After losing to Middlesbrough 5 – 0 in what was our worst performance of the season, we had a chance to put things right on Tuesday with a re-arranged away game against Sheffield Wednesday.
On Monday morning I arrived for training and had to go and see my coach first thing. You always think you’re in trouble when you get called to the coach’s office but we had a chat and he just said that he thought I should have a rest for the game against Wednesday and be on the bench because he thought I looked a bit jaded and tired on Saturday’s game.
I thought this was a fair point, I felt I didn’t have much energy during the game. As much as I wanted to play on Tuesday, if I wasn’t going to be at my best because of fatigue then I’d rather someone else start who’s fresh. We trained that morning and did some shape work and then finished at lunch enabling us to get some rest before Tuesday’s game.
Match: Sheffield Wednesday v Nottingham Forest
On Tuesday the journey took about an hour and a quarter. We started the game very well and created a few chances for ourselves but didn’t take them. Mid-way through the first half the heavens opened and the cold rain came down totally out of the blue, so tackles were then flying in. At half time it was still 0 – 0 with both teams creating chances but I felt we were on top.
The game was still competitive and very close in the second half with chances at both ends. I came on with around ten minutes to go, I wanted to make an impact on the game and try and get a goal. My first touch was a header from a free kick which went straight to the keeper unfortunately.
With about five minutes to go we got the break through we wanted, we won a free kick which was taken short and Mikel Darnet produced a strike worthy of winning any game. He hit it into the top bin from about 25 yards out, the keeper had no chance. We saw the game out and won 1 – 0, three points we needed after the humiliating defeat at the weekend.
The rest of the week was rest and preparation for the big game at the weekend. After having a mid-week game against Sheffield Wednesday we went in to Saturday’s game knowing that it would be a tough game, however, we were confident after winning three points on Wednesday.
Match: Nottingham Forest v Sunderland
It was Sunderland at home on Saturday so with us being on home turf we wanted to ensure we performed well against the top of the league. The weather was pretty much perfect, bright morning, not too cold and the wind was pretty much non existent.
We started off very sharply and put them under a lot of pressure in the early stages. They always play good football and are very well organised so out of possession we had to try and make it as hard as we could for them to play around us. This meant as a striker I had to drop off and be disciplined eliminating their third midfielder because they played three in midfield.
My role was to stop him from getting the ball so they couldn’t attack us through the middle of the park. I did this fairly well, although it was taxing on my fitness because you’re up one second sprinting after a defender, and your then sprinting forwards on the attack, but I was enjoying working hard for the team.
In the first half hour or so we created more of the chances, we played some good counter attacking football and I came close after getting the ball at the back stick from a cross and I hit it towards goal with my left foot but it hit the side netting unfortunately.
We continued to create chances on the break because they kept the ball well and we let them play pretty football to a certain extent because it was all around the half way line and they weren’t breaking us down in the final third.
However, with about 5 or 10 minutes to go until half-time the changing point in the game came. Sunderland had the ball in the middle of the park and their central midfielder turned one of our players and as he did, Mikel Darnet caught him with a fairly strong challenge. The referee immediately called Darnet across and a few of their players confronted him, but we all got in to split up the petty pushing, shoving and classic hand bag activity.
The referee got his pencil out so we thought it’d be a yellow card, but he pulled out the red and sent him off. Darnet had been warned a few times for his aggressiveness earlier on in the game and I thought that a red card was a bit harsh but the referee’s decision is final and we had to just accept that and get on with it.
With that happening I moved to left midfield to see out the game until half time. Our coach organised us well for the second half and I slotted in to an advanced left side position where I could join in with the attacks through the midfield like a striker when we had the ball. We had to be disciplined with ten men, it was important we didn’t leave ourselves too exposed at the back when we went forward else they could counter attack in numbers.
We held them back for most of the second half but unfortunately for us they took the lead with a bicycle kick on the edge of the penalty area. It was a strike of great quality and although we could have blocked the shot, sometimes you have to admire the strike. Credit to us though, we didn’t die down, we created chances and attacked them when we could.
I went in for a header and as I’ve leaped for it I landed awkwardly on my ankle which was painful to say the least. I didn’t want to come off and after treatment from Macca I went back on. After about seventy minutes I came off, I was knackered after putting in a hard working performance. My ankle was stiff as anything after I cooled down and I knew I may be injured for a few days.
We ended up losing the game 2 – 0, I thought that we played well but the red card ruined the game. If we had eleven men for the whole game then I think it would have been a closer contest, but big decisions change games and this was certainly the case today! We have Derby away next weekend which is a massive game and I hope I’m fit to play a part in getting one over on our rivals.