Nottingham Forest were held to a scrappy 1-1 draw at bottom side Ipswich Town which makes the upcoming Swansea game a must-win affair if they have any aspirations of reaching the play-offs.
In last week’s piece I labelled the Championship a crazy division, and once again it continued to live up to its billing as Sheffield United moved into the automatic promotion places whilst Middlesbrough opened the door to fifth for the circling sharks beneath them.
Remarkably, Forest are just four points off Boro and three behind Aston Villa in sixth spot going into the international break.
But for those who made the journey to East Anglia last Saturday the performance level of Reds was far from promotion material.
On paper it wasn’t a terrible result considering that the Tractor Boys had drawn their last two away games at West Brom and Bristol City respectively.
Paul Lambert’s men had suffered just one defeat in six prior to the visit of Forest, but alarmingly hadn’t won in their last 10 Championship matches.
They are bottom of the league for a reason.
Despite having a completely legitimate Daryl Murphy goal wrongly ruled out for offside, I’d be lying if I said we deserved a victory based on the 90 minutes in question.
The Reds looked disjointed and scrappy at times as Ipswich were afforded far too much space in the final third.
Forest made two changes to the back four following the home defeat to Aston Villa, which saw the welcome return of Jack Robinson at left back following suspension and the surprise inclusion of Molla Wague ahead of Alex Milosevic.
Both seemed a little rusty and were exposed by the Ipswich forward line on occasions, especially Wague.
The opening goal was a classic example as the Mali international completely switched off in the box, thus allowing Colin Quaner an unopposed tap-in from four yards out.
Alarmingly, the German had made up 10 yards and strolled past Wague without him even noticing.
Similar gaps appeared in the second half too, Wague had ventured upfield for a corner as Ipswich countered and caught Forest on the break.
Wague seemed to amble back as Pele attempted to cover him.
Attempted is the operative word, because the Monaco loan man also switched off, allowing Jon Nolan the freedom of the area.
Luckily for the Reds Nolan missed an absolute sitter from six yards out.
You cannot allow that kind of space in any standard of football, positional discipline and concentration were profoundly lacking to put it mildly.
Wague did get himself on the scoresheet for the second time in just three appearances but I feel it will matter not as far as selection for the Swansea game goes.
I’ve been careful not to attribute too much column space to the performance of referee Keith Stroud, despite ruling out Forest’s completely legitimate goal.
For the purpose of balance, something I always try to promote, I wouldn’t have complained had he awarded a late penalty for Wague’s clumsy lunge on Kayden Jackson.
It was pleasing to see Matty Cash back in the side following injury.
He will provide a bit of balance to the attacking midfield and, more importantly, prevent Joe Lolley from trying to do too much, as has been the case in recent weeks.
The draw at Ipswich was uninspiring if I’m honest but certainly not worthy of some of the abuse directed at Martin O’Neill on social media.
The gaffer is 11 games into his tenure and needs the full backing of our supporters for the remaining eight fixtures. I’m certainly not wearing rose-tinted spectacles, but we could be a lot worse off.
I compared those 11 games with O’Neill in charge and the opposition faced to that of Aitor Karanka’s time in charge against the very same clubs. Martin has accrued 15 points to Aitor’s 13.
Interestingly, Lewis Grabban has been unavailable for selection in five matches under O’Neill but featured in 10 of the 11 for Karanka.
What’s my point you ask? There isn’t one, they’re just facts which may or may not support the opinions of my readers.
Hopefully, Forest will return from the international break reinvigorated, but only a win will suffice.