A schooling by Karanka, how we missed Clayton & a time for youth

Saturday wasn’t great was it? And that is putting it lightly. Aitor Karanka and his Nottingham Forest team came and got a textbook away win, aided by our poor performance.

Goals from Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban condemned us to our first home defeat of the season.

Pulis decided to stick to the team that won at Ipswich in midweek, but that may have been a mistake.

Received wisdom states that you shouldn’t change a winning side. However, the second half performance left a lot to be desired in that game and Pulis would have been forgiven if he brought Adam Clayton straight back in after serving his suspension. And in hindsight he should have.

Adam Clayton, a man reborn under Pulis this term. After two seasons of chequered form, he is back to his swashbuckling best. And in a midfield three that Pulis plays, Clayton sits in the centre of the three and plays the destroyer role.

He sweeps from left to right, breaking up play and when possible driving into space or laying it off to one of the other two midfielders to push on.

In a nutshell, he takes the shackles off the other two midfielders and allows them to push on with or without the ball. He is a our lynchpin.

The midfield three on Saturday were unsure who was staying and who was going. Who was sitting and who was driving.

In a possible attempt to have a fluid midfield trio, it became bogged down through lack of communication and lack of application. With Clayton in the side, the remaining two know that Clayton is sweeping and gives them freedom.

The person who suffered most in this situation was George Saville. I thought he may have got hooked at half time, but instead, it was Mo Besic who gave away with half hour to play.

As soon as Clayton was on the pitch, the midfield looked a lot better.

The substitution of Martin Braithwaite is one that confused me. I have said before it seems to be only him and Stewart Downing who appear to receive the ball on the half turn and go forward and possess the quickness of thought to fashion chances.

1-0 down and with half an hour left, Pulis immediately went to the big men which was a little worrisome.

Surely another 10 minutes of Braithwaite  with another forward on the pitch, making a little more space to see what he could unlock would have been more beneficial.

The one clear cut chance we did create fell to Britt Assombalonga. After a fine forward ball from Jonny Howson and a great first touch into his own path, Assombalonga pushed a tame effort into the goalkeeper.

That was a chance he should be taking all day long. It’s one he would have been thinking about all week. A chance to get one over on your former employer. But when the chance came, and when we needed it most, he was lacking.

That could have made the remainder of the game a lot more interesting. Britt must come back stronger from this, or Pulis needs to reassure him or else he could go on another dry patch.

Rudy Gestede I felt had a perfectly good goal disallowed. Towering above the keeper who was never getting the ball and winning the header, the referee was always going to give the goalkeeper the benefit of the doubt.

Beyond that, Gestede (much like Jordan Hugill) was largely ineffective.

So what to do? I understand the difficult job Pulis has naming a squad but surely there has to be  place or two for  either Ashley Fletcher, Lewis Wing or Marcus Tavernier.

Wing was unlucky to be dropped from the first team after impressing preseason and in the few games he has played. Fletcher and Tavernier have played some lovely stuff in the cup games and are chomping at the bit.

Not to have any of the 3 on the bench is a little worrying. They made the difference in the comeback vs Millwall and and Wing was impressive in the games thereafter. and now they have fallen away completely. Time to put some trust in them? I think so.

One player who caught the eye from the opposition was Joe Lolley. He was fantastic all game. He gave Ryan Shotton all sorts of problems.

His speed of thought, first touch and driving runs made the difference. A great finish for the first and great ball for the 2nd cemented the fact that he was the best player on the pitch.

He was the architect in Aitor’s away day clinic. Got the first after some poor defending and hit us on the break for the second.

So now Pulis has the international break to work with the squad that remains. A chance to rest and regroup and go at it again.

I’d like to see Clayton start with Wing and Howson flanking him and room for Fletcher and Tavernier on the bench. But that’s just me. Whoever is picked they will have my 100% support and hopefully everyone elses too.

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