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.

2 comments:

  1. Cheers Stockyred, enjoyed writing it. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    ReplyDelete