Match Report: Famous In Swindon
Initial optimism surrounding the go ahead for the game after some relentless rain in the south west turned into another disappointing away day for Forest as they were out-battled and out-played on a potato field of a pitch.
Things looked bad after the first few minutes when it became apparent that the game would not be any kind of spectacle, such was the state of the County Ground pitch. However, a fired up Swindon quickly adapted to the conditions and came at Forest from the start. Town forward Billy Paynter was denied twice early on by fine reaction saves from Paul Smith as the home side pushed forward in numbers. It was obvious that Forest`s lack of shape in midfield was being exploited with no natural holding player in the side and wingers that were not tracking back to cover the devilish runs of the brilliantly named 'Sofiene Zaaboub` and Jon Paul McGovern. What made this worse was the total lack of energy from the Forest side as they were second to every ball and seemed content to play the game at training pace. Players such as Lewis McGugan, Kris Commons and Arron Davies may have bags of talent, but this was no day for the kind of tricks and flicks that were being attempted throughout the first half.
Despite being on the back foot for much of the first half it looked like the reds might be drinking their half time isotonic sports drinks with the scores level but alas, the Swindon pressure finally told and they grabbed a deserved lead in the 35th minute. Arron Davies gave away a needless free-kick on the left hand side when he clumsily handled a cross. Jon Paul McGovern then proceeded to whip in a dangerous ball that James Perch could only nod into his own net and send the home fans into raptures. Forest did not react well to the goal and had only a harmless looping header from Grant Holt to show for a wretched first half performance. At this point I was once again contemplating the wisdom of coming travelling 70-odd miles on a miserable day to watch another abject Forest performance. However, as I swallowed the final gulp of my tepid half time pint, I went back to the stands convinced that both the game and more importantly Forest`s performance could only improve.
I was wrong. The second half carried on from when the first half left off with Swindon looking more threatening despite now playing into the driving wind and rain. However, to our utter relief Forest managed to get on level terms from a rare moment of quality provided by Arron Davies. Davies swung in a demon corner from the left hand side and Chambers rose highest to power a downward header into the back of the net. It is fair to say that we felt like it might well be our day at this point, an emotion that was perpetuated by an amazing bit of luck that preserved parity only minutes later. It looked odds on that a shot by Sturrock junior was heading into the back of the net when the ball stopped in the mud to allow Wes Morgan to clear to safety. Visibly elated by this let off, sub Julian Bennett then proceeded to taunt the home fans behind the goal whilst warming up, getting him self a stupid booking in the process. It was hard to see exactly what his crime was from the other end of the stadium but needless to say the home fans were incensed enough to run from their seats and offer some abuse back. The only thing that would have justified the booking would have been some well directed criticism of that ludicrous roundabout that must be negotiated when approaching the ground. However, I fancy that Jules was not offering a critique of Swindon`s town planning strategies.
I digress. Unfortunately, parity was only temporary as Swindon got their noses back in front with ten minutes left on the clock. A misplaced pass from Luke Chambers was pushed out to the right hand side for McGovern to whip in another dangerous ball which Ian Breckin could only direct into the Forest net despite the best efforts of Paul Smith and the row of King Edwards growing on the goal line.
At this point Forest seemed to wake up and realise they were in a game. Nathan Tyson, who was on as a second half sub for the injured Commons, gave the Swindon new set of problems by using his pace to stretch the tiring Swindon defence. With the 90 minutes almost up, Tyson got away from Jerel Ifil on the goal line and seemed set to roll the ball across the 6-yard box to Grant Holt when he was clumsily brought down by the Swindon man, only for the referee to dismiss the inevitable penalty claims. Tyson was visibly furious and only received a booking for his protestations. It did look for the world to be a penalty but it was the kind of day when deep down we all knew it would have been totally undeserved. Seconds later it looked as though Tyson`s pace had put him clean through again only for a combination of unearthed root vegetables and good defending to prevent him from getting a clean strike on goal.
Moments later the final whistle blew and the Swindon fans celebrated like they had won the cup. Ultimately, the home side wanted it more and too many of Forest`s key players simply did not turn up. The midfield was largely absent and once again Colin`s tactics/motivational ability were called into question as Swindon exploited the lack of width and guile on display. On a day of bad performances it is hard to name a man of the match but I would give it to Paul Smith who made some vital saves to make up for his poor kicking and distribution.
The continued good form of Swansea coupled with good results for Carlisle and Doncaster makes the mid-week game against Millwall that bit more important. However, if Forest are to emerge from the Lions den with all 3 points there must be a 90% improvement in their performance. Failure to pick up points away from home at mid table teams like Swindon will end up costing us promotion and I really don`t think I can take the play-offs again.
Verdict: Must do better.