Derby County 1 Nottingham Forest 2
Henri Lansbury (o.g.) 16 Britt Assombalonga 75
Ben Osborn 90+2
A disjointed and confused second half performance from the Rams saw us lose from a position of dominance to not only give Forest an unexpected boost but also undo all of the benefit gained from the impressive win at Ipswich Town a week earlier.
Disappointment at this performance is compounded by it being against “them” as well as seeing Bournemouth, Ipswich, Middlesbrough, Brentford and Watford all win later in the day to tighten up the top six yet again just when it looked like we might be able to ease away from some of those teams.
Watching the increasingly poor second half performance this was a failure on our part of what is known as “game management”. From a position of 1-0 up against a low in confidence Forest with the clock winding down we did not have the nouse, the know how, the experience to take the heat out of the game even if we were not playing particularly well.
This has happened to us before and speaks to the naivety in our team, a lack of ruthlessness and nasty. It is not too late to put this right, but it may cost us promotion if not solved soon.
I think about two other games in particular – the game against Wigan where we were 1-0 up with 20 minutes to go but ended up losing 1-2 to a poor team…..sounds terribly familiar from yesterday doesn’t it?.
Also leading Norwich City 2-1 as the game reached its end and giving up an equaliser (and nearly a winner to the Canaries also).
Just the losses from yesterday and those two games would put us five points clear of this crazy division now instead of being third. It is not worth dwelling on what has been lost but we do need to show a more ruthless streak in such situations.
Three changes for the Rams for this game, Jamie Ward replacing the now returned to Anfield Jordan Ibe, Omar Mascarell replacing the injured and suspended John Eustace and Craig Bryson switching his place on the bench with Jeff Hendrick.
With Simon Dawkins being away for personal reasons, newly signed players Stephen Warnock missing through fitness concerns and Raul Albentosa awaiting international clearance our bench had a light look to it for the first time in a while.
Forest started energetically looking to prevent us playing out from the back but that only lasted for ten minutes or so and we started to take control from then on in the first half.
One of a host of Rams corners gave us the lead after 16 minutes, Henri Lansbury neatly heading Johnny Russell’s cross into his own net to give us the lead. Forest looked shocked and there for the taking and while it was not a vintage first half performance we carved out a number of half chances, Will Hughes going very close with a curving shot from the edge of the area, Jamie Ward having a deflected shot well saved by Doris de Vries and a number of corners causing panic in the Forest back line. There was a palpable sense of disappointment at the score being only 1-0 at the break.
Forest had little to offer in that first half, only Michail Antonio providing any kind of consistent threat but a hint of problems ahead for us was Will Hughes coming over to the sidelines to have a chat with Neil Sullivan and (from my viewpoint) indicating a problem with his hip / thigh.
In due course our creative midfielder did not reappear for the second half, Jeff Hendrick taking his place as the second half commenced.
As has been the case on a couple of occasions we seemed slow out of the blocks in the second period, but more worryingly our midfield melted away and it was a common site to see Forest players striding into space, outnumbering the white shirts and winning second balls time and time again.
Chris Martin became increasingly isolated and despite his fine efforts to keep control of the game – he provided a number of fine examples of “game management” winning free kicks in dangerous areas when outnumbered and wresting a bit of initiative for us – we resorted to long balls to him which were fruitless because of the lack of midfield support around him.
As the chap sat near me said “what do you expect him to do? – head it to himself?”
Both Jeff Hendrick & Craig Bryson had poor second halves leaving us outnumbered and exposing our defence. I honestly still thought we would see it out but a scrambled goal from Britt Assombalonga with 15 minutes to go changed the game.
As Steve McClaren indicated after the game a point would still have been an ok , if not ideal outcome, but we lost our shape again at the death and Derby born and bred ( and Rams fan ) Ben Osborn beat Lee Grant from the edge of the area after another Forest break found us outnumbered and out of position.
A missed opportunity and plenty of food for thought for us then, but to lose in such a way to them…..is so so annoying.