Mark Warburton left himself wide open to criticism following two catastrophic defeats over the Easter bank holiday.
His team selection and positional deployment has left everyone scratching their heads, especially where the centre forwards are concerned. Having produced the best display of the season against Huddersfield, the Forest boss fielded the exact same eleven against a hapless Blackburn Rovers last Friday.
The only telling difference was the switch between Jamie Ward and Ben Brereton, the latter had been stuck out on the wing against Huddersfield but found himself through the middle to face Rovers. The less said the better where the Blackburn game is concerned; a classic case of “after the lord mayor’s show.”
For whatever reason, Forest did not show up and apart from a decent first ten minutes, they were atrocious. A draw would not have been a bad result, although I said myself that this was a must win encounter some weeks back. To lose was unthinkable, when you consider that Rovers had not won in their last seven matches.
The Easter period can make or break your season, given the possibility of six juicy points in just seventy-two hours. So, the trip to the Welsh capital became a must not lose affair following the Blackburn bombshell.
Like nearly every Forest supporter, I was lost for words when I saw that the manager had reverted to playing Jamie Ward as the lone striker again. We are not exactly scoring for fun at the moment but we have the luxury of some proven hit men within the squad. So, why the hell would you deploy one of our smallest players up top and all on his own? Ward has done very well since returning from his loan spell but everyone knows that he’s better on the flank than as a centre forward.
Mark Warburton has four fit strikers from which to pick but only selects one, and then chucks him out on the wing. It doesn’t make sense at all considering that the remaining three have scored 21 times between them this season. At this point I must not be hypercritical; I have been disappointed with Britt Assombalonga’s body language this season and have criticised him of late. But desperate times call for desperate measures so if he were to partner Ben Brereton for the remaining fixtures I’d be happy to see that.
As for the game itself, it looked like the Reds were heading for a point until Gunnarsson’s long range strike won it for the Bluebirds. Forest set up with a kind of 4-3-3 formation and provided little in the way of endeavour for the first half at least. They almost fell behind to Peter Whittingham’s thirty-yard effort, which cannoned back off the crossbar after just 11 minutes. Surprisingly, Warburton made no changes at the break and the same monotonous pace ensued.
Predictably, it wasn’t until Ben Brereton was finally moved into a central role that the game came to life for Forest.
Mustapha Carayol jinked in from the left and forced a great save from McGregor in the Cardiff goal. This surge of excitement triggered three substitutions by the Forest manager within six minutes, but too little too late in my opinion. Assombalonga and Clough entered the fray to be followed by Vellios shortly after. Those three players have 20 goals between them and were all on the bench! Vellios almost saved the day as he saw his header rebound off the bar, following great wing play by Carayol once more.
For a manager of Mark Warburton’s calibre, I’m gobsmacked at his team selections of late, especially given the magnitude of the situation we’re in. He cannot grumble about being a point from the drop zone and has done himself no favours whatsoever by messing with the forward line.