, but sacrificed a striker to do so, in effect playing a 4-5-1 at home against the worst team we've seen at The City Ground this season. Pato did his best, but he's not the kind of player to hold onto the ball in the opposition half, he's a direct threat - Forest needed to put Charlton under some sustained pressure, because whacking it up to the attackers, who were not holding onto it, was playing into the hands of their counter-attacking style. The game was crying out for Raddy Majewski to help us keep some possession higher up the pitch, to apply some pressure, because with it coming back so frequently, Charlton were having too many rolls of the dice.

The Addicks were bound to get lucky eventually, and they scored after 81 minutes. As Forest ran out of ideas coming forward, they lingered on the ball and gave it away - springing another Charlton counter-attack. Once more, the post was struck, but it was not mere fortune that led to it falling at the feet of an opposition player - they had broke in numbers, their players wanted to get there more than the Forest players did, and outnumbered the defenders.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing of all is that, after going behind, there was little noticeable comeback, no besieging of the opponents, forcing them to defend desperately, like we have seen in other losses this season. The Forest performance lacked tactical workability, passion, leadership and guile.

This was the worst performance of the season - and it is a worse result than the loss against Derby - it may not feel it, but considering the opposition, it was. It was also a chance to climb back into the play-offs; Reading, Brighton and Wigan all lost!

On a more positive note, Forest are still in the promotion hunt, and cannot possibly get any worse. Players will return,  and this is a juicy opportunity for whoever takes over as manager, who will build on the work already done, and have players returning to fitness who have been unavailable for the past few weeks.

I know I'm in a minority - and will not mention it again once the new manager is in place - I'll get behind him 100%, but I can't help wondering what the result would have been were the old regime still in place. Would we have played such direct football - effectively playing into the hands of a deep-lying counter-attacking side? Would the players have been so obviously unmotivated? We'd be back in the play-offs today, still licking our wounds from the Derby game, but we wouldn't have thrown away three points against dreadful Charlton. How they won their only other away game is beyond me.

It was nice to hear the post match comments of manager and players - Davies was a fool to allow himself to be upset by the press and his reaction was childish - but I don't pay over £500 a season to listen to the manager and players on the radio, or  read pleasant interviews in a friendly local newspaper, I pay that money (and more) to watch an attractive footballing side which makes me optimistic of the near future. Forest under Davies was exactly that - now, there's nothing but uncertainty and we're back to square 1.

Thanks for reading, thanks to www.whoscored.com for statistical help, and COYR

Monday, 24 March 2014

Derby match report

I write this report fully aware that only the self-flagellistic will wish to read; this is more of a historical document - a grisly account of disaster, so that future Forest fans - those with a morbid curiosity - can look back with distaste.

The Reds fielded virtually a second string side - but the players who filled in have all proven that they can perform at this level. And the system - considering how the goals went in, should have helped them too; Billy deployed his 4-2-3-1 formation, which became a 4-5-1 when under pressure. There should have been very little space in the Forest half.

The Rams played what looked to me like a 4-3-3, the key to which was the hard work of their three central midfielders, Bryson, Thorne and Hendricks, and the two wide forwards, Bamford, but especially Ward, who were instructed to press the Forest defenders when on the ball.

The warning signs were there early on. Forest sat too deep, saturating their third of the pitch with red shirts - even to the extent that one of Derby's centre-backs could bring the ball to the position in my diagram, below-right (click to enlarge).

I believe this shot is very important, as it shows a tactical defect which led to Forest being 2-0 behind. Derby are getting men in wide positions asking an awkward question of the Forest line of midfielders - who should press the ball? It shouldn't be a problem, because although our opponents have pushed forward two defenders to complicate matters, we still have five in midfield - but the spare man is Greening, a defensive midfielder, whose job is to defend the centre-backs; he is reluctant to come out of the line to press.

Normally, the attacking midfielder would press Keogh, but Paterson has the right-back, Wisdom, to contend with, so does not. Majewski is watching his own man - so nobody goes to the Derby centre-back on the ball - who is then able to take his time in picking out an accurate pass. Would he have done it so well if rushed? He's not Lionel Messi, so probably not.

This was an early hint that Forest were thus too rigid in their defensive shape - the other worrying thing about this passage of play is that they continued to be rigid with the ball in amongst them, as they did not get to the man on the ball very quickly once the pass was made.

There was another warning sign immediately prior to the goal, with the Derby left-back Forsyth able to run unchallenged to the edge of the Forest box, and play in another unhurried pass. Defensively, Forest were sitting ducks; too deep and not putting pressure on the ball - the Derby goal did not come out of nowhere.

This inability to press the ball, and unwillingness - or even confusion - in getting stuck in when Derby are moving through the rigid formation, was instrumental in both of Derby's first goals.

The lead up to their opener was poor (see left). Forest sit deep and saturate the middle of the pitch. Again, it is a defensive midfielder, Moussi, who finds himself closest to the threat, but is unsure of whether to press the ball because, in a perfect world, this should be the winger's job. The winger, Mackie, is guarding a 3 square foot 'danger zone' in the centre of the pitch - this area is superbly defended at least! Derby simply go around the Forest midfield - which ought to be impossible because there are five of them, but they just don't seem interested in pressing the ball, or more likely are too confused over who should be doing so - there is no organisation or initiative shown whatsoever - a word to those who used to deride Paul McKenna - this is what happens when you don't have someone like him in the side!

The Rams find it very easy to just pass their way through the, well... friendly defenders, causing panic and confusion, which eventually leads to the goal, but would have been stopped earlier if the midfield were organised enough to press Bryson at the point illustrated above.

To be fair, Forest were still in the game and playing some decent football when coming forward. Greening was once more very accurate with his passing, and the midfield trio of Paterson, Majewski and Mackie were putting in a lot of effort and trying to play passing, possession football.
Indeed, Forest had more of the ball in the first half, but Derby defended well. Quite rightly, they were deliberately rough in challenging the three Forest creative players, who are very lightweight. But it would be wrong to say Derby were playing unfairly - they played in the spirit of an important match, working very hard to put Forest under pressure and rough them up in this crucial phase of the game - doing everything the Forest defenders were not. In the circumstances Paterson, Mackie, and especially Majewski did well and were carving out half-chances.

But The Rams defended resolutely and took their chance when it came, once more playing it easily through the defence, who make no challenge as the ball is passed around, and through, their penalty area. Bryson then runs straight past Moussi - apparently unaware of the dangerous space in front of him, and slots in.

This goal is too easy and makes Derby look like Barcelona - their forward, Martin, sets up the goal, and has far too much time to make the pass. Many will blame Moussi - and he was highly at fault for not tracking Bryson, but the defenders should have been snapping at the heels of the attackers beforehand - like Derby were doing (see the diagram of their defending, above).

The first half must have frustrated Billy Davies - when on the ball Forest were doing ok, but the two first goals were tantamount to negligence by his players when defending, by not pressing the ball, and refusing to make tackles.

Forest then became desperate, and were cut to pieces on the counter attack. Ex Forest man Bamford set up Derby's third with an astute piece of play, notable for an equally naïve piece of defending from the experienced Forest right-back, Jara. Three-nil.

The fourth goal was more abject defending, following good movement off the ball by Derby players. Again, the midfield are far too slow to react, allowing their opponents to find space in front of the defence (see left if you've not had enough punishment).

I've got to mention the away support - if only the players showed as much spirit, they continued to sing throughout, and were the only positive thing from the game from a Forest point of view. I'm not suggesting the players were not trying - they were it's clear, but they lacked the grit and endeavour you would expect in a Derby game.

The fifth goal was a penalty, Darlow screaming out of goal to clatter into Bamford - the sad thing about it was that Darlow's error was the first challenge of merit associated with any of the five Derby goals since the botched stab at the ball by Danny Collins leading up to their first.

But as poor as Forest were, in defence, and in attack where (especially in the second half) there was some particularly lacklustre efforts, it has to be noted that Derby were superb. They looked up for it, played with endeavour, defended hard, and looked a different class.

Billy Davies has taken a hiding in the press (no change there) and from many fans. Forget about injuries - we all know it wouldn't have happened were the seven or eight players missing on the pitch, but the performance was too woeful for this excuse - the players are good enough to do a better job than they did. It is up to the manager to motivate his players, and to ensure they know what is required.

But you could also argue that Jonathan Greening and Guy Moussi should know better - because I don't think Davies instructed them to allow opposition players to stroll past them into empty space, or not to make challenges for the ball. Some of the defending was criminal; Mackie, Greening, Jara, Moussi, Fox, Collins - these are seasoned players who know how to press the ball and get stuck in. Why didn't they?

I'm going to stop now. Well done if you've made it this far. There is far more to talk about, but the defensive shortcomings, which led to this massacre, were too numerous and important to allow space for much else.
I would point out that Forest fans need to keep the faith - we need to look at the bigger picture; if Forest get their act together (they will - they have players returning and will only - can only - get stronger) they could, with luck, sneak into the playoffs. Negativity from the fans will not help, positivity will - even through gritted teeth.

Edit - Billy Davies has been sacked as I write - massive news, and a disappointment to me, but will still leave the following passage in. On going to Twitter to post this I see Neil Warnock has incredibly taken over! Personally I'm shocked, but will put my feelings to one side and get behind the new manager. Will stick my neck out and say I'm gutted to be honest. Back to the article...

I can't see Davies still being at The City Ground in a week - I think he should be, we're used to far far worse managers, but his detractors are becoming more and more vocal. It's such a shame that Forest's injury problems, and their subsequent inability to compensate for them, looks likely to end King Billy's second reign, especially since we looked so good 8 weeks ago.

In my opinion, sacking Davies at this stage of the season will end our play-off hopes and set Forest back another year at least - hopefully Fawaz will have the foresight to recognise this, hopefully he's not lost the plot like some Forest fans have - which is understandable after losing 5-0 to Derby, but some of the name-calling and abuse towards Davies, the most successful Forest manager this century, has been childish at best.

He does nothing to help himself though - I was praying he would abandon his media-exile after the game and offer some shred of an apology to the fans. By retreating into his bunker he has given yet more ammo to those using him as target practise.

Thanks for reading - in fact, well done! Thanks to Charlie at www.ramsramble.com for his thoughts on the game, who has been a gentleman about it. And COYR, put this behind us against Charlton tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Why does Billy play Halford up front?

When a manager unnecessarily plays a player out of position, he puts himself in the firing line. Such is the case with Billy Davies playing Greg Halford up front.

This fancy has been causing discussion all season, with Halford being preferred in the position on several occasions. The 29 year old utility man led the line against Watford in January, despite there being 5 (five) natural forward players on the bench, causing widespread confusion in the stands. Again, on the way out following our recent draw against Doncaster, it seemed to be the main topic of conversation.

Davies himself has a self-professed aversion to “round pegs in square holes” – so why play Halford out of position?

The simple answer to this is that Halford doesn’t have a position. He has always, wherever he has played, been branded with the dreaded utility-man label, but is this a reason for him to play up front? No, but Davies has stated that he feels Halford “has got a lot of threats.” What are these threats?

In my opinion, the pre-requisite as to why Halford is being picked – the thing that qualifies him for consideration – is his perceived ability in the air, more specifically in scoring goals with his head.

Going back to the decision to play him against Watford; I had watched a lot of The Hornets in researching a preview of the game, and one thing I noticed, although I underestimated it’s importance, is that Watford had been struggling to defend crosses. Billy perhaps attached more weight to this weakness, which explains Halford's inclusion, and to be fair to Davies he was right to single out this - Forest scored two headed goals in this game.
 
In hindsight, Halford should have been ideal to exploit Watford's weakness in the air - he has proven his ability to score in this fashion against Leeds, QPR and Reading. Playing him as a forward was not questioned after these games, because he scored in each of them, giving Forest vital leads.

So we begin to see the logic of why Billy played Halford up front against Watford – it was because Greg had already proven he was good at something that Billy knew would give them problems, the fact that he failed to score is academic; Davies cannot see into the future, all he knows is that the player is capable of doing the job needed.

There is similar logic to the decision to play him up front against Doncaster. In recent weeks Forest have been missing an unusual amount of headed chances. The Reds have been crossing the ball at will, they have been creating opportunities but the chances were being spurned.

The game against Barnsley was one Forest could easily have won – if The Garibaldi managed to take the lead, bottom of the table Barnsley would probably have crumbled, and Jamie Mackie missed a particularly easy header in the first half. The opportunity went begging, Barnsley punished the error and gained the confidence to protect their lead.
Even more obvious was the lack of head-power in the game against Middlesbrough – several chances to take the lead were spurned (see above, click to enlarge), notably by the forward players. If a more accomplished header of the ball were amongst them in the first half, Forest would surely have taken the lead.

The missed chances must have galled Davies, and when Halford trotted out against Doncaster the reasoning should have been obvious; it was Billy's attempt to take advantage of the crosses Forest get into the box. Alas, football is football and it did not work out as the manager hoped – but we can see his reasoning.

So we see Halford’s ability in the air, and strength,  are key considerations which Davies values, but others have this ability too – Darius Henderson for one, and earlier in the season Billy could have chosen Dexter Blackstock – two ‘proper’ strikers. Why pick Halford over them?

It could be Halford’s versatility that gives him the advantage over the more traditional target-men. He has played a variety of positions, and has a broader range of skills because of this.
 
For example, much of Halford’s career has been spent as a defender. It's my contention that he is able to look at the game through a defender's eye, and see where opportunities might present themselves - this is why a disproportionate amount of chances keep 'falling' to Halford, he knows where to run, often before the space has even appeared (see right for an example of what I mean).
 
In my opinion, this gives him an advantage over traditional target-men in the eyes of the manager, because, while a proper striker in the mould of Robbie Earnshaw or Billy Sharp can find this space with ease, the traditional target-man cannot regularly do this. Henderson, for example, isn't the kind of player to run into space, his physique and style of play are more suited to tussling with defenders rather than evading them.

Halford has the strength of a 'target-man', but also the knowledge and mobility to run into appearing space - he does this whenever he plays up front (I've noted another example below) - the problem is that he is poor at shooting, but this might not count too much against him because Forest's other strikers don't exactly have the accuracy of Gabriel Batistuta either.
 
As a defender, he also knows what defenders struggle against - which comes in handy. Halford has several tricks to put defenders off - the headed goal against QPR was a good example of this, he created space in between the two defenders by making a false run (see first diagram, above).
 
Defenders are the masters of competing for these high balls, so it stands to reason he knows their strategies. Another dirty trick that defenders often use is backing-in, you will see Halford do this in every game. This is where he chooses not to compete for the high ball at all, instead making contact with the opponent while bending over slightly to put them off, or trick the referee into giving him a free-kick. Other defenders aren't used to being fouled in this manner by attackers, who are usually climbing for the ball. It's a good example of Halford using his experience as a defender while attacking.
 
Halford is an experienced, canny professional and not averse to bending the rules – but because of his experience all around the pitch, in my opinion he’s better at disguising it that, for example, Henderson (who, as we saw in the bear-hug incident against Blackburn, isn’t quite as subtle).

We also see Halford using his skills as a midfielder, doing things that (since we’ve already picked him out) Henderson can’t do. He is more creative with the ball at his feet – can anybody see Henderson putting in the kind of cross that Halford did against Bolton at home (for Henri Lansbury’s goal, see right). He used to play on the right-wing for Colchester, and I've read an old forum where one of their fans calls him 'their David Beckham' - this was an excessive, possibly alcohol induced compliment, but it hints at the kind of role he played there; albeit at a far lower level, it’s another string to his bow, another thing his rivals for the position cannot do.

For balance, I’m not suggesting Halford is a viable, regular first-choice starter as a striker for a team aiming for promotion. But we can see that he has the skills which have enticed Davies to pick him – he can score with his head, he is strong enough to act as a makeshift target-man, but and his mobility and versatility has given him a broader range of skills and knowledge, allowing Forest more options in coming forward.

We’ve looked at why Davies has used him up front, but does it work?

He’s only scored three goals for Forest this season, so he’s not necessarily there for his goal-threat – (although his strike rate when playing up front is a goal every 226 minutes, above The Championship's average for strikers by far) but we must remember that Billy isn’t playing him as a regular starter up-front, more as someone for certain situations; how have Forest done when Billy has deemed it suitable to play Halford up front?
 
The stats (see right) suggest that playing Halford up front have not had a detrimental effect – in fact Forest have scored slightly faster while employing him as a striker, as opposed to when he’s not been.

In analysing this information we must take into consideration the relatively low amount of minutes Halford has been played as a striker, but they certainly suggest that Davies’ use of the player up front has tended to work more than not, justifying the selection.
 
You will also note that, in the games where Halford has played 45 minutes or more as a forward, Forest have won 4, drawn 4 and lost none - this is a much higher return (2 points per game) than Forest's average over the season (1.58 points per game).

Of course, it will be easy for people to say it’s all “lies, damned lies and statistics” - it seems so clear that Halford isn't a striker, doesn't it? I’m not arguing that Greg Halford is a great striker, and I don't think Billy is either. But nor is he the "useless" "liability" that has been claimed.

But the fact remains that Forest have scored more goals with this player up front, than when he has not been up front, have not lost in eight games where he has featured in this role, and actually the player has performed well on several occasions. He was man of the match against Bolton. He has scored absolutely vital goals, getting us off to good starts against QPR, Leeds and Reading, games where we had excellent results.

In fact, it is only in the last two games with him up front that you could claim that using him in this manner did not work. Has he been a passenger feeding off of his more skilful team-mates? Or is this another case of short, selective memories from the doubters?

Should Greg Halford be played up front? I don’t know – to be honest I thought it odd, even after slowly coming to understand Billy’s reasoning. After looking at what limited (but important – what could be more important to this question than how many goals the team is scoring, and their results?) statistics I have, they would suggest Billy knows what he’s doing in this matter.
 
One thing I'm certain of however, is that he has made a good contribution at times this season - and that includes when he's been playing up front.  He's been a huge part of enjoyable victories against Bolton, Leeds and QPR, and led the line as Forest earned good draws away at Watford, Reading and Bolton. I think, when things don't go to plan, some Forest fans are guilty of getting carried away and exaggerating the team's woes, and how badly a player has done.

Would love to hear what people think, this has been a difficult one to write and research - go easy I've done my best, and thanks for reading. COYR!
 
*A note on my research for this one; This has been a difficult subject to look into. There is the possibility that the statistics on where he has played, and for exactly how long, are not 100% solid (by my usual standards). For example, I know he played the majority of the game against Bolton as a forward, but I can't remember if he was switched to another position as Davies made his subs - I don't think he was, but this applies to all of the games - and it's impossible to quantify where a player is playing for every exact minute of a game - so the stats should only be used as general pointers for this article - I feel it necessary to point this out for integrities' sake, and I still stand by their validity, any inaccuracies will be relatively insignificant.
 
If any errors are spotted please let me know and I'll look into them. Cheers!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Barnsley 1 Forest 0

Billy Davies watched from the stands on Saturday as his makeshift Forest side slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Oakwell. This was a game of sporadic quality against game opponents - but for a promotion-hunting side it should be regarded as three points dropped.

Forest's injury problems are well documented, but as the players walked out I was optimistic. They continued with the 4-2-3-1 system, with Halford at right-back allowing Jara to step into midfield.

Most notable was Raddy Majewski's role - he sat in defensive midfield (!), breaking forward when The Garibaldi had the ball. You can't doubt the Pole's mobility, but Franco Baresi he is not; the main worry I foresaw was Raddy not being competent enough to play in this position - as it turned out Forest had bigger problems.

The Tykes played a similar formation to Forest, but with a differing approach, as they looked to play the ball forward to their star man, Chris O'Grady. The Reds were linked with O'Grady in January, and although not a fashionable name, he can be extremely effective when receiving the ball and Barnsley used him as a staging point for their forward play. He caused Lascelles, Gomis and Halford a lot of problems; how Forest could do with someone of his strength and cunning.

The first half began quite evenly, with both teams making a lot of errors and cancelling each other out. Forest found it hard to get their forwards into the game, particularly Simon Cox and Jamie Mackie, who only had 34 touches between them in their combined 128 minutes on the pitch. This was due to Barnsley's hard work in their own third of the pitch - they were disciplined positionally and good at denying Forest space.

When Forest were able to get forward they looked the better team - Barnsley were retreating to defend their own penalty area as Majewski, Paterson and Abdoun were finding space to cause problems. Abdoun in particular was taking the game to Barnsley, putting in a lot of good crosses, and hit the post with a well struck volley after a good move involving Majewski and Mackie. The Algerian also set up Mackie with an easy headed finish, which he somehow missed - the chances to win this game were there in the first half.

However, Forest were always likely to be punished because their system was flawed defensively. One of the major problems this season has been a porous midfield area - this prompted Billy Davies to change his system to have two defensive midfielders instead of one, but it didn't help against Barnsley as former Bayern Munich man Dale Jennings was able to take advantage of this to score.

The warning signs were there in the first half. With Majewski taking every opportunity to get forward, it was paramount that Gonzalo Jara took responsibility for defending this area, but he was failing to do this at times. I like Jara - especially as a full-back, but at times when he's been played in midfield I've gotten the impression that he likes to hide behind his team-mates when the going gets tough.

There was an example of this in the first half, as Jennings cut inside Halford - the defensive midfielder should defend this part of the pitch, but it was empty because Jara had left the responsibility to Halford (see above - all diagrams on Forest Boffin are enlargeable when clicked). Seeing Halford backing off and failing to challenge Jennings, it was easy to think he was at fault, but he also had to defend against a run in a wider area (see left)- Jara left him to do both, instead scrimshanking his way into a neutral position where he wouldn't have to get involved.

The Barnsley goal occurred in identical circumstances (see right). Jennings is running at Halford again, and sees the opportunity to cut inside after Jara makes a strange run out of the centre to cover the right-back area, which Paterson also runs into, tracking a run by Barnsley left-back Kennedy. This again leaves space in front of the Forest defence - Jennings exploits this and shoots from range, scoring. Viewing the highlights I was flabbergasted that a player of Jara's stature would make the same mistake twice - whether a lack of defensive appreciation or deliberately taking himself out of the firing line, it was very poor.

It is a shame, because apart from this catastrophic failure in Forest's system - the habitual appearance of space due to the defensive midfielder vacating his position - Forest defended reasonably well. The central defenders in particular were very strong and pro-active.

The goal saw a short wobble from Forest, where they could have conceded again as the crowd burst into life to urge the home side on, but this was short lived as Billy Davies' side finished the stronger, applying more and more pressure as The Tykes retreated deeper and deeper.

I feel obliged to talk about Djamel Abdoun, because I've lambasted him in the past. He attacked Barnsley like a dying lion - where was the lost little lamb of a few months ago? Determined to hurt our opponents, he was positive and hungry, getting past him man on a plethora of occasions to whip in good crosses, which were either missed, or nobody was in the box to take advantage. Hopefully this is a starting point for Abdoun, he performed exceptionally.

But despite the Algerian's endeavour, the Super Reds wall would not be breached. Barnsley defended for their lives, and for all Forest's pressure their goalkeeper only had to contend with 4 efforts on target, all except for an Abdoun free-kick quite tame.

Barnsley were bottom of the league before Saturday, but even considering that I couldn't understand some of the pockets of anger and aggression in among the travelling fans. Football is football - it is what it is; Forest have not done badly this season but we will lose games. As the players walked off there were a few boos, followed by (what I perceived to be) the majority of remaining fans stoically, even though they didn't really feel like it, applauding off the Forest players, myself included. I was then aggressively berated by a fellow 'supporter' stood a few seats to my left for clapping my own team! Why am ******* I clapping after that? I just want to go and enjoy a game of football and support my team thanks! I could understand his fury if the players were not trying, but the effort was clearly there. Unpleasant.

Back to football; one thing I think this game may tell us is the importance of another derided figure - Guy Moussi. The lack of bite in our midfield would suggest we need The Moose in there to help plug this gap, Barnsley were able to find too much room here, and we conceded a goal against Wigan in similar fashion. We need to protect this important area. Considering the fading likelihood of incoming players, Moussi may become a vital wheel on Billy Davies' Promotion Ambulance.

Not long ago we were aspiring for second place; now our play-off space in in serious danger. Forest have plenty of winnable games remaining - the players we have available are good enough to beat any team we will face, on their day, but we don't have the dominant end of the season to look forward to that we would have with Reid, Lansbury, Vaughan & Hobbs (and Cohen, Wilson & Lichaj) in the side. This set of players desperately need our support - the fans might decide how long Forest's season lasts. There are already signs of this depleted side looking short on confidence - if we get on their back, they will crumble.
 
We don't want that, so COYR!!! Thanks to www.whoscored.com for statistical assistance, let me know what you think of the article, and thanks for reading.