Forest 4 Wigan 3

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August 22, 2016 by notjustpumpkinbread

We’ve scored more goals in our first 2 home games this season than we did in our first 8 last season. Our 8th, 9th and 10th were in a 3-0 win against Reading on 28th November 2015.

On the flip side, it wasn’t until our 5th home game of the season that we’d conceded 6 goals – and 2 of those games were against Middlesbrough and Hull; and we all know what happened to them.

Both home and away, it took the first 10 games of the season before we’d seen our defence breached 10 times. And in that 13 game unbeaten run – from the Reading game until 6th February 2016 when we overcame Leeds at Elland Road 2-0 – we conceded only 7 goals, while shipping only 5 in our last 5 games.

I seems quite odd to me that the players who performed so well in that back 5 last season find themselves on the periphery this season. Yes, Pinillos is making his way back to fitness and Jokic is no longer here, but can’t we look any further than Chris Cohen at left back. Or use Eric at LB and employ Mancienne on the right?

And yes, I know that back 5 included Dorus, who has moved to pastures new in the search of Champions League football (and who could blame him?); while Mills’ start to the campaign involves shouting at his team mates while absolving himself of any blame for any of the goals we’ve conceded to date. But we do have Hobbs. Is he injured or just out of favour? If it’s the latter, it might be a good idea to get the most out of that 4 and a half-year contract he signed in January 2014. He may be slow, but Mancienne isn’t.

We had a steady back 5 who didn’t ship many goals. At one point last season we had the best defensive record in all 5 English leagues and most of the players that were part of that are still with us. If it ain’t broke…

Having said all that, I did think Lam was looking a bit more assured as the second half wore on. And who doesn’t like seeing a centre half all the way up top scoring a goal from open play? It was the cherry on the cake and gave us a deserved win in my opinion. We were bang average, but better than Wigan. A better team would have ripped us a new one – just look at the Brighton game for proof of that.

Fiddling around with starting 11’s doesn’t make anybody’s job easier, but Mills and Lansbury were probably our most disappointing players in the Brentford game, so it was no surprise to see them on the bench. As for Perquis, well that suspension did us a favour – at the moment he doesn’t seem to be a Championship level centre half.

It was surprising to see Fox at left back, and while I’ve been a supporter of him and his well-manicured beard, we were – once again – fortunate he had to be substituted during the first half. He was having “one of those games“, was woefully out of position for Wigan’s first goal and added plenty of fuel to the fire that is the “Fox isn’t a left back” argument. And, quite frankly, that’s unfortunate. He was ok as a centre half in those last 5 games of last season and at the moment could do no worse than Perquis or Mills in that position. The reappearance of Pinillos at left back can’t come soon enough.

And then there’s Pereira. For all his attacking ability, he is definitely NOT a right back. As was pointed out to me post-game, sometimes Eric needs a bit of a kick so he realises he’s not nailed on for a start. I would agree with that; and we all saw what we were missing when he came on to replace the injured Fox at left back after 38 minutes. Eric had a cracking game and maybe his omission from the right back position is just the spur he needs to get that starting 11 place back.

While Lansbury did have a poor game against Brentford, Kasami wasn’t much better. To my untrained eye, I can see nothing he’s offering over and above that of Henri. And once again, he was OK in this game but nothing more than that.

If Kasami was OK, Cohen was good. Particular highlights to his day were that sublime ball over the top for Twisty to run on to to score our second, as well as winning a penalty after being bundled over in the box. As a senior pro at the club, he is massively important – especially for the Academy lads coming through – and if M. Montanier wishes to employ 2 holding midfielders, I’d sacrifice Kasami for Vaughan and have him playing alongside Cohen. It wasn’t a stellar performance, but he played his part, of that there’s no doubt.

Benny seems to be getting a bit of stick on social media lately, and while he doesn’t create many chances during a game, you certainly can’t fault his commitment. I just love to see him scurrying around, breaking up play, offering himself up and generally looking busy. That may not be enough for some people, but he’s one of my favourites and deserves his place in the team.

What was really exciting to watch were the performances of Matty Cash and Oliver Burke. It was no surprise to see Oliver voted Man of the Match for his display, but I think Cash deserved the plaudits. His play and movement behind the front man was something to behold for a player of his first team inexperience. This opportunity he’s been given has been grasped – assuredly – with both hands and I don’t think it will be long before he’s nailed on for a starting 11 place in every game. Add to that the utter raw speed of Burke – which must put the willys up any defensive player – and we have two more Academy products with bright futures.

Of course the concern is whether we sell Oliver in this transfer window. I wouldn’t put it past our “illustrious” leader to undertake such a plan as a parting shot to any prospective buyer of the club. I do hope not. Hopefully Philippe can point to his nurturing of Antoine Griezmann should Twisty have any thoughts of moving to greener pastures in search of football at a higher level. To me, this would inevitably lead to a period of bench-warming and/ or a loan spell back in the Championship, which would be disastrous for us and may possibly affect his development as a player. Let’s hope common sense prevails.

As for Cash? Well, let’s just hope he stays “under the radar” for a while and carries on producing those kinds of performances in the Garibaldi. A nice lay-off from Burke saw Cash produce a wonderfully struck shot outside the area in the first half which arced beyond their goalkeeper only to hit the upright. Then, in the second half, Cash turned provider as they linked up to perfection having seen Wigan level the game for a second time. He brushed a beautifully weighted ball into the path of a marauding Burke, whose lovely first touch drew the ‘keeper out, allowing him to intentionally toe-poke it under his outstretched leg. Niiiiice!!!

It all started so swimmingly for us when Britt latched onto an errant pass from a Wigan player. Clearly unsighted and under pressure from Matty Cash, his woefully short pass was  pounced upon and duly dispatched by our front man. As Britt approached the Wigan goalkeeper you’d have put your life savings on him scoring, and he didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, the wheels came off after that 6th minute goal. Britt had tweaked something in the process of putting us 1 up and had to come off after valiantly struggling for a further 6 minutes. I do hope it’s nothing serious. If it is, we’re buggered!

Britt Assombalonga scores against Wigan

As we saw last season, we don’t really have a decent “Plan B” striker. Vellios, Lars, Dex, they’re all pretty much the same. Actually, to be fair, I’d rather see the Dex we had for those last half a dozen games last season than Vellios, or the confidence-difficient Lars. At least he put himself about a bit and won some headers. This time though, our only attacking option was Vellios and his only contribution to the game was to miss the penalty Cohen won so well when we were 2-1 up. It smacked of “here’s an easy way to get on the score sheet as I’ve done nothing else“. Well it would have been if he’d taken a decent spot kick, but like the rest of his game, it was entirely unconvincing. A massive opportunity to put the game beyond Wigan’s reach utterly squandered!

And so it was another ding-dong battle at the City ground with another newly promoted team. Our impotence up top when Britt isn’t playing was offset by the wonderful attacking abilities of Burke and Cash on this occasion. Our defensive frailties were there for all to see again, and while Henderson shouldn’t have been beaten at his near post when Wigan scored their second, it is a collective responsibility and no time for finger-pointing. It must be said though, the back four clearly have little confidence in our current goalkeeper, with a reluctance to use him as an outlet when passing across our defensive line all too apparent. It could be said that this was a contributing factor to the third goal, but like I say, they are a defensive unit.

Pushing on in injury time – desperately looking for a winner – saw some good work from Pereira on the right as he beat three Wigan players on his way into the box. A short, square pass to Lam enabled our centre half to stroke home a winner and all thoughts of “what’s he doing up there?” were forgotten in that euphoric moment.

Phew! 4-3! Again! I don’t think my middle-aged ticker can take much more of the roller-coaster ride we’ve experienced in our first 2 home games. It was fun though. It always is when you witness a 7 goal thriller with a last-minute winner for the Mighty Reds.

We’re hosting Gary Monk’s Leeds next. I’ll be there, after a nice little boat trip on the Trent with the Forza Garibaldi boys. Phil, Dave, Steve and myself will be on one of the boats selling copies of Bandy & Shinty; do come and say “Hello“. Don’t worry, we won’t force you into buy anything, honest!

COME ON YOU REDS!!!

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