What a difference a game makes. After Friday all Town fans were left bitterly disappointed by an unjust injury time defeat to Cardiff, Tuesday night felt like a victory after Jordan Rhodes’ injury time penalty grabbed Town’s first point back in the Championship, after a lesson by Nottingham Forest. What a way to be welcomed back to my first Championship fixture since I was a sobbing 10-year-old.
Rhodes was the only change from the Cardiff game after recovering his hamstring strain and went up top in what all Town fans thought would be a 4-3-3 (4-5-1 in reality) formation with Lee Novak playing on the right wing. That decision miffed me as he has looked out of his depth on the wing and still hasn’t beaten a man the times I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him play there.
To the game and Town started off in a decent fashion before we all realised what a hard slog it’s going to be this season. A quick break and good interplay from the Forest midfield saw Lewis McGugan get the little space he needs to launch one of his long range shots. Luckily for us, the inside of the post prevented the midfielder sending Town 1-0 down.
Now after about 15 minutes I realised that we were leaving two up top, it seemed Grayson had tried to go 4-4-2 but in reality it was more of a hybrid of that and 4-3-3, as Adam Clayton was pushed out wide which saw gaps start to appear in our midfield. Forests’ winger Guediora nearly took advantage hitting a 25-yard half-volley forcing Alex Smithies into an acrobatic save to turn the shot over the bar.
It really is nice seeing Alex back playing for us after two injury-ravaged seasons. I am a huge fan of his despite all the criticism he has got recently from certain sections of our crowd. What they fail to see is a ‘keeper short on confidence and the more games he plays, the more confidence he gets. Tuesday’s game was a good example as he made not only the fine stop mentioned earlier, but denied Simon Cox at point blank range when it looked like a certain goal. His distribution has also improved from recent performances, which are a huge advantage for us as he offers so much more than Ian Bennett in all aspects of his game. I bet some fans will disagree, but Bennett is far too over-rated for my liking and is in no way a number 1 ‘keeper for a Championship side.
Forest’s first half domination continued and Dexter Blackstock could have scored twice before the break. Firstly he saw his strike headed off the line by Jack Hunt before he struck the crossbar with the rebound. Oh my how we were hanging on to our life at half-time. It wasn’t like we didn’t have chances; it just happened that they were being more clinical on the ball.
We did start the second half in a much better fashion and our midfield three were seeing plenty of the ball. Oh my how nice it is to see a HuddersfieldTown side with a midfield! Not only that we have one that can pass, gone are the days of Mark Hudson and Matty Young. (no disrespect but they were diabolical for a then League One midfield)
Keith Southern had the chance to equalise for Town around the hour mark when Oliver Norwood’s poor corner found its way through to him six yards out, but he could only send it looping above Lee Camp’s goal. If only it had fallen to the golden boy Rhodes.
It was a big miss and minutes later Forest went deservedly into the lead. Another break saw Peter Clarke play Simon Cox onside and he clinically finished past Smithies. Now I had noticed in the first-half that Clarke was playing two or three yards behind the other defenders and it seemed to me he was struggling with the pace of Forest’s strikers. After watching the highlights, it confirmed my suspicions that he was at fault for the goal.
Again some Town fans will have a go for me even suggesting this, but Peter Clarke is not cut out to play regularly in a Championship side. I love the man, he’s what every professional should be like and his passion for our club is amazing, but the fact is he will be a liability and cost us not only goals but valuable points.
We did have a fantastic chance to equalise shortly after when Jack Hunt’s pull back was blasted over from Norwood from 15 yards. It is really disappointing that we didn’t really test Lee Camp all game and he didn’t even have to make a save!
Anyway Grayson decided to change things up by bringing on Danny Ward. AT LEFT BACK! Silly and a waste of five minutes as he was pretty much ineffectual there. So Anthony Gerrard came on and we went 3-5-2 which seemed to work quite well as Hunt and Ward bombed on from wing back positions and it was the former in added time that lured Forest’s full back Dan Harding into lunging in and giving away a penalty.
Cheers roared around the ground as Forest’s players threw their arms in dismay knowing it was a stonewall penalty. A sense of a childhood me jumped up and went straight to the front, only to see Jordan Rhodes have the ball in his hand. I do not have nor ever will have any confidence in him taking a penalty, even after he luckily slotted away the equaliser via the post. The ground roared like we had won that penalty shoot-out back in May again, and it felt like a win as Forest really deserved to win! Mind you swings and roundabouts as we should have taken all three points on Friday.
Conclusions. Well in the car home my friends all agreed with me (for once) that we do lack strength in depth which many clubs have in this division. I was laughed at on the way back from the Play-Off final when I said we would need 8-10 players and after signing 6 I feel we lack 3-4 more. Time will only tell if Grayson does anymore deals in the next week or so, but my this season will be a long hard slog.