Nottingham Forest only needed a point to secure a play-off position, with two games to go. Barnsley had to win today to have any chance of avoiding relegation. In retrospect, maybe it was obvious what was going to happen.
Forest put in their worst performance since the restart. Their worst performance this year. Their worst performance this season? Like some clubs, when it’s crunch time we often look brittle. (This, to be fair, is a long-term problem.)
On the other hand — come on, let’s take something positives — maybe we’ve got all of these demons out of our system now… awful performances, conceding late goals, inability to keep possession, complete lack of composure.
The team announcement on Twitter annoyed many — “five at the back”, “seven defenders” — but in reality it was more likely to be 3-5-2. A risk perhaps, but In Sabri We Trust.
Well, not today. Jordan Smith came in for Brice Samba — rested with a knee problem — but we were also missing Matty Cash, Joe Lolley and Sammy Ameobi (the latter two on the bench).
And the match itself? Not even worth mentioning. If the draw against Swansea was Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, this was all Mr Hyde. Possession was only 36% — that’s not always a bad sign — but passing accuracy was just 56%. And two shots on target. We were comprehensively outplayed and outrun by the team stuck at the bottom of the league.
Smith was perhaps the only player who excelled today — and until the dying minutes kept us in a game we barely deserved a point from. Barnsley had 20 shots on goal, six on target, and it could’ve been long over without Smith’s performance.
We all know the problems a change in formation can be, those pairings and triangles across the pitch weaken, the awareness of who will be where and when lessens, the familiarity falls away.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t be able to switch formation as and when required, but we’ve been pretty much 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 throughout the season. Lamouchi got it wrong today. And hopefully he won’t be trying that again any time soon, without some serious drilling on the training pitch.
He explained: “It was more than disappointing, not only for the goal in extra time, for the performance, the spirit. We didn’t play so well and when you run less and don’t win the duels, it is difficult.
“Barnsley’s desire was much bigger than us for the victory. Congratulations to Barnsley and good luck for the next game. For us it was a big disappointment. The scenario is a disaster. But what I have said to the players is that you can’t always get what you want.”
The best thing we can all do is move on from today. A draw or a win on Wednesday will guarantee a play-off position. Stoke City are safe, and not fighting for their lives. And goal difference might still count. Demons behind us, not ahead of us.