The Wrap – Nottingham Forest – 1-2

Football can be so cruel.

After falling behind against Nottingham Forest, the Sky Blues were the better team in the second-half. More energised, more competitive, more likely to score, the team were rewarded for upping the intensity after the break thanks to Callum O’Hare getting on the end of a Sam McCallum cross. There were opportunities to win the game but it looked like being a solid point on the road at the very least, before a combination of a poor Maxime Biamou pass and a rash challenge from Kyle McFadzean handed Nottingham Forest the chance to win the game from the penalty spot, which they did.

Our Best Performance Of The Season?

There was little in the first-half of this game, with Nottingham Forest just edging possession and chances, before taking the lead thanks to some sloppy marking from a set-piece routine. It seemed like it would be difficult to get back into the game against a Nottingham Forest side that looked to be holding us at arm’s length thanks to their extra physicality and pace.

Instead, the Sky Blues produced possibly their most convincing showing of the season to take control of proceedings. The intensity levels dramatically increased, the game turned in the team’s favour and chances fell our way. Most impressively, players who had looked a little off the pace at Championship level suddenly started to dominate their areas of the pitch, particular praise in that regard has to go to Ben Sheaf and Maxime Biamou.

Both were essential to the team starting to play with an aura of authority about them. Biamou began to use his physicality to good effect, winning headers and just generally causing uncertainty in the minds of Nottingham Forest’s centre-backs. Ben Sheaf displayed his excellent range of passing to keep things ticking over at the base of the midfield, while picking the occasional longer ball into dangerous areas to put the Sky Blues in the ascendancy.

Our control of the second-half was perhaps aided by Forest initially sitting off us in order to protect their lead, but once Callum O’Hare had levelled after a well-timed run to meet an excellent deep cross from Sam McCallum, they struggled to exert the same control over the game that they’d had in the opening 45 minutes.

Aside from the occasional counter-attack and set-piece from the home side, it was the Sky Blues that were pushing for the winning goal. There were several excellent chances to convert a solid point into victory, with Leo Ostigard a threat from some of our own set-pieces and Callum O’Hare flashing a good chance across the goal.

While our efforts came up short, there were several elements to the performance this evening that suggests that this set of players is getting to grips with Championship football and could not only string together some results but play with more authority than we’ve seen thus far.

Another Two Goals Conceded

It could have been three points, it should have at least been one, in the end, it was zero.

This was one of the few defeats this season where we’ve felt like we may not have deserved it, however, it shouldn’t deflect from the wider concern that we are simply not making opponents work hard enough for the goals they score against us.

Nottingham Forest’s first goal felt avoidable. From a set-piece, our defenders were sucked towards the ball, leaving Scott McKenna free from the next phase of play to give his side the lead.

The game’s winning goal came from another lapse in concentration, this time from Maxime Biamou, as he sloppily gave the ball away around the halfway line when we had players forward, leaving Kyle McFadzean in a one-on-one situation against Lyle Taylor. From there, the experienced defender needlessly put his hands on the opposition forward – in characteristic fashion – which is always going to provide the temptation for opponents to go to ground when in the penalty area.

Moreover, the manner of the goals conceded epitomise a lack of defensive nous and desire in the team. It doesn’t feel like we particularly value clean sheets at the moment. Players seem a little too keen to win the ball so we can get on and play, instead of slowing opponents down and making it difficult for us to be played through.

It is imperative that we start making better decisions defensively and reduce the goals that we concede. Otherwise, we’re going to continue to drop points in this manner.

Injuries Mount

The team selection for this game was hindered by injuries to Dominic Hyam, Fankaty Dabo and Jordan Shipley. It continues a trend this season of various knocks and niggles, which has meant Mark Robins hasn’t yet been able to pick from a fully-fit squad.

This is likely a knock-on impact of having had such a long period of inactivity since last season, combined with the hectic run of fixtures that we’ve faced over the past month. In addition to the challenge that we’re already facing with adapting to the step up to Championship football, it underlines how big of a challenge we face this season in staying in this division – which just got harder thanks to the decision to reduce Sheffield Wednesday’s points deduction from 12 to 6 points.

On this occasion, we were fortunate that Sam McCallum and Callum O’Hare stepped up in the place of, respectively, Fankaty Dabo and Jordan Shipley, to combine for the goal we scored. However, Hyam’s injury forced us into playing Kyle McFadzean, who is clearly struggling with the pace of Championship football and is probably not going to start many more games this season if Mark Robins has a full complement of defenders to choose from.

On so many levels, we’re playing catch-up with this division and the injury situation has made out task even harder than it already is. The international break will be a welcome period of rest, but the Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday run of fixtures won’t ease up until the end of January.

Our margin for error in this division is narrowing with each game. The league table does not make adjustments for injuries or bad luck. We can’t allow misfortune to become an excuse, we’ve got to start picking up points if we want to avoid relegation.

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