Nottingham Forest 3 Preston North End 0: Dave Seddon's verdict - 65 hours is a long time in football
There were roughly 65 hours between the final whistle of Preston North End’s win over Bournemouth and kick-off at Nottingham Forest.
The change in PNE during that time was frightening, how they went from playing so well on the south coast to hardly being able to raise a gallop at the City Ground.
Chalk and cheese they were, apples and oranges, night and day.
On Wednesday night, 307 of their supporters watched North End outmanoeuvre league leaders Bournemouth to win away for the first time this season.
More than 1,900 made the trip to the East Midlands on Saturday and saw their side easily beaten.
It was a display poorer than Blackpool a fortnight earlier in my opinion and that’s saying something.
The goals given away were soft, a belief was missing for large parts that the Lilywhites could rescue something.
When the chance of a way back in came their way, it disappeared into the stand rather than the back of the net.
Too many players were out of tune and injuries to three of them were telling.
Not the way to go into the third international break of the season, with a fortnight of stewing over the loss ahead.
Inconsistency has dogged them of late, September’s run of draws giving way to a sequence of lost, drawn, won, lost, won, won, lost, in the league games played since.
The fans are frustrated by it, the calls on social media for Frankie McAvoy to go reappearing in their droves on Saturday teatime.
Until North End can find more consistency to results, there will be that reaction after any defeat.
Little that McAvoy did at Forest had the desired affect, whether changes before or during the game.
Without Alan Browne and with Sean Maguire regarded as only fit enough for the bench, Brad Potts and Daniel Johnson were drafted in.
It was Johnson given the supporting role to Emil Riis, with Potts a little deeper.
Potts was tasked with hitting the box with late runs, being there to meet cut backs.
When one landed just perfectly for him at the end of the first half, he blazed it over the bar and into the Trent End.
This is not part of the Potts pile-on, but if his strength is getting up to support the attack in such a manner, he has to be putting those chances away or at least working the goalkeeper.
Potts’ afternoon came to an end in the 56th minute, as did Josh Earl’s, as McAvoy made a double sub and switched from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3.
It didn’t get any better in that second shape, in fact PNE looked a little more toothless.
Maguire was a big miss, a sore Achilles tendon restricting him to bench duty.
Browne, much improved of late, was missed too.
The biggest miss of the lot was that of Patrick Bauer for 70 minutes.
Bauer came off just 20 minutes into the contest to protect the Achilles tendon he ruptured 11 months ago.
The defender had felt it stretch a little and his early exit was to prevent any serious damage.
Without Bauer, North End struggled at the back.
Jordan Storey didn’t look comfortable in the middle of the back three when the 3-5-2 was is use.
You hope the international break has come at the right time in Bauer’s case to get him back to full fitness.
In summary then, a poor day for North End and plenty for McAvoy to ponder before the next game against Cardiff on Saturday week.
Just at the moment, his side aren’t rising to the big occasion in terms of support.
The bigger the numbers – Derby at home, Blackpool away and now Forest – display levels have dipped.
Arguably Bournemouth was a big game in terms of the status of the opposition, if not the crowd size.
They handed that very well and pulled off one of the shock results of the season.
So to follow-up that win with this show at Forest was frustrating and disappointing in equal measure.
Forest didn’t have to be brilliant to beat them, just as PNE weren’t at their fluid best to get the better of Luton the week before.
The first 15-20 minutes of this one were pretty even, in face North End moved the ball quite well.
Riis had an early penalty shout fall on deaf ears and a Potts shot was gloved away by keeper Brice Samba.
They lost momentum when Bauer went off, he had slowed down when chasing with a Forest player to reach a ball played down the left.
And things quickly went downhill, the home side taking a 32nd minute lead from the penalty spot.
Ben Whiteman cut out a pass in the box but as he shaped to clear, Brennan Johnson nipped in front of him and Whiteman kicked the back of ther striker’s leg rather than the ball.
Lewis Grabban sent Daniel Iversen the wrong way from 12 yards.
The lead was doubled four minutes before the interval, a free-kick from Philip Zinckernagel into the box headed clear by Earl.
It flew to Jack Colback who dispatched a volley into the net, Potts having turned his back on the shot.
Two minutes into time added on at the end of the first half, Riis’ run took him down the right channel and his low ball inside found Potts’ run.
The midfielder slashed at his shot, it disappearing over the bar. They’ve got to go in.
With a 2-0 lead, Forest were content to let PNE have plenty of the ball but held them at arms’ length.
The possession count was 61-39% in the visitors’ favour but if that proved anything, it is that North End are better counter-attacking than trying to build play.
Forest’s third goal with 20 minutes remaining was a bit too easy.
Johnson – impressive throughout – skipping into the box from the left-wing and seeing his low cross clip a PNE boot and travel to Grabban on the far side of the six-yard box.
Grabban hooked it home, Iversen chasing back to kick clear but goalline technology signalled it had gone in.
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