Championship – Nottingham Forest 3-1 Swansea City
Match Report by Peter Charles
It would be too easy to suggest that this game turned on the award of a slightly dodgy penalty early in the game. In fact, it didn’t. The game turned against us because frankly this was a pretty abject performance from a Swans side that looked lacklustre and jaded throughout, and which was undone by a Forest side with more savvy and tactical awareness from first whistle to last.
Not that we were helped of course by our injury position – the absence of Sinclair was telling and a rumoured injury to Dobbie in the warm up, followed by knocks during the game to Cotterill and Pratley, left us rather stripped of core quality. But in the end we just weren’t good enough today against pacy and workmanlike Forest team, who earned their win by maintaining pressure on the ball, holding their shape, and breaking quickly.
The first half saw us attempt to play a passing game, but it was all rather laboured, and Forest all too easily dealt with it by sitting deep and packing their last third, making us play through them – which today we just couldn’t do. When our possession broke down they attacked is with pace and purpose, and almost all of the first half chances fell to the home side. In the 5th minute an excellent strike from Cohen, who had been allowed to canter unopposed down our right side for some distance, was turned round the post by DeVries. Dorus was called into smart action again only minute later when he parried away a low cross from Gunter – and minutes later we were undone by the penalty incident.
It seems likely from our view that Dorus actually got the ball rather than the man, but frankly our defending in the run up to this was woeful – firstly Williams mistimed his header, then Monk hesitated, and Dorus delayed his dive, making it all to easy for the Forest player to crumble under the challenge. Penalty or not, we brought it on ourselves, and the excellent McGugan made the kick look easy.
The Swans edged their way in with some periods of possession, but there was no real threat on goal. A shot from a wide position from Nouble, deflected from a corner, and a low effort from Allen, easily saved, were the only attempts we could muster in the first half. In the latter stages of the half we well under siege again, with the home side slicing through our hesitant defence.
Several chances followed – a couple of good efforts from McGugan and a terrific passing move on 33 minutes culminating in a volley from Anderson which DeVries saved brilliantly. From the resulting corner, Chambers dragged his effort just wide; and in the dying moments of the half Williams kept us in touch with a terrific headed clearance from under his own cross bar. As the half time whistle went, the travelling Swans fans, rather more muted than normal at this ground, must have felt fortunate that we were still in the game rather than dead and buried already.
There must have been some sort of half time volley from the boss, because we approached the second half with considerably more purpose, and for the first ten minutes we dominated possession, showing a level of aggression and tenacity which had been sadly lacking before the break – mainly instigated by the drive and purpose shown by Van Der Gun who had replaced Cotterill at the break. We still didn’t create any clear cut chances though, and on 58 minutes Forest double their lead against the run of play. A simple through ball found McGugan in a wide right position. He appeared to trip his way past of couple of defenders with ease before firing a terrific shot into the top corner.
It was a killer blow from which we never recovered. We continued to try to force our way back into it by playing our passing game, but with the cushion of a lead Forest were happy to soak it up. Nouble almost fashioned a chance for himself, and Orlandi skied an effort, but there was still no really serious goal threat from us. When a long punt from deep sent Majewski cantering through on goal, our defence undone by the simplest of tactics, the third goal became a formality as he stroked it past Dorus.
We continued to press after that, and were finally rewarded with a goal when a raking shot from Allen was half saved, with Van Der Gun on hand to turn in the rebound for a deserved goal on his part – but it was all too little too late. Many of the Swans faithful had not stayed to witness the goal, or indeed the bitter end, and it was the Forest fans who were singing at the final whistle.
DeVries – 6 made some good saves, but hesitant for the goals – rather exposed by his back two.
Tate – 6 Possibly our best defender on the day and supported the attack on occasion
Taylor – 4 A shadow of the player we saw at Leeds – hesitant and nervy
Monk – 5 Slow and leg weary
Williams – 6 Surged forward towards the end but not a commanding presence
Cotterill – 5 Clearly not match fit and little impact
Gower – 5 Seemed fit but just no impact
Allen – 6 tenacious but little came off for him
Pratley – 5 well off the pace and his injury to his shoulder slowed him further
Dyer – 6 Lively throughout but often without support
Nouble – 6 Looked strong on the ball if a little slow to react sometimes; got through some work though
Van Der Gun – 7 Our most creative and potent attacker on the day
Orlandi – 4 Barely got on the park let alone in the game
So all in all a pretty bad day at the office. When I look back at previous games at this ground they have been tough but always competitive too – this wasn’t. Forest worked us out all too quickly and easily, and out thought us throughout.
In defence we looked hesitant and disjointed – a back four which has been too used to the luxury of a defensive minded midfield playing in front of it, suddenly having to do some defending of its own. A bit of a culture shock. This was all a shame after such a great performance at Posh on Tuesday and indeed after the excellent play which we produced at times at Leeds. Still, we can’t have become a bad side overnight – lets hope we can put this one behind us and stroll on with confidence to Vicarage Road on Tuesday. Hang on – how many goals have Watford scored in the last week?!!!