Nottingham Forest play the blame game after Leicester City stroll
Maybe it was never a meaningless game after all. Leicester City’s 4-0 win over Nottingham Forest in their FA Cup third round replay last night somehow managed to provide a flashpoint in an encounter which both sides could have done without. Such was the pathetic performance put in by the visitors, which allowed Leicester’s players the time and space to destroy them. And at the other end of the pitch? Well…
In a way, you can’t blame Forest’s players for last night. They were gutless and ineffectual, but they could also point to a few factors which contributed to the disaster on show. Forest missed bodies in defence, with last season’s centre-back pairing of Wes Morgan and Luke Chambers both unavailable. However out-of-form they may be, they surely would have provided an improvement on the efforts of Joel Lynch and his makeshift defensive partner Guy Moussi. Lynch has arguably been Forest’s best player so far this season but he looked off-colour all night, either not fully fit or merely overwhelmed thanks to the efforts of his team-mates.
The midfield, a trio purchased by previous manager Steve McClaren, was alarmingly pedestrian. If anything, the displays of Jonathan Greening and George Boateng in particular must have had some Leicester players wondering how on earth they surrendered a two-goal lead at the City Ground back in August, when the pair both played a full 90 minutes. Perhaps the shame of that day hit home early on as they passed the ball around midfield with ease, giving the impetus to go on and win comfortably.
Again, it seems difficult to blame Greening and Boateng. They are not capable of playing with any greater pace than they did last night and should never be paired together in midfield. It was also strange not to see Radoslaw Majewski given an opportunity in the middle of the park. When a change was made to the midfield at half time, Cotterill introduced Lewis McGugan who possesses a bit more about him but, for whatever reason, looks unwilling to prove it at present. The manager’s post-match interview was unconvincing, but what can you say after failing to score for the eleventh time in thirteen games?
This game will be remembered for at least one thing and possibly two: Robbie Findley’s first-half miss when the hosts led through Boateng’s own goal and Jermaine Beckford’s hat-trick. While the latter could kickstart a misfiring centre-forward’s season, the former summed up Forest’s woes in front of goal in one fell swoop. It looked impossible to miss. Only one, almost vertical, angle could send the ball off target. Findley somehow managed it and his colleague Marlon Harewood was also profligate when a teasing low cross just needed a touch into the net from close range. These were the two chances Forest had to end their goal drought and they could barely have been more inviting. Forest now look a side waiting for the ball to come to rest in the stand rather than in the net. Goalkeeper Lee Camp feigned disbelief at Findley’s miss from the opposite goalmouth but he must be used to it by now.
So Nottingham Forest are a club in complete crisis on the pitch, with an owner who almost seems to have given up. The appointment of Steve Cotterill was, at best, questionable. But best doesn’t even come into it at the moment. It is now nearly three months since Forest scored against anyone other than Ipswich Town. They travel to West Ham United this weekend at their lowest ebb since the deplorable Gary Megson era and fans can be forgiven for fearing the worst of the trip to the capital.
Another side from the East Midlands sacked their manager prior to a visit to Upton Park this season. Despite last night’s result, Leicester have fared no better overall since ridding themselves of Sven-Goran Eriksson so the parallel is just that and not a lesson to be learned.
The question is clearly whether Forest can afford to sack Cotterill – and whether they can afford not to. If money wasn’t an issue, he surely would have gone by now. He says that no players will come into the club for financial reasons. So are Forest willing to put any cash towards paying off the ridiculously long contract they gave their current boss and sorting out a contract for a replacement? Are they big enough to admit that Billy Davies is now the most attractive option available? After all, there seems little reason for Neil Warnock to show an interest in replacing Cotterill.
After they face West Ham, Forest welcome Burnley to the City Ground before the short trip to Derby County on 5th February – two sides who have put nine past Camp already this season followed by one which triumphed in Nottingham with ten men. Painful reading, but if Forest can safely navigate those three fixtures they can look forward to a pair of games against two of the six sides they have already beaten in the current campaign – Watford and Middlesbrough. Whether Cotterill will still be around by then is another question.