The trip to Brighton is always a competitive one, with Forest having only recorded three victories there since the turn of the new century.
Philippe Montanier’s task was made even harder before a ball was kicked; both Dorus De Vries and Britt Assombalonga were unavailable due to contrasting circumstances.
We’re told that Britt had suffered a hamstring injury, but the news regarding our keeper was even worse. The big Dutchman was well on his way to becoming a Celtic player and had effectively played his last game for the club.
I wrote about Montanier’s new attack minded approach last week, he went one step further this time though, by adopting a completely new system.
The Frenchman unveiled a 3-4-2-1 set up; basically deploying wing backs amidst a packed midfield.
However; I also expressed major concerns regarding his approach to defensive situations. His obvious intentions are to tamper with a defensive unit that worked pretty well last year.
There were some interesting changes to personnel too; Mancienne, Perquis, Ward, Kasami, Henderson and Lars Veldwijk of all people, made the starting line up. Let’s get this straight from the outset; Veldwijk has been atrocious in every minute of his Forest career. Anyone with an ounce of football knowledge would not start this guy in the EFL; and certainly not as a lone striker!
Despite my pre match concerns, the Reds made a lively start to the game and had Brighton on the back foot for a good twenty minutes. Jamie Ward was brimming with post Euro confidence and the invigorating Oliver Burke continued to impress with every touch of the ball.
The balance of play swung in favour of the Seagulls soon after, aided by the likes of Anthony Knockaert and Steve Sidwell in the midfield. Pajtim Kasami couldn’t deal with the Brighton pair on his own but unfortunately it seemed that once again Henri Lansbury had gone missing!
All said; it was Forest who very nearly took the lead through Burke. He burst past his marker and flashed a shot wide of Stockdale’s right hand post, from eight yards out. The youngster should have hit the target but hats off to him for such attack minded play.
The home side took a surprise lead after 35 minutes; Hildeberto Pereira was once again out of position on the right touchline. Bong whipped in a lovely cross for Knockaert to score with ease, having been left by Ben Osborn.
Soon after, Brighton were lucky to have eleven players on the pitch following a disgusting challenge by Jiri Skalak, on reds midfielder Kasami. Forest fans argue that this could have been a game changer and I sympathise.
The Reds made it to half-time trailing by the solitary goal; when they should have been all square. So here came the big test for Philippe Montanier; and the majority of the forest faithful waited and wondered how the new guy would fix things. I for one would have switched to 4-4-2.
I waited with bated breath as the same eleven players trudged out for the second half, worryingly in the same formation. Ok! Give it ten minutes, as we all say. And that was the moment that Montanier officially failed to manage his players and more importantly, the situation.
After fifty five minutes it was horrendously obvious to anybody with a single brain cell that the system wasn’t working! In any walk of life, you earn your money when things need fixing or readdressing. Winning hides a multitude of sins but any proven manager knows when and more importantly, how to change things.
As Montanier looked on, perplexed but at the same time stylish in his Paul Smith trainers, the inevitable happened. Despite the introduction of Armand Traore, Brighton capitalised on our inability to adapt, and went further ahead through Glenn Murray. Only then did Montanier spark into life, replacing Lacovitti with Paterson. He then literally lost the plot when he dragged off our best player, Oliver Burke and replaced him with Apostolos Vellios.
If you watch Burke’s face as he comes off, it is one of pure distain and disbelief in his manager!
The floodgates opened and Murray notched his second of the night for Brighton, who could have won by five in the end.
So; we have conceded seven goals in just three games, but what worries me most is the failure to acknowledge the core strengths of this team.
I’m a massive fan of playing from the back but am a bigger fan of defending properly first.
It is early days and Philippe Montanier may well prove me wrong indeed, but I witnessed some worrying inadequacies after the fifty five minute mark on Friday night.