27 December, 2006

It's not Harris ... it's me!

First off, an apology. I've not been for a while, hence the lack of reports. The run up to Christmas is a busy time. The swanky parties. The posh dinners. The tears, the vomiting, the bloodshed.

In the time I've been away Forest have had a "wobble". A "blip". Have been dropping points left, right and centre. There has been some speculation that this was down to the omission of Neil 'scapegoat' Harris. But, as you'll see, it's all my fault.

Nottingham Forest 3 - 0 Port Vale

We lined up in our traditional 3-4-3 formation. For some reason, CC had seen fit to recall John Thompson (who I've never really rated) from his loan spell at Tranmere and he started today, in place of Wes.

So we looked something like this:


Thompson Cullip Breckin (c)
Southall Clingan
Perchio Curtis

Agogo Tyson Commons

We started slowly. Vale putting us under immediate pressure and sustaining it for the first quarter of an hour. The Trent End rang out with cries of "Come on Forest", "Wake up Breckin" and, loudest and most frequently, "For fuck's sake Thommo". Honestly. He was having a total mare. I was wondering why on earth CC would want him in place of Wesley when suddenly I had a flash of inspiration. It's a 4-4-2! A back four of Thommo, Cullip, Breckin, Curtis, a midfield four of Southall, Clingan, Perchio and Commons. It's just that CC had forgotten to tell the players and they were still struggling through a 3-4-3. With this insight, suddenly you could see the light bulb pinging above Thommo's head ... "right back, I know right back". He started playing well, the defence looked solid and between them Southall and Commons tore Vale apart - Commons in particular was a revelation. This paid dividends when a right wing cross (from Agogo I think) was whipped across the face of the goal - apparently (I couldn't see) Tyson back-heeled it into the net and we were one up!

And the fog descended again. Commons decided to start playing the right wing, getting in Southall's way and leaving Curtis hopefully exposed on the left (Perchio had to leave his central berth to cover the left) and Vale came straight back into the game. And my confusion with the midfield also left the defence at a loss - they weren't sure if Commons' new role meant they were a back three or back four. Vale took full advantage without really being good enough to threaten.

I stood during half time trying to impress on Commons (using the power of thought) the importance of sticking to the 4-4-2, with him on the left. Unfortunately, he wasn't psychically receptive enough as the second half began in much the same vein as the first ended. Us occasionally threatening, but for the most part, looking like a load of schoolboys all chasing after the same ball (as my brother put it).

Until Tyson was replaced by Grolt and shortly after Commons was replaced by Lester. It seemed to have little immediate effect, apart from increasing my confusion. Why replace the only player who looked likely to score? Why replace the only player who looked likely to provide the chances? Until I looked up and the red shirts provided the answer. They were lined up in three lines: 3 defenders, 4 midfielders and 3 attackers. Back to the 3-4-3! My moment of clarity was rewarded with Jack heading the ball into the path of Grolt who forced the ball into the back of the net. A great goal and once again, a direct result of my understanding of the formation.

But CC had other plans. Agogo was replaced by Holt the Elder, in order to shore up the midfield. However, the net effect was to confuse the hell out of me (and hence the players). Is it 4-4-2? If so, who was playing the left wing? Sometimes, it looked like 4-4-1-1, with Grolt on the left and Clingan playing behind Lester. Other times it looked like a 5-3-2, with Southall and Curtis as wing-backs. The only plus point was that Lester and Grolt were obviously enjoying playing together - Grolt heading on to Jack who would respond with a give-and-go (before being caught offside).

And then, for the third time that day, I had another moment of clarity. It is a 4-4-2. Clingan's playing the left - but his idea of 'left' is the "left side of the centre circle". With this revelation, Clingan broke (down the right, natch), hit a high ball to Grolt, on the left side of the box, who took a single touch to control it before half-volleying it into the back of the net!

We played out the final thirty seconds chanting "There's only one Grant Holt". Of course, a more accurate chant would have been "There's only one Me" but not everyone is sufficiently telepathically responsive to have noticed my vital contribution to this game.

Cullip. Went to pass back to Smith but somehow used the wrong leg and hit it straight out for a corner.
The (frankly poor) referee. She fell over.

Perchio. Man of the match and a fantastic, all-round, midfield performance.
Grolt and Lester. A partnership with an excellent understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses (unlike Tyson and Agogo who just ran a lot).
Me. My absence obviously caused the blip, my tactical awareness corrected communication problems between the manager and the team.
Us. Back on track. Before the game, I did think I would have happily taken three ground-out, boring-to-watch points. The scoreline flattered us. The points did not. The juggernaut is on the move again.

Smith. Looked nervous. Understandable given last week, but he's been in my 'losers' column for a few matches now. He either needs a kick up the arse or an arm round the shoulder. But it needs to happen soon.
Holt the Elder. The new scapegoat and deservedly so. Defensive midfield is, to my mind, the most important position on the pitch, so it's not like I'm unappreciative of his qualities. But he hasn't shown any of them, either before or after his operation.
Calderwood. Both David Twat and Ginger Megson tried the "chop and change the formation twenty times in a match" tactic and look how that ended up. Reacting to events is good. Confusing the hell out of the players (remember, footballer's aren't the brightest) and the fans is not.

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