When Nottingham Forest were in a rich vein of form, relying heavily on the strong midfield, the form of the strikers could be forgiven. A snap shot from Simon Cox dragged wide, or an over-zealous Darius Henderson in an aerial challenge, could usually be laughed off.
With the goals from midfield drying out, and the shaky defence becoming exposed, the horrible habit the strikers have adopted is now unfunny. The security of a Lewis McGugan late goal has disappeared, seeing Forest drop out of the playoffs, with no win in four.
Dexter Blackstock labelled a donkey by some and made a scapegoat by so many more. Simon Cox praised endlessly for his work ethic and commitment to the cause, but rarely getting in positions to threaten, to make himself an option for the onlooking midfield. The closest Forest have to a striker who has an established place in the starting eleven is January signing Darius Henderson, who now misses three crucial games through suspension.
Arguably the most potent striker in the league, Billy Sharp, is unfortunately not getting a look in. Disillusioned? Whatever the justification for his absence, 23 other clubs in the league are looking on enviously, as we dump a striker on the bench with one of the best reputations in the Championship.
Before Darius Henderson’s strike against Hull City at the KC Stadium, the last meaningful goal from a Forest striker came on December 29th 2012, as Billy Sharp scored a last gasp equaliser in Alex McLeish’s first game in charge of The Reds. The brilliance of the midfield has done enough since to paper over the cracks of the poor showing from the strikers, but it’s now that they must show what they’re made of, before it’s too late.
Simon Cox, despite his commendable efforts, is currently a clone of the heavily criticised Fernando Torres when it comes to his purpose in and around the box. Often finding himself on the wing, it is rare to find Cox in a dangerous position providing a threat, maybe due to his visible lack of confidence.
Supporters look on and argue the possibility that the midfielders are struggling to create, but then, what are they supposed to do when strikers are lacking the required confidence and fearless attitude to get in threatening positions?
Billy Davies has opted for the approach that epitomises his managerial strengths, by blaming the team for not providing, in an attempt to aid the psychological condition of the strikers lacking in belief.
As a fresh Billy Sharp sits on the bench, the off form Dexter Blackstock and the newly recovered Marcus Tudgay are getting minutes before him. In the rare opportunity at Turf Moor that Sharp got to flaunt his quality, the team selected lacked the guile that would’ve been to his strength, as was the case in the early parts of the season, with both Radi Majewski and Adlene Guedioura missing.
Approaching the last four games, Billy Davies could do no worse than to throw Sharp in, as the side looks to make the most of the limited opportunities. A monumental part of the magnificent sequence of results that alarmed the division, was the shrewd management of Billy Davies. The timing and the process of thought behind the substitutions were mostly faultless, seeing him pick up another Manager of the Month award.
Now though, his management of the strikers will be the key behind getting over the line.
And for the strikers, it’s time for them to prove their worth. Millions of pounds worth of genuine Championship quality, it’s time for them to take responsibility. Get in the positions, and see Forest over the line and into the playoffs.
You don’t win the lottery, if you don’t buy a ticket. But Nottingham Forest won’t stand a chance of ending the season victoriously in the lottery of the playoffs, if the strikers don’t want to buy the ticket by commanding dangerous positions, to be the hero.
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