Sunday, 11 September 2011

Reds denied late penalty as Saints march on

Southampton v Nottingham Forest
Pretty Rickie: Lambert scores the first of his three goals at St Marys

Southampton 3 (Lambert 8, 24, 82)
Nottingham Forest 2 (Derbyshire, 7) (Majewski, 42)

Nottingham Forest were left with nothing to show from a much improved performance on Saturday as Southampton striker Rickie Lambert fired home a hat-trick to win his side all three points.

The Reds had taken an early lead but struggled to defend their penalty box allowing Nigel Adkin’s men back into the game. Although the sides were level at the break it was the Saints who marched on in the second half after Forest were denied a late penalty - Lambert capping a fine performance with all three goals to give the home side their strongest start to the campaign for 76 years.

The Reds got the match off to the perfect start following a strong run by Ishmael Miller down the left, the former West Brom striker picked out fellow new boy Matt Derbyshire who converted his first for the club from close range.

Yet some slack Forest defending allowed the home side back into the game less than a minute later. Brazilian Guly Do Prado was given far too much time to pick out Saints frontman David Connolly in the area – and although Forest keeper Lee Camp blocked his shot, he could do nothing about the follow-up from the lively Lambert who made it all square.

The Saints then turned on the attacking flair they have shown at home all season – the resolute Wes Morgan denying Saints midfielder Dean Hammond with a great block before Lambert went close with a free-kick from just outside the area.

The south coast men continued to press and soon had their second goal. The observant Jack Cork finding Connolly who flicked the ball on to the waiting Lambert - rising to head past Camp with ease at the back post.

Camp then had to be alert again moments later as the highly-rated Portuguese defender Jose Fonte connected for a free-header following a Danny Fox free-kick. Fox was then at the centre of some controversy after he brought down Miller in the box - despite appeals from Steve McClaren’s men referee Iain Williamson failed to award a spot-kick.

Miller was at the centre of everything the Reds did well in attack and played a part in the Forest equaliser three minutes before the interval. The powerful striker found Derbyshire in the area and the former Olympiacos man calmly squared the ball to Radoslaw Majewski who finished coolly from eight yards.

Before half time Forest could have taken the lead with what looked like a move straight from the training ground. Andy Reid’s corner found Majewski on the edge of the area who struck a neat cross to Reds’ skipper Luke Chambers whose header was deflected marginally wide.

McClaren may have had a few inspiring words for his side in the dressing room at the break and it showed as the away side started the second half well. Saints keeper Kelvin Davis called into action immediately to deny Miller’s header from a pinpoint Chris Cohen free-kick.

Miller then caused more problems for the Southampton defence as Cohen pulled the ball back to allow him time in the area – however unfortunately for the Reds the ball was soon scrambled to safety.

At the other end, Fonte nearly restored the Saints lead as he headed against the post following a corner. Northern Ireland international keeper Camp then had to dive to keep out a powerful long range shot from Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin.

Although the second half was not as lively as the first there was more controversy late on as the Reds were denied what looked to be a clear penalty by the referee’s assistant. Derbyshire tangled with Davis in the box and the Southampton keeper appeared to trip him, but astonishingly the Forest striker was booked for diving.

To rub more salt into the wounds of the Forest faithful the Saints restored their lead less than a minute later. Again McClaren’s men were undone by another set-piece as Fox’s free-kick found the dazzling Lambert who headed home his third to take away the match ball and a club record 12th successive home league win for Southampton.

Forest now sit fourth from bottom in the Championship and play bitter rivals Derby County next at the City Ground on Saturday 17th September. Kick-off is at 1pm.

Will Steve McClaren walk away if Forest fail to back him?

Even the most optimistic Nottingham Forest fan would agree it has been a turbulent few weeks at the City Ground. Just last week Steve McClaren was rumoured to have been on the brink of exit following frustrations with the lack of signings in the transfer market, and fans were worried it could spell disaster for the remainder of the season. However the tides of the River Trent could still turn in the coming weeks but that is not dependent on McClaren himself, but the infamous transfer acquisitions panel.
Last week’s McClaren quit rumours were soon ousted following crisis talks with chairman Nigel Doughty when the ex-England boss, seemingly rather reluctantly, agreed to voice his ambitions to stay at the club and help guide the Reds to the Premier League while still admitting his aggravations.
The notion conjured up in the press was that McClaren was guaranteed loan signings, three Premier League quality players to be precise. The 93-day emergency loan window swung open today and McClaren is believed to be hot on the heels of a few much-needed stars already.
Danny Collins is one of the names that has been thrown into the transfer-panel mixer. The 31-year-old defender was on the bench for Wales as they lost 1-0 to England at Wembley last night and McClaren is hoping the Forest panel agree to pay his £25,000-a-week wages to land the full back ahead of Ipswich. Tony Pulis is keen for Collins to get game time elsewhere and has not featured the former Sunderland man in his 25-man Premier League squad.
However, the man who is at the top of McClaren’s wanted list is former Forest loanee Ryan Bertrand, who had a spell at the City Ground last season. The Chelsea left-back has yet to be given a squad number for the Champions League and is believed to be falling out of favour with Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas. During his time with the Reds previously Bertrand found fine form and along with Collins could help bolster a lacking Forest defence who have let in eight goals in their first five Championship games.
The latest player to catch the eye of McClaren is Baggies starlet Craig Dawson. The 21-year-old can also play at left-back and is a hot prospect for the future having already featured for the England U21s. He is also keen on Spurs winger Andros Townsend, the 20-year-old was on loan at Millwall last season and would fit in perfectly with McClaren’s style of play which includes using width to break down opposition. However it is not clear whether Townsend would prefer to remain in the London area.
The loan window will remain open until January, but as McClaren and Forest fans are well aware the players need to come immediately if this Forest team are to have any hope of challenging in the Championship, a league that has this season become more difficult than ever before.
The board must keep in mind that the bottom line is McClaren may walk if loanees fail to enter through the doors of the City Ground over the next few weeks, and few Reds fans would blame him.