The sands of time are rapidly slipping away for Nottingham Forest manager Philippe Montanier.
Despite his team picking up a point against Queens park rangers, which ended a run of three straight defeats; it was a game that should have yielded maximum points for the reds.
At the start of play QPR sat just three places above Forest in the Championship table, effectively making the encounter a six pointer. Montanier officially set up with a 3-5-2 formation but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was 4-4-2 at times; a misconception that has occurred throughout the season so far to be honest. The most baffling part about this line up was the inclusion of Ben Osborn as Britt Assombalonga’s strike partner. We finally go with two up front but ludicrously fail to pair up the top two goal scorers, which left Apostolos Vellios twiddling his thumbs on the bench.
Despite the unorthodox selections Forest started very well indeed and controlled the tempo of the game for the entire first half. Pajtim Kasami looked as good as I’d seen him all season and he was involved in a move that saw Assombalonga find the net after just 9 minutes, only to see it ruled out for offside. There were positive performances from Lansbury, Lichaj and young Joe Worrall in the first 45 too; Worrall looks extremely composed and you’d think he’d been in the first team for years.
Although Britt Assombalonga isn’t 100% fit yet he caused the QPR defence some real problems and should have scored after 23 minutes; his lack of sharpness was evident as he failed to convert his one on one with Rangers keeper Alex Smithies. Whilst I’m on the subject; the sharpness of Karl Henry’s tongue was cutting through the referee’s resolve not to mention that of the entire home team. Henry was booked as early as the eleventh minute and continued to foul at will; unfortunately for the QPR man, this is all he will be remembered for when he hangs up his boots.
Forest continued to press in search of a goal and you sensed that it would happen sooner than later as they dominated the proceedings. Their cause was helped even more in the 33rd minute when who else? Karl Henry scythed down Henri Lansbury from behind. The QPR man received his marching orders and Forest took advantage just three minutes later; Kasami played in Assombalonga and the hitman made no mistake this time, he rounded the keeper and fired home from an awkward angle to give Forest a deserved lead going into the break.
What unfolded in the second half can only be described as a capitulation, considering that the home side had the extra man and a one goal lead; Rangers were there for the taking. Forest took their foot off the gas and allowed QPR to find their feet, inevitably they began to rack up some attempts on Stojkovic’s goal. In contrast, the Forest players seemed to lack confidence in their forward outlets. Which brings me back to the team selection; why the hell would Montanier not play Assombalonga and Vellios together? Initially I wasn’t a fan of Vellios but have always said that he’s the perfect foil for Britt, his ability to dink those first-time balls in tight spaces would give us another dimension up front. Instead; the reds manager opted to play Ben Osborn up front and it was blindingly obvious that it wasn’t working. This strange affliction for Osborn by Philippe Montanier is frighteningly similar to that of the England national side with Wayne Rooney. It seems that Osborn cannot be dropped and must be accommodated at all costs, even to the detriment of the whole side.
Britt Assombalonga began to tire as the game evolved which was always going to be the case having returned from injury, and this only aided the gradual retreat by Forest. As I looked at the scoreboard clock I had a flash back to the Brighton game early in the season, another in which we were well beaten. At the same point on that very day I said that the game was crying out for a change by our manager, one that never happened. Once again, the moment of truth came and went but left me convinced that the Frenchman’s reign will soon be over. Despite not pairing his two top scorers from the start, Montanier could have switched Lansbury and Osborn at the hour mark and staggered the front two. Just one of a few options that the manager chose to ignore.
This was to be his undoing as the Londoner’s got closer to equalising with every passing minute, I wrote the following sentence in my match notes “the QPR equaliser is coming”. The away side’s cause was bolstered by the game’s second sending off, in the 71st minute. Hildeberto Pereira picked up his third red card of the season courtesy of two separate bookings. In all fairness, it was a little harsh but he’s becoming a liability and will surely be side lined when Pinillos returns to action.
The scripted equaliser arrived in the 84th minute and was all that Forest deserved to be honest; Idris Syilla headed home with ease and secured a point for his side. In typical knee jerk reaction, Philippe Montanier finally brought on Vellios for Assombalonga but the game was over as a contest by then.
One of the few positives for Forest was the performance of Joe Worrall; the youngster looked so accomplished in the reds defence and reminds me of Michael Dawson at times. He reads the game very well and is another successful product of the NFFC academy.
The boos that echoed around the City Ground at the final whistle said it all; with a few people vowing not to return. But there are BIG changes in the pipeline and brighter days will return to this once great club. It put it into perspective for me when I bumped into a group of Spanish guys at the ground, who’d made the 925 mile journey from Menorca to watch Nottingham Forest. It was the first ever visit for Josep, Xavi, Alex, Pau and Toni, and despite all the turmoil, they are eager to return. The dedication of such supporters certainly restores my faith in this beautiful old club!
Blog from 7/11/2016