RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Forest

RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Forest

Heading up Penistone Road (or, as Paul’s sat nav has it: “Pee-nis-tone Road”) I didn’t feel as confident as I had on Tuesday.

The gut feeling being worse wasn’t just from feeling a little rough after one too many ales the night before.

There was a sense lingering with me that maybe on Tuesday the players had simply mustered all the energy and focus they could for one big go, almost as a way to answer the indirect criticism of them as incapable that a manager’s sacking brings on.

Could they repeat that, or was it a one-off?

The match played out as a war of attrition in the first half, Forest happy to stay back committing only three men to what few attacks they did manage.

Not once did they properly threaten Martinez in that half, despite getting a shot or two away.

It was a very different game to the one on Tuesday against Leicester. Leicester had good chances, and committed the players going forward that allowed us decent space when we went forward ourselves.

Not so today. Anyone worth their salt on the Forest coaching staff would’ve spotted the massive influence Wickham had against Leicester.

Not just the obvious, his two goals deciding the match, but the huge responsibility he took onto himself.

So Forest set about crowding out Wickham, even, at one point in the first half, surrounding him with four (4!) players.

Doubling up on Wickham meant he began dropping deeper and wider, and we then missed him as a station for build up play further up the pitch, the role he was so successful in on Tuesday.

After the workload he’d gone through at both Blackpool and especially Tuesday, some fatigue was to be expected. All of that contributed to a match where Wickham was a lot less involved than usually.

He still had a go or two, but especially as he tired towards the last half hour the number of mistakes he made increased.

Despite all of that, we were still so reliant on Wickham that we couldn’t really take him off.

A poor man's Gerald Sibon? Atdhe Nuhiu is proving to be something of an enigma

A poor man’s Gerald Sibon? Atdhe Nuhiu is proving to be something of an enigma

His partner in crime, as it was, Atdhe Nuhiu, is another in a long line of enigmatic Wednesday strikers.

He’s a poor man’s Gerald Sibon at one moment, with brilliant little flicks and inter-passing, but then a poor man’s Andy Booth the next, taking too long on the ball and to run at it.

There’s no faulting his work rate, but one incident summed him up: With the Forest ‘keeper passing straight to him one-on-one he somehow managed to make it trickle back to the ‘keeper rather than score the goal everyone expected.

Not for a lack of trying, far from it, but just not with the required quality.

I, and any other Wednesday fan, will shudder to think what will happen to us when Wickham leaves us again.

If in any way possible, we should convince Sunderland to send him on loan with us for the last half ot the season once the January window opens.

Crucial for us, and they could then sell him for more than they’ll be able to get in January.

Why they don’t want to keep him, especially as they’re more likely to go down than not, I’ve no idea.

There’s a guaranteed 20 Championship goals a season in Wickham, and I’m looking forward to him playing for England one day.

We’d made just one change from midweek, and unfortunately we had to do without Coke, just as he’d given a brilliant performance and shown us what he’s capable of.

That seems to happen to him a lot, his career all stop and go because of his proneness to injuries. It’s a depressingly familiar tale for Wednesday players in the last decade and a half.

Based on his substitute appearance midweek, Semedo certainly warranted selection. But, especially being wise after the event, picking both him and Olofinjana did leave you worried we weren’t creative enough.

I’d rather have seen Semedo replace Olofinjana outright, and either McPhail or McCabe given the nod as the other central midfielder. Even Kieran Lee centrally could be a good shout.

He will always be a fans' favourite but is Jose Semedo simply too one dimensional for the Championship?

He will always be a fans’ favourite but is Jose Semedo simply too one dimensional for the Championship?

I don’t think Oli partnering Semedo necessarily made us overly defensive, and you could argue that, even in spite of a supposedly defensive midfield, we had good chances we should’ve converted and Forest were limited to an absolute minimum of chances.

That’s the frustrating thing about this game, how little there was in it in the end; it could easily have been us, not Forest, that had come away with all three points.

I remember Megson, as the first, saying Semedo needed to expand his game outside his comfort zone of ball-winning defensive midfielder, and build an attacking aspect into his game.

Today showed Semedo still has a long way to go, if he is to become a more complete midfielder.

But there were encouraging signs, runs and passes from him. He contributed more going forward than you would’ve expected beforehand.

Despite that we still had a number of attacks break down due to Semedo’s inability to change the tempo of the game, make the right run etc. that Coke had done so well.

One things for certain: Semedo’s a better central midfielder than Olofinjana, and a lot less limited.

Whenever the ball came to Olofinjana, it was like someone clicked the game into slow motion mode, and far too often did he take too many touches rather than make a short pass to a team mate close by.

To be fair, he owned up to that very fact on Radio Sheffield afterwards. I still think he’s holding us back, and it’s no good winning a lot of balls, if you end up giving 8 out of 10 of them away afterwards anyway.

The worry, though, is Semedo’s range as a ball-winning, chase the ball down midfielder isn’t enough at Championship level if he’s the only one doing it in a two-man central midfield.

Typical for a team in our position, then, we have to make compromises, and Olofinjana and Semedo in the centre is definitely a compromise.

Injury has blighted Kizza Lee's season so far but he has looked bright on his return

Injury has blighted Kizza Lee’s season so far but he has looked bright on his return

The biggest change to our team post-Dave Jones, though, has been the introduction of Kieran Lee.

Unfortunately for Dave Jones he was out injured and not available for selection; fortunately for Stuart Gray, and for us all, he is available now.

And what a joy to watch him play: Great technique on the ball, always alert and organised defensively as well as offensively, never overcomplicating things, always putting tempo into the ball looking to create.

As with Wickham, Lee’s game suffered somewhat against Forest from facing a team a lot more compressed and a lot more devoted to aggressive pressing.

Lee, though, was more successful at keeping the ball moving than Wickham were. As I said earlier, I could easily see him as a central midfielder, as I think he has the abilities needed for that.

It’s not as though he’s restricted in a wide role on the right, and, faced with more pressure than against Leicester, he’d drift to find his space, going inwards, and, in the second half, even doubling up with Maghoma on our left.

Maghoma is another one who’s benefitted from the change of manager, and he has a lot going for him.

He’s given us some much needed solidity out wide. Where Helan and especially Antonio would not contribute as much defensively, Maghoma’s very good at tracking back and helping out his full-back, and while he perhaps lacks the cutting dribbling of Helan and Antonio, he is better at not getting tunnel vision, and making the pass when it’s on instead of thinking he has to do it all himself.

His chances have been limited so far but could Jacques Maghoma blossom under new management?

His chances have been limited so far but could Jacques Maghoma blossom under new management?

A more complete team player than Helan and Antonio, and how we’ve needed team players, rather than players focusing only on their own game.

Maghoma was involved in most of our good attacks, and as good as he was as the spark that often led to them, he also has his share of the blame for us lacking that little bit of quality in the final ball that was probably the main difference between none and three points.

In defence, Mattock didn’t do himself any favours at their goal. Standing 10-15 yards off the player making a cross from his position reflects very poorly on him.

Our left was definitely our weak spot, but unlike Leicester, Forest aren’t blessed with top quality wingers. And to be fair to Mattock, he had some good spells as well.

He just seems to have the Reda Johnson knack of losing his head and leaving us very exposed. Again, a team in our position have to make compromises, and both Mattock and Reda Johnson are compromises, not up to the required standard as a full-back.

I thought Liam Palmer had a good game on the whole, cutting down the number of mistakes that are as much a result of him playing in a position he’s clearly not comfortable with than anything else. Another compromise, as it were.

He still made mistakes that put us under pressure, though, but I’d rather focus on him and Kieran Lee having a good understanding.

Lee, with superior positional sense, directing Liam Palmer, and the two interchanging fluently and almost without communicating, does look promising.

Centrally Roger Johnson had a typically solid performance interspersed with moments that made everyone nervous. With Forest going long a lot, he gobbled up just about every header he could get himself to.

He could even have been the man of the moment, but, to the frustration of everyone, shaved the ball just wide in injury time.

Glenn Loovens SWFC

He may be lacking match sharpness but Glenn Loovens looks a good fit for Wednesday

Glenn Loovens looks a good signing, although he’s not yet match fit, which a few telling mistakes in the later stages of the match showed.

Loovens is everything Llera isn’t (and, to a degree, vice versa): Calm, considered and using his positioning and thinking to win the ball rather than charging into high risk tackles.

His introduction has also reduced our hoofing tendencies, a key to us getting a better grip on games, and releasing pressure on the central area, both in midfield and defence, no longer having to fight wave after wave of attack from the opposition as a result of not giving the ball away cheaply from a hoof upfield.

He does have his weaknesses, especially in the air, but showed more strength against Forest (which was needed, considering their, shall we say, physical approach).

There were also some growing pains that are hard to avoid with a centre back pairing’s second game, but, on the whole, there’s a lot of promise to a RoJo-Loovens combination. Whether Roger Johnson is here for the long term is another matter, of course.

Martinez was rarely troubled, and when Forest did shoot it was relatively easily dealt with.

At their goal you would perhaps want your ‘keeper to come claim it, but with a poor cross passing three defenders, it’s not really the ‘keeper’s fault.

There’s a lot to like about Martinez, and he’s a much better coming out into his area than Kirkland, who often seemed glued to his line at crosses and corners (tellingly, we’ve conceded a fair few goals from crosses converted inside the six yard box this season).

Like Kirkland, though, he does not command his defence. With a leader type like RoJo in there, you may say that’s not as needed, but a goalkeeper needs to communicate, and Martinez should have the confidence to be as commanding with his voice as he is coming out into his area to punch the ball.

Damien Martinez has done well since replacing Chris Kirkland

Damien Martinez has done well since replacing Chris Kirkland

As much as anything, this was a game of frustration. Frustration at a Wednesday side again applying themselves very well, but just lacking that last bit of quality in the final ball.

That lack of quality is, apparently, the difference to being in the playoffs and four points adrift at the bottom, as in our last three matches we’ve more than matched three top six Championship teams.

It’s an all too familiar tale for us this season, I know, but we have again and again, in flashes, shown we’re more than capable of making a fist of it in this division.

But, following another all too familiar theme, we also have moments of switching off. For all the passion and running about that fans clamour for, there is no substitute for concentration, and in that regard we failed again at their goal.

It was even more a game of frustration because of Forest, though.

Growing up in Denmark and liking my English football, Nottingham Forest were one of those proper football clubs with a good history and an ethos. One of those clubs that, like Wednesday, was what English football’s made of.

Today I didn’t see any hint of that club. This is no longer a club you always would think of with quiet acknowledgement, as part of the pack.

It’s become a satellite of the Leeds tradition, where football isn’t a game you play yourself, it’s only something you stop others playing.

It’s very frustrating to witness, because Forest obviously have some talented footballers, who can play good, effective football.

But instead they’re playing like a team that aren’t able, that won’t win unless they always choose the nasty option, going in to injure rather than in an honest endeavour for the ball.

Is Billy Davies' classlessness rubbing off on his Forest side?

Is Billy Davies’ classlessness rubbing off on his Forest side?

It’s one thing being anti-football, being classless, if you can’t help it, if that’s all you have going for you.

But when you revel in it it’s even more awful: Asking the player you want to substitute to go to the far side of the pitch just before the substitution, the fans keeping the ball, falling over theatrically and making up niggling injuries, complaining to the referee at every opportunity, hassling the officials both on and off the pitch.

The worst thing is, though, that I refuse to believe that is all there is to Nottingham Forest. Despite where they are in the table, there must be Forest fans hurting a little inside every time Billy Davies’ team goes out there and does there Sheffield United/Leeds routine.

The same goes for their players, many of them quite obviously talented footballers, instead resorting to playing like incapable players playing opponents out of their league.

It’s not good long term planning either, as if Forest do scrape the playoffs and go up via that route, that sort of approach will see them buried in the Premier League in similar fashion to how the Derby County side managed by Billy Davies did in 2007.

With our current managerial vacancy, considering what qualities you want in a manager is obviously more pertinent for us as fans to discuss.

I’m sure many would’ve welcomed Billy Davies with open arms, had he been unemployed, but is the sort of nasty, anti-football culture he instills at a club really good for anyone in the long term? A club’s not just a product of its results, but so much more.

Most will recognise that as an obvious truth. Especially after the reflection being linked with Neil Warnock as our next manager brought on all of us unwillingly: What makes a football club?

It’s definitely more than its results, as it isn’t results that keeps us going to matches. It may be different to those with a season ticket, going as much as a duty than a delight at times, in that I only get to a couple of matches a season at best.

More than ever this week, Wednesday fans have been left to ponder whether a short term fix is more important than the club's identity

More than ever this week, Wednesday fans have been left to ponder whether a short term fix is more important than the club’s identity

So I savour those matches. I find it hard to think of a substitute for those 90 minutes of feeling part of a larger whole. There’s plenty of hairs in the soup, plenty of things I could decide to bicker about: Fellow fans being idiots, the collective weight of their pie-in-the-sky expectations being the real weight holding down this great football club.

That and an unscrupulous chairman, who, it should be clear for all by now, is simply desperately trying to make a profit from a business venture, meaning all decisions will be tinged with the need to maximise the profit-making potential rather than what is for the longer term good of the club, our club.

And that is the final frustration: That we will probably end up with the manager we deserve, a(nother) short-term fix not suitable for a very long term problem, rather than the manager we so desperately need. Just like we’ll more than likely not end up with the ownership of the club we need.

It’s a frustration you have to be careful doesn’t stay with you. Supporting your football club is a love affair after all, with all of the good and especially bad that brings.

Just as in life’s other love affairs, you have to be there through both sickness and health.

An important reminder to us all after the grim reality that the Warnock flirtation so bluntly laid bare: That we, as fans, can have a tendency to get so engrossed in the negative, in finding ways to argue against being there for our club, that we become as much part of the problem as much as everything else.

From frustration comes apathy, but it needn’t be that way.

That we’re frustrated shows that we actually care, and while the brutal bluntness of defeat no longer lingers as harshly as when I was younger (and, conversely, the delight of the win is no longer as heady), this is after all not (any longer) a teenage infatuation, but a life-long love affair.

Badge Owl POST
Peter

Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @ploehmann


8 Comments

  1. What a plum! The most biased nonsense I’ve ever heard. Were you at the game you tool?

    • Yes, I was at the game, and watched it in its entirety. I take it you’re a Forest fan, and, from the overly aggressive tone of your post, that you’d not like to elaborate on why you think I’m so wrong?

  2. Failed to mention the two penalty claims and the fact Darlow was hardly tested. Some of our tactics are universally used now which is sad to see. But you are hardly a bastion of sportsmanship…didn’t your player get a yellow for an off ball incident? Also wasn’t the goal a superb bit of football involving most of our team!

    • It was good football involving most of your team….and most of ours TBF…not being where they should be.

      I was in a great position to see BOTH penalty shouts and both me and the Young Un called em straight away…BOTH absolutely stoners and the one where Reda pushed him over was bordering on the obscene. The lino who was awful all game had an unobstructed view only a few yards away and didn’t even acknowledge it…we were gobsmacked.

      Your keeper wasn’t tested, true enough and that’s our problem. final third but that disappointing goal(from our point of view) aside I thought you were poor….especially compared to the Forest sides I’ve seen before and we outplayed you for a huge part of the game (without bothering the keeper)

      Bear in mind where you are…your form…your standard of players compared to our situation and I was pleased with us and you can’t have been happy with your lads, result aside which if you’re honest you pinched the three points and a draw would have been closer to reality of the game though I accept, this is footy and we’d all take an unfair result every day of the week.

      The tactics of some of your players though…I was gobsmacked…again…I got a great view of some of them, only yards in front of me (front row of kop) and they were clearly after a card for ours, well let’s just say I wasn’t impressed and they epitomised a Billy Davies side….and that isn’t a good thing, unless you’re a fan of Forest and Davies IMO

    • A ramble is not a detailed match report that mentons every incident in a game. In this instance I’ve probably taken that even further than Beasite normally does – despite a (no doubt relieving) lack of nudity, thong-wearing and shower sheananigans from the ramble 😉

      For what it’s worth, Martinez definitely looked like fouling your player, and I would agree it should have been a penalty. I was sat in a good position, high in the South Stand, so my vantage point was better than most in the stadium. As a Wednesday fan, I’m used to not being given even very clear penalties, so maybe it’s a broader theme with Championship referees and assistants?

      Reda have definitely had penaltiea given against him for similar incidents as the one close to full time, so again I would say you have a fair shout. It also shows us Reda has not really progressed as a footballer, as he was making similar clumsy challenges when he just arrived almost 3 years ago.

      Darlow didn’t have much to do either, no, but the focus of the ramble is naturally on my own team.

      As for your goal, I think it was as much a complete absence of a Wednesday player anywhere near the crosser of the ball or the ball trickling through to the far post (despite 4 Wednesday players close to it) that was the cause of that.

      Olofinjana’s yellow card was given, rightly, for a frustration free kick after yet another little kick administered to him. I was disappointed in the ref not going for a stricter line of rulings, as that played right into the nasty Billy Davies tactics.

  3. You said…..Lovens is everything Llera isn’t. True !
    Liera closes down quickly, is strong in the tackle, tall….wins 90% of the defensive headers as well as scoring with same (he wouldn’t have missed the free header offered to Knee who?) he is passionate Wednesday signing. If you have only been to a few matches why are you making such sweeping crass statements.

    • There are many ways to watch a game these days. You don’t have to be at the ground

    • With Miguel Llera as a regular starter I find it hard to believe we’ll stay up. His penchant for old-fashioned centre-back charging has left us vulnerable time after time. It looks good when it comes off, but it is high-risk, and when it fails (which happens more often than not) often gives the opposition a good chance.

      I would agree that Llera is better aerially than Loovens, althogh Loovens improved a lot in this regard, and won a much larger degree of headers, than in his first match against Leicester.

      Loovens is a much better tackler of the ball than Llera too. He is capable of a much wider range of tackling than Llera, and uses his football intelligence to position himself correctly and ahead of the run of play, leading to better chances of retrieving the balll. In all other skill areas, Loovens is twice the player Llera is, and we stand a much better chance of surviving with Loovens rather than Llera in our team IMHO.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *