words: David Marples
It was once famously asserted that, “you’ll win nothing with kids”, which was a nice soundbite until the aforementioned kids went and won things. Yet the general thrust of the assertion maintains an element of truth. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that while you will occasionally win some with kids, you will also lose some. A neat caveat might be that should you be competing in the notoriously hurly-burly and unpredictable Championship with kids, well, frankly, who knows but if you win some and lose some in equal measure, take solace from this and chalk it down as a learning experience.
The average of the team for this game was 23, with Michael Mancienne and Liam Bridcutt the elder statesmen. Since his Brighton days ended in 2015, Bridcutt has played in fits and starts, with most appearances in a season coming at Sunderland which, let’s be honest, might as well not count. Similarly, Mancienne has been at the club for nearly three and half years and has only recently clocked up a century of appearances.
That’s not to say that an incredibly frustrating performance should be excused on the relative paucity of years and games within the team selection. It’s more that it goes some way to explaining the odd poor decision on the pitch at key times and in key areas.
It was a series of poor decisions that resulted in the entirely avoidable concession of yet another early goal. The draw labeled ‘entirely avoidable concession of early goals’ is jammed closed since all of those entirely avoidable early goals have worked their way to the top of the draw - some have even fallen down the back and onto the floor. There is no space for further ‘entirely avoidable concessions of early goals’ so can we please stop conceding entirely avoidable early goals? Thanks.
Like manager Mark Warburton said when he sifted through the rubble and ashes of the game, conceding such a goal so early gives you a mountain to climb and gives the opposition – in this case lacking confidence – a very tangible something to hold on to.
Form then on, it wasn’t terrible – if you want a benchmark, the first half at Reading was terrible. This wasn’t Reading away; this was more like assembling a Billy bookcase from Ikea – you’re doing the right things but still, it’s not yielding the requisite amount of satisfaction that you thought it would do when you stuffed it into the boot of the car alongside a bag of frozen cinnamon rolls and what’s more, arguments are ensuing.
With the lion’s share of possession (63%), 13 shots on target and the home fans sweating nervously for the majority of the second half, the performance produced was not lacking in effort and what’s more, contained the odd flash of inspiration. Forest’s 12 corners to Birmingham’s five also tells a story but maybe not quite the narrative you were expecting. There was no slinging it into the mixer and no hoofing it into the danger zone; there was a heavy emphasis on short corners.
This frustrated the bejeezus out of some in attendance. 11 of the corners awarded were taken short with invariably Ben Osborn and Keiran Dowell seemingly looking to create space for either a shot from the edge of the penalty area or working the ball closer to the six-yard area with a view to hitting a low ball into this dangerous space. The alternative was for the corner kicker to do the old ‘both arms up in the air’ signal and hoof it high towards either the front post for a knock-on or straight to the back post for a towering central defender to crash one in. Herein lies the problem.
When Joe Worrall is your main goal threat in the air, it’s probably wise to elect a different means of scoring a goal. Statistics suggest that on only 3.2% of the time a corner leads directly to a goal. Unofficial statistics suggest that this percentage spikes when Sergio Ramos is on the pitch and Real Madrid are losing with only five minutes remaining. These unofficial statistics also suggest that this percentage plummets when your target man is Joe Worrall with Michael Mancienne as his wingman.
In one final act of desperation, the ball was launched from the corner quadrant in the vague direction of Worrall. It was cleared easily by the resolute Birmingham defence. Later that evening, Manchester United took a short corner against Newcastle United. The ball was worked towards the corner of the penalty area from where Ashley Young dinked one to the far post for Chris Smalling to put United ahead. There are numerous ways to score a goal from a corner but slinging it in to a team largely comprised of below average height players is far from playing the percentages. Furthermore, Worrall has many qualities and endearing traits as a player but nodding in a goal with his head is not one of them. As for Mancienne, he carries about as much of a goal threat as [insert your own preferred famous failed Forest striker here] while playing in deep-sea diving boots.
In fairness, a little bit of variety to the corner kicks and indeed, the overall pattern of play, would have been welcome when it seemed that once again, it was going to be one of those ‘played reasonably well against a poor team yet frustratingly never really looked like coming away with anything beyond a point from a last minute equaliser at best’ performances.
Kids, eh? To their credit though, they are resilient and just as capable of delighting you as frustrating you.
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