Billy Davies was denied victory on his Nottingham Forest return after Bolton Wanderers stole a late equaliser in Saturday’s Championship clash.
Wanderers’ substitute Craig Davies poked home David Ngog’s cross to cancel out Andy Reid’s composed volley.
The visitors saw Marcos Alonso dismissed for a second yellow card late in the game, however Forest were left frustrated in their attempts to break down the visitors’ stubborn defence.
The FA’s Peter Glynn assesses the quality of resource at Davies’ disposal and the first signs of the new man’s approach.
Billy Davies didn’t put a word wrong. A pre-prepared message beamed through the big screen at the City Ground heard Forest’s returning manager speak of ‘unfinished business’ and aspirations for a return to the ‘Clough Era’.
It’s emotive talk in these parts and prompted a rousing response.
The Scot has previous history with Forest. Davies’ first spell in charge at the club ended in 2011. Much has changed since, with the ending of Alex McLeish’s recent 40-day managerial spell proving the culmination of recent upheaval.
A desire for upwards progression has prompted much of the recent anxiety. And some of the expectation is understandable given the resources on offer at the City Ground. The presence of the talented Lewis McGugan on the bench acted as a reminder of the personnel available to the new boss.
However, the spread of talent across departments is not as balanced as Davies may wish. Against Bolton, Forest deployed four midfielders all of whom have a preference to be stationed centrally.
Adlene Guedioura, Radoslaw Majewski, Andy Reid and Henri Lansbury formed a narrow midfield. Guedioura anchored the base of midfield with Majewski, Reid and Lansbury tasked with supporting the forward pair of Billy Sharp and Simon Cox with late runs from withdrawn attacking positions.
However, for all the technical prowess and intricate intentions demonstrated by Forest’s midfield, the afternoon repeatedly descended into frustration as the central schemers failed to find a route through Wanderers’ congested defensive lines.
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game philosophy which helps young players develop their forward passing in advanced areas:
The opening stages had offered promise. Former Arsenal midfielder Lansbury was the keenest of the suppoting cast and the England Under-21 midfielder was nearly rewarded with the game’s opening goal as he flashed a shot across Adam Bogdan’s penalty area in the third minute.
Lansbury would go onto to snatch at a number of promising chances. His erratic finishing proved symbolic of the anxiousness which crept into the occasion as the afternoon unfolded.
When composure and technique did finally combine it resulted in the game’s opening goal. Andy Reid met Lansbury’s flicked cross with a flash of his left boot to volley the ball beyond Bogdan. It required a special strike to beat the gymnastic Hungarian, who made a collection of smart saves throughout.
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game philosophy which helps young players develop their shooting ability around the penalty area:
Davies attempted to inject some much needed width into proceedings by repeatedly waving his full-backs, Gonzalo Jara Reyes and Chris Cohen, forward. Jara, in particular, made a number of runs down Forest’s right, but a lack of care in the final third led to wasted crossing opportunities.
Advanced full-backs operating in the opposition’s half is a common feature of the modern game. Such positioning is reliant on the security and responsibility of others. With full-backs detached from their central-defenders there is an openness which can be exploited if possession is lost.
To play this way, central defenders must be comfortable defending in one-v-one situations as well as being secure in their ability to retain and recycle possession to allow full-backs the license to advance ahead of the ball.
Here’s a practice from The FA’s Future Game philosophy which helps young players develop their individual defending skills:
The best part of an hour elapsed before Bolton mustered a worthy effort on target. It was representative of Wanderers' improvement, however some of their most promising moments were caused by Forest’s carelessness.
The visitors’ equaliser arrived when Jay Spearing collected Lansbury’s loose pass. The former Liverpool midfielder released substitute Ngog who crossed for Davies to poke home from close range.
The equaliser drew much frustration among the home crowd. Forest had largely dominated but lacked the subtlety, craft and composure to reward their efforts.
In the final period, with substitutes Darius Henderson and Dexter Blackstock introduced to replace the largely ineffective Cox and Sharp, Davies summoned Reid to the left-hand touchline in a final attempt for a moment of match-winning quality.
Interestingly, the Scot reached for greater width in the final stages having persevered with his central thinking for much of the afternoon.
If Davies is to finish the business he referenced in his opening address, establishing an effective blend of his midfield riches must be an early objective.
Advice for grassroots coaches
- With teams defending deeper and in larger numbers, young players must develop a wider range of varied skills to unlock defences. Adding deception to passing skills is crucial
- For teams to play with width, defenders must be secure defending in one-v-one scenarios if possession is lost
- Dedicated shooting practise, including striking from different angles and reacting to a variety of deliveries, should be incorporated into sessions wherever possible.
Peter Glynn is the Editorial Manager at St. George's Park and editor of The Boot Room, The FA's Coaching Magazine. Peter is a journalist and has been with The Football Association for five years and holds the UEFA B Licence and The FA Youth Awards 1 and 2.
The Future Game Tactics Column takes a weekly look at the evolution of the modern game, linking to practices from The FA's Future Game philosophy and providing advice and tips for grassroots coaches.
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