Is time running out for Forest?

12th February 2012

Time is running out for Nottingham Forest. A sixth straight league defeat against Burnley on at the end of January has left the Reds deep in the mire of the relegation zone, five points away safety, and facing the unenviable task of trying to salvage something from this season in their remaining games.

What made Forest’s loss to the Clarets particularly galling was the genuinely poor team performance on the night. Their defensive frailties were highlighted when, less than three minutes into the game, Burnley’s Jay Rodriguez ghosted between Joel Lynch and Jamaal Lascelles to easily bag a close-range header. At this point, rather than pushing back and trying to pressure Burnley, Forest seemed to simply accept that they were facing another inevitable defeat; the players’ heads visibly dropped, as did those of the fans. The fact that Forest had conceded free reign to Burnley to dictate the pace and direction of the game was evidenced by the way that Claret full-backs Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier were at liberty to maraud down the flanks, with Trippier providing the service for both of Rodriguez’s goals, and Mee winning a penalty (which Burnley failed to convert). Truth be told, Burnley could easily have scored four, with substitute Marvin Bartley narrowly missing with an effort from just inside box.

Worse still, it can’t even be said that Burnley played particularly well, despite their domination of the game, as a regular stream of mistakes in the first half offered chance after chance which Forest were simply incapable of exploiting. The Reds lacked any sort of dynamism in midfield, with no standout player offering the service which Ishmael Miller desperately needed in order to have any impact on proceedings. After such an abject, lifeless showing it was little wonder that the stands started to empty a good fifteen minutes before the end of the game.

If things carry on as they currently are, Nottingham Forest faces becoming the only European cup-winning team in history except Manchester City to have been condemned to the third tier of English football. Efforts have been made in the closing stages of the transfer window to provide some reinforcements in spite of the club’ precarious financial situation, with the loan signings of Danny Higginbotham from Stoke and Adlene Guedioura from Wolves. Only time will tell whether these two provide the spark to restore the players’ confidence in themselves, which on recent evidence seems to be at an all time low. But however he does it, Steve Cotterill desperately needs to restore this team’s self-belief, and fast, because the end of the season is now rather more than just a pin-prick on the horizon, and with games coming thick and fast Forest are going to need to show far more determination if they are to stand a chance of clawing their way to safety. Continued performances like this one are not an option.

Michael Gaffney