More disappointing than the battering by Derby County was the distinct lack of leadership out on the pitch last Sunday!
As I made my way into the away corner of the I Pro stadium I had flash backs of Ben Osborn’s winning goal celebration just yards from my seat. There was a real optimism among the crowd and many were expecting a similar outcome to that of January 2015. Every single Forest supporter I spoke to had predicted a fourth straight victory, whilst I settled for the safety of a score draw.
The optimism soon began to waver though; having already lost Britt Assombalonga we then saw the withdrawal of Henri Lansbury during the warm up. The stone wall victory predictions soon matched those of my own as a draw now looked like a decent result.
Forest started brightly and pinged the ball about well in the opening exchanges, fair to say that they were slightly the better side for the first fifteen minutes or so. In hindsight, I wished that the full-time whistle had been blown right then, because Derby absolutely owned us for the remaining seventy-five minutes of the match. This was largely down to the performance of Will Hughes, who completely bossed the Forest midfield, and Pajtim Kasami in particular. Despite the home side’s dominance, it looked like we might sneak in level at the break though. That was until Nicklas Bendtner headed into his own net after 33 minutes, from Tom Ince’s near post corner.
For all their dominance, Derby nearly allowed Forest back into the game on the stroke of half time. Matty Cash had a golden chance to level the scores when the ball fell kindly for him just sixteen yards out, instead of power he opted for a side foot shot that was too comfortable for Scott Carson.
Nicklas Bendtner seemed intent on scoring for Derby, the big Dane headed against his own crossbar just minutes into the second half. The home side did go further ahead in the 55th minute though, and there was nothing fortunate about this goal. Chris Baird’s inch perfect pass allowed Tom Ince to get the wrong side of Eric Lichaj before turning Mancienne inside out on his way to finding the top left corner of the net. You knew it was a bad day when two of the club’s most reliable defenders were caught out in the build up to the goal. It wasn’t the fact that we were two nil down but just the sheer manor of defeatism that emanated from the players in red shirts.
This was the time to step up and be counted but the likes of Kasami, Lam, Bendtner and Mustapha Carayol were nothing more than shrinking violets. Bendtner is here to prove himself but if he continues to amble around as he did, he can kiss his Premier League return goodbye. As for Carayol; I can’t remember a Forest player having such an awful game. I literally felt embarrassed for him as his final attempt to trap a ball rolled out of play, and prompted his withdrawal by Montanier. Eleven players and not a single leader; nobody seemed capable of galvanising their teammates and managing the situation. This is Forest v derby and it means everything to us supporters, it was unbelievable and very saddening to watch.
I can deal with the fact that we lost Britt and Lansbury and I hope that we don’t use that as an excuse. Look at Newcastle last week; they were basically down to a five a side team but they made themselves very hard to beat. I could have accepted a defeat at Derby if we’d have shown just a little fight but there was not a leader in sight. Inevitably; Derby got a third goal through the excellent Will Hughes. He started and finished a move that saw him waltz past Thomas Lam before tapping home a rebound from Stojkovic.
My colleague has quite rightly pointed out the mockery of having David Vaughan on the bench whilst the horror show unfolded. Now there is a leader, a fighter and a man who would have taken the bull by the horns on Sunday. Instead; he is thrown on as a token gesture when the damage had been done. As for the performances of Lam and Carayol; I’ve seen more endeavour form a Lamb Casserole!
Strangely enough, if you’d have told most Forest supporters that they’d have collected nine points from the four televised games, like myself they’d have probably settled for it. I predicted just five points from those games so that tells you everything. Last week I said that we’d made our own luck of late, but it ran out on Sunday. Regardless of formation and team selection, Nottingham Forest v Derby County requires no pep talk and should be a cup final to every player on the pitch. As a lifelong fan, I was deeply disappointed at the lack of leadership for a game of such magnitude