Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Good Performance, Deserved Result

Good performance, deserved result. Forest fans may not agree, given that they had the lion's share of possession in the second half. But we basically bettered them in both boxes, had the lead and kept a shape through that second half, restricting them to only a few moments of danger. And yes, with Watt starring again the final little cameo of keep-ball by the touchline was most entertaining (for us), if a tad frustrating (for them). That we started the game with what looked like a team patched together made it all the more impressive as they did their jobs.

That team was stripped of Johnson, Solly and Berg Gudmundsson, along with Jackson and Wiggins. The surprise was that Bikey-Amougou remained on the bench, with Diarra drafted in alongside Gomez in central defence, with Wilson and Fox the full-backs, while Harriott came in to play wide right. Not a back four that many would have predicted. With this being a game that you felt Forest needed to win to keep alive slim hopes of making the play-offs, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that we were taking the opportunity to give some a little more time to be fully fit, as the recent run of three wins from four had eased immediate concerns. But as things turned out, that would be a disservice to those who came in, especially Diarra, who went on to deliver a commanding and assured display.

The early exchanges were pretty even, both sides content to knock the ball around. But from the start Watt looked as though he was capable of unsettling them, which he did after less than 10 minutes, picking up a routine ball and running at them, resulting with him being bundled over outside the box. No Gudmunssson, a bit close to the goal to be confident of another getting it over the wall and down. But those doubts were dispelled as Bulot stepped up and simply curled it superblly around their last guy and into the net. Ahead before the game had really shaped up (and as with Saturday, what a difference it makes when you can score goals).

That gave us a lift but also sparked Forest into a response and they began to push us back. They didn't appear threatening, but nobody had (yet) realised that their left-winger was to prove capable of going past pretty much anyone in front of him all night. He picked up the ball out wide, cut inside and went past Wilson, took it on to the edge of the box, and curled in a shot just inside the far post, giving Henderson little if any chance. Some goals you just have to take your hat off to the guy. Not really Wilson's fault, nor Henderson's, just that we were slow to realise the danger of letting this guy get some space.

Now levelled up, the game settled into a pattern of both teams probing, us looking capable of unlocking them and Forest, well their forwards were being well contained but they had this guy out wide .... Their main ploy in this phase seemed to be to curl set-pieces into the near post and to pack that area, and for a while Henderson (and the rest of the defence) were troubled by it. But that danger passed with time and there was an unsavoury incident when their guy was muscled out of it by Diarra, who saw the ball out for a goal-kick only to be bundled over and to end up hitting his head on the advertising hoardings. It was a cheap shot by a frustrated player who had lost the ball, not perhaps deserving of a red but at the least the yellow that he received.

Getting towards half-time we hadn't threatened a great deal after the opening exchanges, but we then fashioned a well-crafted and well-executed goal. Their winger may have been very good with the ball, but he wasn't too keen on tracking back and when the ball was played out wide Wilson appeared on the overlap, was well picked out, delivered a decent square ball in to find Bulot, who'd moved across from the left side in space. He took a touch and then dispatched the shot. Good decisions in good areas and the third of three pretty good goals in the first half.

At the break there was still plenty of work to be done if we were to win, and Luzon opted to change our right side to try to cope with their real threat. Wilson and Harriott (who had struggled) were replaced by Bikey-Amougou and Eagles, with Gomez slotting in at full-back. I wouldn't say that this put a stop to the danger he posed as he was a handfull even after that, not least once when Eagles was doing his defensive duties only to be comprehensively beaten. Fortunately his ability to go past players wasn't matched by his second-half shooting, or by his crossing.

We only posed intermittent danger from then on, but that applied to them too. There was a header from the centre of goal that their guy might have done more with, a shot which Henderson saw around the post, and a couple of reasonable saves (coupled with more assuredness on the high balls). But you can't point to a single moment when we were really opened up, or when Henderson was called on to do something outstanding. At the other end Vetokele almost got on the end of one cross to the far post, but by and large, with some clearly tired legs out there, we became content to see out the game.

That we were able to do so was due in no small measure to Buyens' ability to keep hold of the ball, Cousin's interceptions and forward runs, and the willingness of the front two to chase whatever came their way. Not long short of the 90 minutes Igor went down and seemed not to have the legs to get back up, going off to be replaced by LePoint, who also made his contribution with a dangerous cross or two and relieving the pressure on the back line. By then their guy who'd bundled over Diarra had tested the ref's patience again and was subbed before he saw red, and as Watt toyed with them in the final moments it was really a case of whether anyone would clatter him badly enough to get red rather than yellow. That didn't happen but neither did they get their equaliser, with a corner right at the death and their keeper up for it Henderson gathering well and that was it.

Four wins out of five, 11 goals scored, and a season that not long ago was looking like falling apart has been turned around. No coincidence that this has been accompanied by having Watt match-fit and Henderson returning (and the introduction of Johnson plus the strengthening of the squad with Diarra and Eagles). But I'd also give mentions in dispatches to Cousins, who being (finally) given the central midfield berth has been excellent, and tonight to Buyens too. He's been out of form, looked pretty hangdog, was deservedly dropped and only brought back because of Jackson's injury, but has improved again by the game.

Player Ratings:

Henderson: 7/10. Not sure if their goal unsettled him but looked a little shaky in the first half, only to pull things together totally with a commanding second-half display.

Wilson: 6/10. Yes, he was given the runaround by their winger (and was subbed at the break) but so was everyone who came up against him. Against that, he played a vital role in the winner with a good overlap and delivery in.

Fox: 7/10. Decent game, has looked more assured than earlier in the season, so let's give the guy some credit.

Diarra: 9/10. Actually my man-of-the-match. Came in to play a role that I guess he didn't expect and with Gomez and then Bikey pretty much prevented their main forwards from getting a look-in.

Gomez:  7/10. Pretty good too, had his problems when moved to full-back after the break but their winger did become increasingly less effective as the game went on.

Harriott:  5/10. OK, he struggled, looked a bit rusty and perhaps also suffered from trying too hard to take his opportunity.

Buyens: 8/10. I watched him closely through the game and, although he was caught out once trying to make an interception, I don't otherwise remember him giving the ball away. Instrumental in the victory.

Bulot: 8/10. Didn't mention him much in the text, but the guy took both his goals very well and caused them problems with his movement. 

Cousins: 8/10. Excellent, not least for the breaks forward towards the end which relieved the pressure.

Vetokele: 7/10. Didn't stop working until he fell over towards the end, but didn't really fall for him tonight.

Watt: 8/10. When a forward is such an obvious pain for a defence you have to give credit. Plus he is clearly enjoying himself. And in addition to his role in our first goal that final episode deserves an extra mark.


Ken Jennings said...

Enjoyed reading that. Thanks,BA.

Anonymous said...

Not been able to get to matches, so very interested to see player-ratings, and particularly comments on Buyens. Do other readers of this blog agree with those comments?

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks guys. Sorry anon, that's the trouble when we win, nobody wants to comment! Do feel that Buyens has performed progressively better since being dropped, hope he keeps it up.

a2c said...

Bulot is goin from strength to strength with is goal scorin, I never thought e'd do so well n win us the Forest game n all. They all did well again but thass the trouble BA, the moaners n groaners are only ahrt when we lose n aint even able to give credit where iss due when ourn win. So thass why I've come on ere to spite the boo boys n say well done to Guy, the players, Katrien n RD for another win dahn our gaff n good luck for ourn against Cardiff. Worth goin if you get the chance, a nice place.