Nottingham Forest blog: Tom Head’s views on the Reds

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This weekend, I saw perhaps the best possible analogy of our current fortunes.

It came from all-American Forest fan Wesley Hall (the now famous “@bigwes” on Twitter), who compared our stalling season to the election and subsequent reign of President Obama: we were promised ‘hope and change’, yet we are left lamenting the same mistakes that have restrained us from being something better.

If I had about £250,000, I would personally buy Stephen Dobbie just so I could keep him chained up on the yard for nine months of the year, thus eliminating any chance that he could urinate on our proverbial bonfire once more.

In a week where we had the chance to exorcise demons from play-offs past playing against Yeovil and Blackpool, we didn’t so much as lay our ghosts to rest, but rather got the ouija board out and delved into nightmare territory... just in time for Halloween, too.

What I found most interesting about Saturday wasn’t Djamel Abdoun’s transformation into a Greco-Roman wrestler, but rather the polarity in opinions regarding our performance. Some thought it was abject - regardless of the red card - whereas others felt there was enough valour shown to merit at least a point, with Jamaal Lascelles’ performance appeasing the somewhat sickening feeling of a last-minute loss.

With Danny Collins and Kelvin Wilson both being ruled out for three months, Lascelles’ overdue run in the team could not have come at a better time. After two results which deflated the buoyant mood that flourished during a seven-game unbeaten spell, it is a welcome silver-lining that we have a prodigious local talent finding his feet in the senior side.

In the same way that a person who can question their sanity remains sane, we need to point the mirror of perception at ourselves and question whether our squad is strong enough to maintain a top-six berth, despite it being something of a foregone conclusion in August.

With a mounting injury list, a rise in red cards and suspensions, and eight points dropped in the last three games, you feel that this is very much our Waterloo... and wonder whether ‘Napoleon’ is really the right man to lead us into battle against Leicester City on Saturday.

Though few of us will want to admit it, the games with Leicester over the years have yielded the more entertaining, dramatic football of the East Midlands derbies. Perhaps with less to lose in terms of pride against the Foxes, we appear confident enough to take more risks and be a bit more adventurous than we would against Derby, which lead to nine goals in our two league fixtures last year... and THAT unforgettable finish in May. (It’s OK, though. At least none of us cried like a certain Frenchman who’d missed the penalty he’d conned the officials into giving.)

It is with this fixture that we have to take an objective look at how we have performed, versus how we were expected to perform. I know early season optimism has been the petard we’ve hoisted ourselves with most over the years, but anyone who casts an eye over the Championship could tell you our squad - misfiring forwards aside - is one of the best in the league.

Our saving grace hasn’t been a source from within, either. The likes of Wigan, Brighton, Bolton and Watford have faltered too, and we remain fortunate to be where we are in the league, almost a third of the way through the season.

With games against Burnley and Reading to follow this weekend, now seems like the best time to re-evaluate what we can realistically achieve. The top two places are still achievable, of course, but it does seem like the points we’ve dropped will come back to haunt us. Indeed, are you a side worthy of automatic promotion if you drop points at home to Middlesbrough and Bournemouth, and struggle on the road against Charlton, Doncaster and Yeovil?

Should we better Watford’s result on Saturday, we’ll remain in the play-off spots during one of the more laborious international breaks in recent memory. The game against Leicester takes on an added psychological significance because of what a victory for either side would mean. They could open a 12-point advantage over us in second place should they win, a deficit that seems insurmountable even at this early stage. With two more tricky fixtures ahead, it’s probably more important that we don’t lose this game, rather than win it.

Another thing that comes under reassessment has to be team selection. Davies is desperate to persist with Henderson and Cox - which may be born of good intent, as most strikers don’t amend a lack of goalscoring form without a run in the team.

However, I feel that if he leaves it any longer to give Matt Derbyshire a run of games, we may have missed the chance to exploit the confidence he found over the summer. After only four starts this season, he’s netted four from a total of five shots on target. Clinical, if not prolific. Surely it’s time to bite the bullet, and stick with him up front?

And if you prefer a more ‘left-field’ suggestion, Marcus Tudgay hasn’t even had a sniff of first team football. Admittedly, his confidence can’t be too high after such a frustrating 2013, but Marcus is a thorough professional that knows an opportunity when he sees one, and could be worth a gamble. Yet, as I say, that is very much a ‘plan B’.

One more thing we have to look at is the role of Andy Reid, who found himself on the bench against Blackpool. Consistently our best player, it is my opinion that if he’s fit, he plays. If he’s only fit enough for the bench, don’t put him in the squad and give Jamie Paterson a full 90 minutes.

It may seem a little contradictory, but if Reidy is ever short of match fitness, he should be given a generous amount of recovery time because of how important he is to this team. I’d rather have him missing for one match than, say, ten because we threw him on half-injured in an act of desperation.

After all, it would be a shame if we didn’t put our strongest side out for Leicester’s cup final, wouldn’t it?