Nottingham Forest 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0 - Owls cut adrift as wait goes on for cavalry
Sheffield Wednesday are putting the effort in, so the only conclusion you can draw is that, at least at the moment, they are not good enough for the Championship.
A change of manager has not had the desired effect at Nottingham Forest either, and they too went into the game desperately low on confidence but an early moment of Owls charity meant they were able to walk away with a 2-0 win that leaves Tony Pulis’s men seven points adrift of safety as Christmas approaches.
As usual, Pulis tried various different shapes but no formation can prevent sloppy defending. Once Yuri Ribeiro put his side 1-0 up in the fourth minute, Wednesday never convinced anyone, least of all probably themselves, that they were going to equalise.
Forest realised too, and grew in belief.
Lewis Grabban’s late goal put the tin lid on it, closing down a dithering Tom Lees and not only dispossessing him and scoring, but leaving the centre-back in agony on the floor. With only four substitutes used but in three batches, he had to limp to the finish line.
His team are limping to January in the desperate hope they can be pepped up. How far behind will they be by the time the cavalry arrives, though? They are still to win under Pulis.
They made the worst possible start at the City Ground.
With five defenders and four midfielders, you would have thought it impossible for Forest to be able to pick their left-back in a good shooting position with space around him but when Cafu squared, Yuri Ribeiro finished well. There were fewer than four minutes on the clock.
As befitted the status of two fallen giants low on self belief, there was not a great deal of goalmouth action after that, and what there was was evenly shared in the first half.
Just as the Owls had been at Hillsborough on Saturday, Forest were not confident enough to push on and try to add to their early lead, sitting back and kindly allowing their guests the lion’s share of the ball, but they lacked the incision to make much of it. In the whole game they only hit the target once.
Lees came out of the back three to head an Adam Reach cross wide and the recalled Joey Pelupessy picked out Josh Windass, but he shot wide.
Harris as a centre-forward and Chey Dunkley, whose leadership was audible throughout, emerged at the weekend as names manager Pulis can ink onto his team-sheet but there are far too few of them at the moment.
By the banks of the Trent, Liam Shaw suggested he too can be counted on in his first appearance since Reading, always looking for the ball in the centre of midfield and composed on it. The problem is, he had not played since Reading because he was sent off there.
Moses Odubajo would pick up a suspension-earning fifth booking of the season to add to the problems.
The running theme of the night would be Pulis spinning on his heels at the frustration of a pass delayed or misplaced.
Harris returned to centre-forward as the Owls resumed the 3-5-2 formation that had improved them against Barnsley midway through the first half, and from there he got on the end of a poor Loic Mbe Soh header, which he put disappointingly wide.
Forest ought to have doubled their lead after 39 minutes but Dunkley came to the rescue, clearing off the line from Lyle Taylor. He should not have had the chance, the centre-forward letting a ball from the right go under his foot before his second chance came in from the left. A lovely Barry Bannan cross from the right was touched by Windass just beyond Reach at the far post minutes later.
The second half brought yet another tactical tweak, Harris withdrawn so that Callum Paterson could play as the targetman – for someone Pulis does not think is suited to the job, he has done it an awful lot lately – and Windass was pulled deeper as an old-fashioned inside-right, with Bannan mirroring him.
Rather than improve things, Forest looked the more potent as they grew in belief, perhaps seeing the Owls could not hurt them.
Sammy Ameobi forced a smart low save from Joe Wildsmith, then powered down the wing, cut inside and hit a shot against Lees from a tight angle. The defender did well to cut out a Taylor cross bound for Cafu.
Grabban, though, put the result beyond doubt in the 87th minute. At the moment there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Nottingham Forest: Samba: Christie, Mbe Soh, Worrall, Ribeiro; Sow, Yates; Ameobi, Cafu, Mighten (Lolley 88); Taylor (Grabban 76). Unused substitutes: Smith, Bong, Jenkinson, Guerrero, Dawson, Arter, Swan.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith; Odubajo, Lees, Dunkley, van Aken (Rhodes 80), Reach; Harris (Paterson 55), Pelupessy, Shaw, Hunt (75), Bannan; Windass (Brown 75). Unused substitutes: Palmer, Penney, Urhoghide, Jackson, Kachunga.
Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire).
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