Six Minutes? That’s a Joke

The Carabao Cup; it’s almost a wistful insult that blemishes the prestige of the English footballing game. A mere representation of what the FA Cup is gradually disintegrating into.

Commonly known as the League Cup, its deplorable presence is callously wasting away from our beautiful game. The fact there were fewer fans at the City Ground to watch the second round fixture verses Newcastle than there were for the pre season friendly against Bournemouth proves the point in itself.

The English League Cup is slowly diminishing like day 5 of a Lord’s Test Match. It’s disconcerting.

As it was when the fourth official raised a minimum of six minutes to be added on at the end of the tie. At the time, there was a shrewd sort of chuckle that traced the Main Stand as if the majority of us foreshadowed what might come next. Never.

In the ninety second minute Rondon blasted Newcastle level from what looked like an offside position.

At the time it was repulsive to stomach; to me it was unfair. Glaring into a frenzied away end that was silent since the second minute. We were all jealous. Envious of those scenes, but also there position. They were heading into penalties with the ascendancy.

That was until Dias miraculously kept the ball in on the left and then rode into the penalty area and placed a ball that deflected perfectly into the path of Matty Cash.

The Reds substitute then dashed behind the line of the ball and sprayed it past three flailing Geordies on the goal line.

The ball then subsided into the back of the net and pulverised a mesh of bodies that untangled over the rows of A Block.

Forest had been imperious for the majority of the ninety and in that exact moment, A Block felt impregnable.

Karanka named a similar side to Saturday, although simple additions and accessories meant they were much more dynamic.

Re-introductions to the team for Lolley and Carvalho made Forest more of a potent threat. Simply their presence of mind to find pockets of space and utilise them with an intrepid saunter of skill made Forest appear more meaningful going forward.

Daryl Murphy was drawn into play far more often as a result of the flare and finesse which tinged the piers of the central midfield. And on the whole, contributed, not only with a goal, but with one or two malleable runs that forged space on the edge of the box.

The Reds front man seemed as though he’d found an extra aspect to his game as sorcerer, complimenting the free flowing sashay of Forest’s midfield. The only issue was, every time he lunged around, and he did, for all ninety seven minutes; you couldn’t help but envisage him collapsing before Saturday’s trip to Brentford.

Especially having just watched both Byram and Lolley limp off the field of play. Both whom which were fantastic.

By far and away Wednesday was Sam Byram’s most promising performance in a Forest shirt. It’s clear the former Hammer has the ability and is willing to whip a ball into the box unlike our previous full backs; Lichaj and Darikwa.

Meanwhile Lolley possessed a panache that saw him wriggle through the middle of Newcastle immaculately. Commonly, he then lay the ball into the path of a much more prevalent Gil Dias.

The Portuguese winger displayed reason for enthusiasm out wide while linking up well with Byram to begin with. It became questionable whether the wide man could tighten up his end product as the game went on – although any relatable questions were answered with a Brian Rice esc chip in the dying embers of the game.

Liam Bridcutt’s return renovated the structure of Forest’s midfield with a layer of elasticity. Forest looked more flexible, better equipped to adapt to a turn over in possession and better able to span out and play from the back.

In defence, Forest were stable for the most part. Michael Hefele’s presence was perfectly suitable in the back line. The big German was assertive and ominous beside Danny Fox. And, from no where, he made us dangerous to play against from a corner.

Forest are slowly developing. Just gradually beginning to fizzle again. That’s seven games unbeaten, there are bubbles starting to surface again.

Jack Playle

I Don’t Get It

Remember the first time you looked at an algebraic equation?

When one morning in maths you contemplate the validity of your mind malfunctioning and elusively randomising your brain cells so they may recognise morse code but by no means understand it.

When one day, you turn over to the page and slap bang in the middle there’s this alienated letter that’s staring at you all self righteously; Daryl Murphy.

How does he do it? He staggers about in a decrepit limber for eighty minutes and then pops up with the goods at the first time of asking like it’s no bother.

It’s like watching an ancient dray horse slumber out of the stables and languidly shuffle itself to the trough in front of four budding stallions.

Every days his last, yet he keeps finding a way to prove there’s something worth waking up in the morning for.

Daryl Murphy has studied, revised and learnt his trade off by heart; with two goals among three League starts it’s almost impossible to argue the Irishman isn’t a prolific striker. Forest’s front man is precarious when it comes to being in the box but we don’t go in there enough.

In this case, to criticise Daryl Murphy at the moment would be nonsensical even though like you, I find him excruciating to watch.

But in the same way anything from the alphabet doesn’t belong in a mathematical equation, a large languorous striker has no purpose playing in a side that seeks to trouble their opposition through the channels and with a high intensity press.

Daryl Murphy is tailor made for sides who intend to play around their opposition and bombard the box with crosses; a more route one approach. Not a side that aspires to teleport themselves through the middle of a defence in the speed of light.

It’s like picturing your Dad trying to squeeze into a large new Forest shirt. It’s never going to fit, just get an XL.

Play someone who suits the system, who naturally torments the defence with ragged runs in behind the line. Someone with a burst of pace that unsettles the centre half’s and ruptures cracks for those skilful enough to penetrate. Play Lewis Grabban who makes stuff happen, who’s playful around the edge of the box and has the pace to keep up with proceedings. At the worst he’ll draw away a defender and create space, rather than stay stagnant like a dormant Daryl Murphy outside the box.

Taking chances isn’t the issue here, creating them is; where are we most threatening; in midfield, so free them rather than isolate them. Forest have to find ways to stretch the opposition like they did against West Brom, so the eloquence of the midfield can shimmy it’s way forward with flare from Lolley, Carvalho, Dias, and the abundance of ripening ingredients there are to pick from the tree.

This side has all it needs and more, but it must learn which combinations work, and which don’t.

Daryl Murphy still works as a striker, but this is as it good as it will get while he leads the line in a side that constantly looks to delicately filter through the middle of its opposition with diagonal runs.

Forest must learn to use round pegs in round holes, and while Daryl Murphy is not a round peg in this case, we’re a peg short in the centre of midfield. A void that’s gaped like SAN Andreas fault line ever since Paul McKenna and Lewis McGugan drifted from the football club.

Of corse, no one can overlook the idolised David Vaughan and the glitz of Guédioura before the Algerian parted for Palace. However, it takes a partnership in the centre of midfield to be substantial.

This was highlighted at home to the Baggies when Guédioura along side Colback tenaciously monopolised West Brom. The scales seemed to balance and the exuberance of Guédioura was facilitated by the thwarting efforts of his companion Jack Colback.

The issue here stems from the fact both Watson and Colback are designed to do the nitty gritty, the stuff no one notices, but this makes them too similar to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Neither one has the persona to take the ball and do something unorthodox and that way they catch themselves out.

They need a playmaker beside them, a Guédioura who can pick a pass that pierces a gap, or move the force forward. The pair look immobile next to each other, like two dogs on a leash tied to Danny Fox, they get in each other’s way and eradicate one another in possession. They’re anaemic.

In this case it’s bizarre it’s not been considered Liam Bridcutt might enter the fray. By all means the midfielder doesn’t quite acquire all the glamour that comes with the talisman of Guédioura, but as a stand in playmaker, I’d have thought Bridcutt could do a job. The little man is certainly willing to spray a pass and sliver into more prudent positions adopted by the more leery Ben Watson.

So to me, there seem to be two missing holes attacking. Two areas of the pitch that could solidify the cement and allow Karanka to switch off the mixer up front and begin pointing up at the back.

Despite this, it should also be notified that just a month into the season Forest have been handicapped with the nagging injury of their star man.

There are forty one games to play for. Forest have looked cumbersome and then awesome, it will take time. But like any Maths teacher would urge me to “just have a go at it”; we should try, and persist if we must, for we’re beginning to see us edge away from the frigidity that made us prone to combust ourselves last season.

There’s a lot to play with here – just give it another shuffle.

Jack Playle

The Epiphany

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Everyone’s thought about the prospect of The End. The end of everything, of life as we know it. How it will happen, with a light, a voice, or a body. Let me tell you – I saw the light; when Guedioura thumped Forest a goal to the good and posed in front of the Trent End as though he was the Messiah and A Block were his disciples…                                                                                                                                                                    in a syzygy of prophetic figures, swarming and unravelling themselves so they ascend above one another like a colony of ants scurrying upon a mound. As if each euphoric figure was outstretched lifting the European Cup at the same time. This was it, the beginning of the end.

That instance when it seems that 18 monotonous years of community service as a Forest fan might just have been worth it; like pay day. This was the epiphany, if ever there was one;

A bevy of outstretched limbs spreading themselves all the way across to C block. A Block had engulfed me with its elation while my eyes couldn’t be refrained from the Lower Bridgeford and the sight of two thousand figures erecting themselves like Lancaster Bombers deployed to rein act the Dambusters on Trent Bridge.

It all felt illusory, a sold out City Ground saluting gallantly to the mellifluous aria of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” – if that doesn’t seclude an amicable feeling then what will?

Perhaps, a flourishing Adlene Guedioura seizing the ball on his own penalty spot and in three touches discharging a demon destined for the top corner. Or, how about Danny Fox, yeah Danny Fox, the once left back, chipping diagonals 60 yards to the feet of a full back fleeting forwards towards the Trent End on several occasions. Imagine Phil Mickleson, a sand wedge, and a bunker, it was just like that. Magnificent.

Tuesday was one of those nights, as though the City Ground was spellbinding and Forest were a judicious pick pocketer rummaging their way through a high born West Brom outfit. Not your usual mischievous bugger, more like a prudent one that struts around so impressively he could openly declare it as his profession and people stood by would probably applause in admiration.

I mean this because Forest were slick about their business, they were clean and in most cases, way too astute for the sluggish sorts like Hegazi and Brunt. In fact, Forest were an enthralling spectacle for the majority of Tuesday night due to the profound intensity they pressed and played with. As well, somewhat relaxing to watch, their simple hunger to own the football enabled Forest to reassert dominance for eighty minutes against Premier League prowess.

An exotic energy that last reeked through the Reds ranks against a startled Derby on a Friday night seemed to be what orchestrated the Forest front line. This was no better exemplified than up front where Lewis Grabban ransacked the Baggies rear guard like a Jack Rustle braiding the bushes for a tennis ball.

Beautifully, this crowned Karanka as breaker of chains because a front four composed with two flamboyant Portuguese were licensed to freely bombard the Baggies goal. On the whole, Forest displayed glimpses of quality for large periods with Carvahlo linking up as the ingenious visionary. However, this buzz that propelled the engine up top allowed Forest to play as quickly and directly as possible because ultimately, there was a stern belief despite only watching Forest for fifteen minutes this season, we would almost definitely win the ball back before West Brom got into our half. Like this, Forest were able to look immaculate in attack and if at any time a blemish looked likely, Dias would drag wide and simmer the stress with a touch of class.

This dashing essence defined proceedings on Tuesday and when West Brom introduced Dwight Gayle to the game, the Baggies were seasoned sweet enough to strike back. A knack of knowing where to be along with a flourish of confidence assured Gayle made an instant mark on the game which allowed the Baggies to illustrate the quality optimised by the illustrious equaliser from Matt Philips.

Of course it all seemed unfair to be pegged back to one a piece. And then rather sickening when Brunt later struck the cross bar from seven yards out, but more importantly it was a reminder of the vigorous condition of Forest’s opponents. In this way, it was testament to a new brood of Forest players that they had brandished such a stylish display against a side brimming with bright prospects.

West Brom are no light weights with the quality they possess in the likes of Livermore, Rodriguez and Kieran Gibbs, all who once occupied a slot in the England squad. With this in mind, a point, all be it at home, shouldn’t be grieved when you perturb such a side for eighty minutes. Inevitably, an alarm bell jingles again when the ball is whisked wide for the visitors to plop a ball back post to either a makeshift left back, or a right back that prefers to play right wing. Meanwhile it shouldn’t be ignored that Forest could quite easily have lost that game, which is concerning when you never should have drawn it. However, it is early days and it is without question we are light years ahead of where we were versus Millwall last season.

Something feels different now. There’s a plethora of passion that entwines those on the terrace with those on the pitch and Forest feels like a football club again. It feels like it’s supposed to, like I want it to; it feels as though the football can take centre stage and the atmosphere will accompany it. It’s the first time I’ve enjoyed a home match that much since Ipswich on the last day.

How was it? I loved it.

Jack Playle

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘Right Way’

Somewhere between Stoke City’s route one approach and England’s dour dross that bores the back four themselves, there has evolved a myth that there is a ‘right way’ to play football. An ideology branching from the belief that football is a delicacy, designed to be played authentically, through the prowess of pristine passing and intricate movements conducted by masterful orientation.

Players are becoming co-ordinates. Blurry figures each confined to their own chequered grid of grass like a chess piece. Danny Fox can only distribute diagonally like a bishop, while David Vaughan continually trots side ways and occasionally back and forth like a ruck. In the perfect scenario, each piece slots together to form a vortex that serenely shaves the oppositions rear guard exquisitely.

The build up play has a touch of fluidity about it. The ball sprays vehemently between the midfield until its flushed through a gap like water seeping through a leak. Ideally, Forest maintain their structure when they breach the back wall, a Dowell knocks through a splint and suddenly triangles transcend cunningly as a slick exchange of through balls entwine to carve open a stranded defence dismantled like the first slice of an Apple Crumble.

It’s a feast for the eyes. Its a style that is enshrined within the aesthetics of the football being flicked about like paint at the end of a brush. Some might call it art itself, either way, we think its beautiful.

The trouble is, the eyes are attracted to the ball. As with so much in the contemporary interpretation of the game, we are too concerned with the ball itself. Given that on average a top flight player in France is in possession of the ball for 53.4 seconds per game, it is sensible to assume that each player’s on the ball actions, constitute only a small percentage of their overall contribution.

In The Numbers Game, Chris Anderson and David Sally imply that “keeping a clean sheet is more valuable than scoring a single goal, 0>1.”

Often defenders are working in the shadows to minimise the effectiveness of those coveted on the ball actions of the opponent without making an immediate tangible effect meaning they are difficult to see.

These individual defensive off the ball actions are incredibly important in football, the result of their successful implementation – a clean sheet – is of more value than “football’s orgasm” – the goal, in the preference of most.

Yet, we’re twenty four games into the season and Forest have only collected six clean sheets all season but we’ve supposedly played good football. We see as valuable what we have been conditioned to believe is of value; goals, assists, passes. Clearly there is value within these contributions, however it is arguable that they should not be considered as more valuable than off the ball qualities. For example, Kieran Dowell receives greater praise than Joe Worrall which is bizarre because Worrall probably offers a greater contribution over the course of each game.

Stylish possession based play has become an exclusive members club where entry is dependent on the size of your Gucci wallet. How can a team on a lesser budget ever expect to win against the richer clubs by playing with the ball? Qualitative superiority. Its evident every year at this level. If it wasn’t true, would the likes of Huddersfield and Bournemouth be in the Premier League? Would Bristol City and Cardiff be in a Play off position? Probably not.

The difference in quality is slender in the Championship. There are few times in a season you travel back from a game and are impressed by the visitors. Hence why Burton have every chance of staying up, again. The knack needed in the Championship isn’t divine tapestry, its strength and desire along with determination. A whole hearted willingness that flows between each member of the team.

The reality at Forest is we don’t have that. We have inherited a habit from the days of Billy Davies, the lazy mentality of “It is, what it is”, which is to let the other side play. Its too easy. There’s no spark of energy at all when it comes to defending, it takes a dying ember that is David Vaughan to produce any shimmer of light in the midfield. There isn’t the fight, there isn’t the spirit, we dandily tip toe around flimsily while the opposition runs rings around us. In fact, if you look beyond Vaughan, can you name another midefielder that can consisitently make a tackle? I can’t – when I come to think about it, most of them don’t bother tracking back. As well, we never win a second ball unless Vaughan is paying and most of the time we’re two yards of the first.

Unfortunately, Forest don’t compete. We are as a whole like a freestyler. We perform a piece of trickery that produces a ‘woo’ and then chip the opposition the ball and watch to see if they better us. We are, too easy to play against.

We are not a team. Just twiddle the hob and we soon break up and burn. Just listen to Kieran Dowell’s Christmas interview, he implies that “scoring a goal” himself is the most important thing on a matchday. We simply do not add up.

We are too one dimensional. We are a team made up of tender toddlers bimbling about waiting to spit their dummy out at Jordan Smith when another long range effort evades his reach. The midfield from a distance could be mistaken for triplets, maybe even quadruplets. Five foot nine slender builds bread from the Shire in Lord of the Rings. But their young (you say), true, they might improve technically and mentally, but they wont grow in stature at the ages of twenty one and that’s where they’re inferior. They need toughening up. We’re no physical match for the likes of Birmingham City. We’ve got the wrong personnel.

Not entirely wrong. We’ve shown we have the ability to play what most consider the ‘right way’ nowadays. The fact we are a young side with bundles of quality suggests there is reason for optimism. However, it is clear that there are missing links. For example, there isn’t a single leader within the whole squad and it shows as Forest have only come from behind twice to get a result this season. At the same time, we are short of physical presence pretty much all over the pitch. However most importantly, we lack a ‘put your body on the line’ attitude and it begins with fitness.

We haven’t been fit for years. Its most likely the root cause of all the injury problems in the last few seasons is down to poor fitness. No other side has had the amount of injuries we’ve had, it can’t be because of bad luck. Forest are consistently accused of doing half a job. Playing well one half and not the next. To be able to press, close down, cover space and defend properly you have to be fit. There are players in this Forest side that could be fitter, and when playing football is your profession, being unfit shouldn’t hinder your performance.

The recent removal of the Reds boss Mark Warburton is because of all these imbalances. Having said that, the Breadman appeared to win over supporters with a stylish swagger going forward we haven’t seen for sometime. Its unfortunate the former boss has parted company with barely any time to infiltrate more of his wisdom. However, if there’s anything Forest and Warburton can learn from their transactions, its the ideal ‘right way’ to play football doesn’t neccessarily work at this level.

What works in La Liga doesn’t always work where the quality is terse. Instead, there is a different demand in order to get results, one that derives from hard work. Teamwork.

In this case the aesthetic comes from cohesion, not disparity. An orchestra could never sound as sweet if one instrument demanded a solo. Each player is required to work together to serve the piece. They work to a plan. Improvisation will always have to be present, but there are collective principles that must be adhered to in order to achieve success. Simple things like marking. The beauty comes from an appreciation of collective team movements and dynamics, with or without the ball.

It is a tactic that identifies a vital element of artistry that exists within the pragmatism of team chemistry. Such a technique is an individual interpretation of executing a skill. It is affective. It is artistic.

However, it also requires stern application. Grit. A submission to swallow a tea spoon of Calpol. Forest are a young a side still learning their trade but if they’re going to gain experience, they’ll have to learn to adapt. Football is a team game, the best sides play as a team and defend as a unit. It may take skill to defend coherently as a team, but to bother to track back or close down a shot, it just takes a little effort.

Perhaps its time the players took some responsibility.

Yes they’re young, but as a wise man once said; “strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle” – Napoleon.

Jack Playle

Stone Cold

Guawh, this is drudgery…

It’s that time of year, when a glacial mist unravels over the Trent End and seeps into the innards of each aisle wrapping itself around the brain like a wet blanket. A sudden gasp for air and it calmly drifts inwards chilling the blood and gnawing away at the insides like a hungry rat. The frigidity penetrates a thick frost that sticks to the back of the throat like wet concrete.

Its December, and yet again, Forest have caught their common cold. There was suspicion that a clearing of the immune system in the summer might just help Forest escape it’s annual illness, although as it’s become so apparent, it’s never that simple.

Its been well speculated that this season is all about recovery. The process of prescription and taking medication, mending the madness of the last five years and gradually moving out of intensive care. However, not many would have expected to liken the procedure of reformation to that of the task of necking a scalding hot lemsip – sip by sip.

Every time the midfield concede possession in their own half its like gulping a swig of piquant pesticide that tangs in the tonsils vehemently for hours on end. Supposedly fielding such a young side will mean such catastrophes shall not go on forever and therefore at some point we’ll begin to feel better, but you try not to squint at such a musty proposition.

The real problem is, it doesn’t work straight away as you might expect it to, and in fact, like in Forest’s case, it can make matters worse before it makes them better. It can strengthen the burning sensation for a little while. I’ve no doubt that this years cold feels worse than previous ones. Not because of the performances, on the whole they seemed to have improved, and not because of results, they’re practically the same. More so because of the attitude of supporters and the atmosphere in general.

Rather the comatose lull that descends on a matchday, week in, week out. The drooping hush that follows ‘Mull of Kintyre’ as though the referee’s first half whistle tells all to cease fire. Its draining how one by one each card board cut out plummets to their seat in a domino effect as the referee begins proceedings. That’s assuming blocks K and L of the executive upper had the strength to stand up for their clubs anthem.

Each figure slumping to the sides of their seat and lounging forward as though there’s no energy to maintain a little posture. A tinge of blue peeking through their lips as their eyes bulge into round balls. Their spark gradually fading, yet unlike fire, they permit no smoke. They don’t even rise at a corner. Yet here I am, stood on the cusp of A Block scratching gingerly at the back of my throat and recoiling as a single solitary voice;

“Warburton’s Red Army . . . . Warburton’s Red Army”

Now and then a couple of fragmented wails join in a cumbersome yawn that roughly lasts two renditions until it swiftly clutches the jaw and softly hushes to a fading cry once again, we’re left with one rasping shout bellowing out;

“Warburton’s Red Army . . . .  Warburton’s Red Army”

One or two in front choose to make the effort to rock back, swivel and give me an acrimonious glare that implies I’m offending them. Clearly for some reason they either find me amusing, or annoying – either or, I have their attention and so I give them mine. I look straight back into their eyes and sing a little a louder;

“Warburton’s Red Army . . . . Warburton’s Red Army”

                                                                                                  … and instantly they turn around again. It’s always someone new every week, some middle aged dunce that tries to ridicule you with a sly scour that is an attempt to make you feel dippy.

Quite ironic really. How I’m the one getting singled out at a football match for trying to galvanise some sort of support.

Support. That’s what we like to imply we do with ourselves on a Saturday afternoon. We like to think we do it in such a way it’s worth noting we’re actually an invaluable accessory to the team; as the Twelfth Man. We’re supposedly essential for getting the team over the line, the super sub that always prevails but never fails.

That’s right, you rarely come away with someone spewing in the back of your ear at the lack of atmosphere generated over the previous ninety minutes. No one ever comes away blaming the support for all their emotional depression.

No, the likes of Sky might ram down your throat every time a new manager is sacked, “football is a results business”, but for fans, football isn’t a business. It’s as far from that as possible. We don’t work all week to wake up on a Saturday morning and be reminded of it.

We go to the football to escape it. We go because it’s supposed to juxtapose last weeks monotony at work, not optimize it. It should be appreciated that the idea of enjoying a football match can be different for some supporters. Some like to tear their throat till their hearts content, while others like to sit silently and really watch the game. Some want to sprawl in a serge after a goal goes in, while others would rather just give a fist pump in the air. Although I’ve always admired our ability to sing from all four sides of the ground. How a “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” will even reverberate around the roof of the Brain Clough from time to time.

I think its fair to imply non of us fantasise about sitting in silence for ninety minutes. Most supporters would say the atmosphere is one of the best things about being at the football, whether there in amongst it in the Lower Bridgford, or set back from it in the Brian Clough upper. Nonetheless, there’s no atmosphere if no one joins in and makes the effort to get it going. Fans at the minute are too reliant on their counterparts reviving the character for them.

Football fans are known for their communality and camaraderie that symbolizes an identity we can all reconcile with. Alright, it’s all a little more difficult when you’ve invested all so much into a project that’s forever stalling. There’s as much a reason to be down about Forest as there is up, its retching to watch us stumble on the same step every week. But, isn’t it our spirit as supporters that makes you dig a little deeper and grasp the pride enveloped deep down. The intimacy between one another that ushers you to grab the guy next to you and hook your arm around his shoulder. To pull together and make mid-table obscurity in the Championship seem alright.

However, in a sporting world under siege by the commercialisation of major corporation’s such as Sky and BT Sport. Football is mutating into the sort of TV series you might flick through on Netflix. The culture of being a football fan is ruggedly malfunctioning into a manifestation of stale redundancy. There has become the tendency for fans to rail in their emotions and cuddle to the backs of their chairs in queasy anticipation that this weeks episode will keep them awake.

Its tedious to think Wembley sold pop corn at one of England’s last home games, although football is steadily slipping that way. Down the docile route where a waiter urges you to pass along a tray full of snacks and fizzy pop just as Barrie McKay carves space to go through on goal. The same route that leads to a different bloke turning around in dismay at the constant slurping on a slush from the kid behind. When the act of singing a football chant is thought be an act of hooliganism.

Is there anything worse than in this day and age to flick through the feeds on social media after a matchday at the City Ground?  We’ve become so placid we need an account on twitter to show a little emotion. We’re at a stage where supporters express more on the internet than they do at the game. It’s ridiculous.

Turn 360 degrees and its startling how many are glued to their phone screens as their interest in the game disturbingly pewters out. Forest earn a free kick on the edge of the box and still at least three in the two rows below are entrenched within electronics. They were so consumed in whatever they were doing, they probably hadn’t realised there was a free kick. Its a key moment in the game where goal mouth action is almost guaranteed and yet they don’t look up.

It disheartening to watch the dwindling passion leak out of us. The tepid attempts we make to remind anyone we make a difference. We don’t anymore. You only have to look back to the protest last year. How when a group of supporters stood up to save some dignity and retain their clubs worth, although the majority agreed with their views, they undermined their efforts as petulant. They mumbled amongst themselves; “What’s the point? It wont make a difference”. Well what difference do you make sulking about it all on a Saturday afternoon?

Instead, its become common for one to passively blame the bland flavouring of football fans on the removal of the terraces, but that’s a roll over and die mentality. For goodness sake you only have to look a few years back to when A Block was rocking at home to Leicester in a 3-2 thriller. It stands out because even sections of C Block were having a frenzy after Paul McKenna snatched a winner. Bodies mounted other bodies to salvage to cascade their cries on to the stage. Now there’s a goal and the tail of B Block return to their seats like children tussling to sit in musical chairs.

There are many things that could help improve the atmosphere at the City Ground. Although it doesn’t need to be rebranded. I’ve always admired our ability to sing from all four sides of the ground. There are few stadiums I’ve visited that can conduct a chant that echoes simultaneously around all four ends. There have been culminating moments like the “Nottingham Forest FC” that blew away the visiting Middlesbrough fans. And there is often a tenacious roar of “Come On You Reds”, although it’s more the mundane silence that haunts the field of play afterwards. Sometimes for twenty or thirty minute spells where it rots away at your nervous system and numbs any sense of excitement. We don’t want to become that side that only sing one song, even so we risk turning into Queens Park Rangers. They only sing at corners and its a dreary hum of “Come On You R’s”.

It’s clear we have the volume potential, its more a case of maximising it on a more regular basis to improve the all round atmosphere. Possibly the best solution for this is to introduce a renowned stand and sing section. The approach to open half of the Lower Bridgeford to home supporters has been jubilantly received. A lot of people think it has improved the atmosphere, after all it is usually louder than A Block. However, one’s beginning seems to have marked another’s end. The once well known ‘Capital One Corner’ appears to have perished because of the move as what remains amidst its sunken seats are its memories of play-off miseries.

While at the same time, A Block is beginning to strangle itself within it’s shrivelled skin, like a scrunched up towel dispensing every ounce of moisture. Each droplet hesitantly hanging on to eventually trickle away down the sink, never to be seen again. Until Derby visit of course.

There are still supporters positioned all around the ground wanting to contribute. Each one beckoning with a twitch to make some sort of noise, irritated by the lack of life that sits by their shoulder, putting them off and discretely contaminating them with a stagnant pain that tries to stick them to their chair.

It seems only sensible to try and bring them together by implying that a certain area of the ground is dedicated for those that want to stand and sing. Whether that means moving the away end to else where so be it, the ‘Capital One corner’ is desperate for new home owners. Or it might be a case of re-igniting the old A Block and inviting a larger away contingent to spark some witticism that winds everyone up. One or the other, tickets should be sold with the knowledge that one particular area is designed to enhance that atmosphere. That way you don’t end up with a group of infants prompting you to sit down at a Kids for a quid match when you’ve bought your season ticket next to A Block so that exactly that never happens.

One or two might imply that the Lower Bridgford has recently evolved into the ‘singing’ section of the ground. However it isn’t sold as that. I’m sure there are still people who don’t usually visit the City Ground and buy a ticket with no desire to contribute anything to the atmosphere. Equally, there are probably people who want to contribute to the atmosphere and sit elsewhere as I do. For example, one of your biggest issues at the moment is the disparity between A Block and Lower Bridgford. The two most vocal areas of the ground without question, but neither of them at a home game against Cardiff or Bolton can sustain a considerable amount of noise.

Occasionally one might get a little something going but by the time the other has latched onto it they’ve already finished singing it themselves. Meanwhile, if either of them have an influx of energy at the same time, they usually drown each other out with completely different songs. It’s a real nice thought having two separate singing areas, its been comical at times when each side has sung at the other as if there were no away fans. But lets be honest, it isn’t helping the atmosphere at the minute.

A specific stand and sing section would hopefully breathe life back into one part of the City Ground. Potentially a small draft of commotion in one corner might just cause a swell of it elsewhere. To the extent where a cacophony of roars sweeps through the ground as contagious as the plague we now endure. This is a step the club would most likely have to initiate, although with a better atmosphere there comes a better chance of success meaning it’s likely to be a task at everyone’s best interest. As supporters its our job to make watching Forest as fruitful as possible – we so often like to imply we should have the chance to post a bit of input. So here’s your chance…

 

We could clamber out of our shell and follow our passion. For it will lead us straight to our purpose. To support.

Jack Playle

 

 

 

Cardiff City (H); Player Ratings

With Warnock’s high flying Cardiff visiting the City Ground this weekend, Warburton’s work was cut out enough only until Forest registered yet another injury to the full backs regiment in mid week. Tendayi Darikwa was the man who collapsed to the floor in the early openings of the second half against Norwich to leave the Reds with just one fit full back at the club by the end of the ninety minutes.

Suspension to Liam Bridcutt who picked up a fifth yellow card in the same game added a little agitation to Warburton’s trail of thought, while one or two question marks may have loomed over the possibility of Vaughan and Murphy featuring another start in the space of five days.

As so desperately wanted, both of the seniors begun Sunday’s clash in the Reds named starting eleven. Tyler Walker joined them in a return to the right hand side ahead of mid weeks match winner Mustaphe Carayol. Another welcomed return saw Traore slip back into left back after a quick recovery from yet another long standing niggle. Meanwhile, Ben Osborn scooted back into central midfield to replace Bridcutt beside Vaughan.

Overall there were just two changes to the side that beat Norwich in mid week and perhaps you could say they were forced. Whether they told, maybe so, potentially Bridcutt might have provided some stability to things in midfield which could have turned the game. A game again finely tuned this time in the favour of little physical prowess and some luck to go with it – the Bluebirds came away with all three points having won the match 0-2.

Here’s how we thought Forest got on;

Jordan Smith (5) – Didn’t really make a save all night. Once again, his distribution seems to be improving although it would be nice to see him take responsibility of clearing his lines on a more consistent basis. It does waist time when he dribbles and then taps it two yards to Mancienne when we’re two nil down with twenty minutes to play.

Eric Lichaj (7) – Man of the Match, originally gifted on the night to David Vaughan, however the Reds right back was probably the tidiest of all in Garibaldi on the night.

Michael Mancienne (6) – Moments of sloppiness, this weeks performance from the Reds centre half wasn’t as robust as recent ones. Mancienne dug in at times but never seemed as tight to his man as usual – explicitly evident in the opening goal. Forest’s centre back was a little too ‘nicey, nicey’, however showed just how easy it was towards the end of the first half after calmly jogging the ball onto the edge of the visitors box without having to evade one challenge. If he can do it, anyone in the midfield should have done it.

Joe Worrall (6) – Seems to be mirroring his partner at the minute which isn’t a bad thing, it shows how strong their chemistry is and how the back four has become more of a unit. Worrall wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t say he was that good either.

Armand Traore (2) – Looked like a Rottweiler that had come off its leash for the first time. I felt like that once proud dog owner that was stood talking to the next door neighbour while he wriggled around in manure. I’d like to put it down to the fact he might not have been fully match fit because he wasn’t even named in the squad on Tuesday night and once again, he was touching his hamstring on seventy minutes, but he was abysmal. We all know Traore is a good player, especially technically and usually defensively however, he capitulated into carnage on Sunday, he was ‘all over the shot’.

David Vaughan (6) – Actually gifted Man of the Match by the club, I wasn’t so sure. Forest’s diamond in midfield wasn’t detrimental to Forest’s defeat, his performance was okay. I especially appreciate the fact he was the most welcoming of the ball on Sunday, however he probably hassled Mancienne too much for it. The amount of time he’d run up to the Reds centre back, play a one two at arms length and then watch Mancienne drift past him with the ball. The Reds central midfielder was way too close to Mancienne for large periods of the game.

Ben Osborn (5) – Out muscled again. Osborn just looked a littlie flimsy, as though Cardiff were bullying him. As if Warnock had hand made him as his puppet and was discretely toying him around on the touchline. The Reds midfielder spent too much time out of position like his partner.

Barrie McKay (4) – Hopefully just an off day.

Tyler Walker (4) Would probably win at hide and seek. Forest’s right winger again dropped inside way too often. In fact, he never really played right wing. His starting position was more between two blue shirts in their back four as though he was trying his best to blend in with the visitors even though he was wearing red. The youngster continually miss judged the run off Murphy who repetitively flicked on his direction in the first half, while he first touched the ball in the second half on the hour mark when the Irishman eventually picked him out. Walker, again way too narrow, if he’d been wider would have had much more time, came in and when one on one passed it at the Cardiff goalkeeper from eight yards out.

Kieran Dowell (3) – Very, very sloppy. On countless occasions misplaced a pass which in the second half agonizingly trickled out of play to no one. Warburton’s shining light in recent weeks seemed to dim on a day where Craig Bryson (a guy half the size of Dowell) constantly knocked the loanee off the ball. Dowell lacked conviction and out of all the eleven, dropped his game in the last ten minutes drastically. A rare poor display from the youngster.

Daryl Murphy (6) – The Irishman’s work ethic was there. Murphy seemed dominant in the air and affective again at holding up the ball and playing it on for Dowell and others to run onto this time in a deeper position. Most would have struggled to fault the frontman if he’d finished the best chance of the first half for Forest. If only he’d leant into it Forest might have come away with something rather than nothing – he really should have scored.

Substitutions;

Mustaphe Carayol (7) – Looked Forest’s best bet of salvaging anything from the game. The substitute possessed a zest of confidence which served him well in gliding past the Cardiff defence while appearing to have an end product to go with it. The winger seemed to occupy all areas of the pitch where there was space and did his best to utilise it with as much conviction as possible. Something Forest’s attack lacked throughout the game.

Matty Cash (5) – A breathe of fresh air that provided a last push to keep the structure of a dwindling midfield in the latter stages of the game. By no means did Cash change the game or alter it, but at least he looked neat for his ten minutes or so on the pitch.

Ben Brereton (4) – Can you believe he was on the pitch for seventeen minutes?

Nottingham Forest (5) – On the whole, not a disastrous performance that rung alarm bells although it wasn’t pretty. The defence again looked sturdy for long spells and if you could overlook a soft opening goal, then you might hasten to add that three out of the four had good games. However, it was Forest’s midfield that lost the game again, they seem to be either hot or cold at the minute and I’m afraid that shows with the results. It is a case of if’s and but’s, although if Forest had been dealt some of Cardiff’s luck with the stonewall handball then again, it could have been a different game which when you look at the individual performances, and take into consideration Cardiff are second in the league, it doesn’t sink in too bad after all.

Jack Playle

 

Norwich (H); Player Ratings

As annoying as it was, Saturday’s defeat to Steve Cotterill’s Birmingham City side wasn’t as bad as it looked. In fact, there were plenty of positives to take from the West Midlands. Forest’s defensive debilities begun to take shape and structure for the first time since Dougie Freedman was under tenure at the City Ground, while Barrie McKay and Kieran Dowell showed arrays of exuberance to imply that two weeks away from the game is nothing.

The absence of Daryl Murphy was perhaps the missing piece of the jig saw when it came to fitting all the pieces together at the end. Warburton’s side failed to fit together in the final third costing them their ninth defeat in the league this season.

Its with that in mind there was no surprise the Reds boss gave Daryl Murphy a place back in the starting line up that seemed to be well received by supporters. Equally, the return to David Vaughan in the centre of midfield seemed as pleasing for fans, the Welshman was dearly missed on Saturday as Bridcutt and Osborn struggled to take command of their duty. This meant there were vacations to two of Forest’s youngest assets; Walker and Brereton who seemingly dropped to the bench, while a fellow academy star, Ben Osborn marked two years to Tuesday since he hadn’t started a league game for the Reds.

Wow. Where have those two years gone?

The decision to remove youth with age seemed to prove dividend for Warburton’s Forest; key performances from Vaughan and Murphy helped contribute to Forest’s fourth straight win on the banks of the River Trent as the Reds squeezed past Norwich with a 1-0 win.

Here’s our player analysis;

Jordan Smith (7) – Nicely not called upon too often. Forest’s number one commanded his area well in collecting loose ends and catching in coming balls. In particularly, a smart save low to his right denied former Forest striker, Oliveira from putting the Canaries ahead with a free kick in the second half. Just cast your minds back to Villa and Fulham when it became accustomed that they would go in and Forest would fail to take anything from a similarly structured game.

Tendayi Darikwa (5) – The source of many of Forest’s problems in the first half. A lack of desire to get forward and instead flail around on the edge of the box meant Bridcutt was forced to take over from him and dragged out wide. In addition, some sloppy error’s at the back combined with one or two more tidier moments meant the Reds right back probably looked the weak link to a robust Reds back four.

Michael Mancienne (8) – Always seems to pull off a last ditch slide tackle that makes makes you think he’s worthy of Man of the Match because it comes around the 84th minute. Another solid performance by the Reds centre half who adopted well to life out at right back when Darikwa fell to the ground mid way through the second half and was forced to be removed. Worryingly, Mancienne himself went down moments later but appeared to be alright resuming in the game with less of a hobble than Traore has when he’s  fully fit.

Joe Worrall (9) – Not actually awarded it but probably deserved it so why not, he’s our Man of the Match. Perhaps the best performance we’ve seen from him at the City Ground to date. Forest’s central defender has come on leaps and bounds since being left out of the side that faced Derby back in October. Matched up against a confident and fiery Oliveira, the Reds centre back was superb. Constantly on the back of the City danger man, Worrall showed how little space there should be on the edge of the area, an example the likes of Bridcutt could learn from. Matt Mills could gain a thing or two from watching Worrall last night, how to head the ball and head it well. The way Worrall continually rose superior and headed clear was good, but how he always found a red shirt in the process was even more impressive. In particularly, the sought of swan dive on the edge of the box that flicked the ball clear from the Trent End, as though he was harnessed up and asked to gracefully glide like Anne Whitaker elapsing onto the Strictly dance floor. The fact he still managed to pick out McKay to a pin point was exceptional. The outrageous slide tackle in the dying embers that tickled the ball from under a ravenous Oliveira who somehow got on the end of three or four devious deflections. An indication he’s learning a thing or two next to Mancienne, as previously mentioned, he likes to show off like that a lot.

Eric Lichaj (8) – To fill in at left back the way Lichaj is doing deserves some gratitude. The Reds States man is doing a fine job and deserves some credit. To somehow go three games and not even itch the hamstring is phenomenal in itself when out at left back. But seriously, Forest’s makeshift left sided defender was excellent, stern and strong he linked up with McKay wonderfully. His positioning was terrific, the way he covered space and rode forward to allow McKay to hop inside or out goes unnoticed but Lichaj is excelling out there.

David Vaughan (9) – “Oh David Vaughan, Oh David David Vaughan…”. He literally wins everything. First for firsts, seconds, and thirds. He is the dream.

Liam Bridcutt (6) – Some lovely link up involvement and the odd lush long ball which looked a little Gerrard like. However, he’s foolishly sloppy, and somewhat slack at times when it comes to defending which is ever so noticeable beside Vaughan. Loads of potential to slot in sufficiently to this side, but so needs a sorting out at times as he can often look like a day dreamer.

Keiran Dowell (7) – Another quieter performance for the Toffee. Dowell coupled up with Murphy well at times and could quite easily have claimed the opener with the best chance of the first half. Only, I felt he was sucked into a hole in the midfield too often and forced to play somewhat deeper than usual. Mind you, his first touch to turn was golden at times.

Barrie McKay (7) – Not quite as prolific as he’s been in recent weeks, from time to time the Scot gave away possession but still looked menacing cutting inside from the left. Perhaps in the latter stages of the first half it would have been refreshing to see him and Osborn switch to allow McKay to have a run at Husband, a less frequent starter for Norwich than Pinto. However, it can’t be hidden that the majority of Forest’s attacking flow came on the left hand side, especially in the first half.

Ben Osborn (5) – To be brutally honest, never thought he was a winger, never mind one who plays on the right. Osborn’s one of the most one footed players in the side as well as one of the slowest – the decision to play him out wide was always going to be under scrutiny. Forest lacked width in the first half because Osborn continually drifted inside to fetch the ball, purely because that’s only where he could do anything with it while Darikwa wouldn’t get up and offer an overlap. In fact, at one point Bridcutt was filling in right midfield as the Reds winger had gone so far off-piste. Osborn’s a good player, but he’s not a winger, and certainly not a right winger.

Daryl Murphy (9) – Could not have done anymore really. Created the best chance of the first half and finished the best in the second half, Murphy showed exactly what Forest missed at Birmingham. Penetration. One or two inventive runs to go with it and a touch that served everything well – to say how stretched the gap between him and the midfield was, he was exceptional.

Substitutes;

Matt Mills (7)

Mustaphe Carayol (8) – The game changer. Just offers a little substance that sometimes works (Wolves) and sometimes doesn’t (Fulham). Provided a source of vitality to the wings which made all the difference. A brilliant substitution, the difference between the sides on the night, whether he can inflict the same sort of danger if given a start I’m not sure.

Andreas Bouchalakis N/A

Nottingham Forest (8) – An incredibly positive result in the sort of game that for the last three to four years on a Tuesday night, you wait for Forest to take the initiative as the home side and try to get a winner, but never do as the game beats out at a pattern of Danny Fox long balls. One or two outstanding performances in a less pretty display than previously seen gave Forest the right to walk away with three points. A third clean sheet in five games and thoroughly deserved indicates progression in the Reds rear guard, while influential displays from more senior players show this young side is learning from some of the best.

Jack Playle

 

 

Disjointed

 

Pick one word to describe Saturday and mine would be something along the lines of disjointed. It’s no coincidence then that on the back of a dull International break, everything felt bland again.

You know when you get that delectable sensation on a Sunday afternoon at around three o’clock. The whiff of a roast dinner drifting into the living room and simultaneously inviting you to get up and go into the kitchen. The one time all week you can be bothered. It’s full with an aroma of juices, so succulent they’ve infiltrated their flavour into the air itself.

There’s a bowl brimming with vegetables; an array of colour, each carrot placed parallel to the next and each broccoli stood adjacent to the other as if no one’s meant to touch it. A tray next to it full of roast potatoes, golden in colour with that crisp around the edge and glistening from the olive oil so they catch your eye.

Then the rack of beef, dripping with juice. Until, someone goes to take a sliver for the first slice. Everyone’s peering in as though we’re at an art exhibit. The knife starts jagging, like the first time you use a handsaw.

Something’s not quite right.

It’s stone dry. As was everything on Saturday. I mean, even the atmosphere really. There was no feeling of optimism at Kick Off. Maybe such loud pre match music didn’t help galvanise a chant or two, nor did trailing in the first four minutes, but to say how quickly tickets sold out, I thought there’d be a little more excitement about the prospect of Forest moving forward.

I thought on the back of a beautiful performance at home to QPR a fortnight ago, everything would fall into place on Saturday and there’d be that sort of sense that maybe we could do something special this season.

I wouldn’t say that thoughts entirely dissipated, however, it’s certainly been toned to weaken its radiance.  It seemed Warburton had just got his seasoning a little off. Ever such a small error, but as we’re learning, fine margins make all the difference.

Once again, Saturday was a game we’ve become so accustomed to seeing in the Championship, a finely balanced, wonderfully poised encounter slightly leant in the favour of a little quality. Having said that, it was probably the lack of it in the centre of midfield which tilted the seesaw. A combination of consistent errors in the first half between a central pairing of Bridcutt and Osborn put Forest on the back foot.

A prime example, the first goal. A frozen Ben Osborn looking baffled by the presence of a football as though he was under death threat if he released it. Eventually tackled with Bridcutt cemented to the spot while waving his arms at the referee, a surge of Blue shirts waltzed their way through with ease as Forest’s back four were left helpless.

It’s been common for Forest’s defence to pick up the blame for conceding bundles of goals this season, however, the Reds back could have done no more in this scenario really. Perhaps Worrall could have got tighter to his man and stopped the shot, but for Darikwa being triggered and then slated for being out of position is ludicrous. The full back tracked back at twice the speed Bridcutt did, and was caught a little out of position because we were initially in possession of the ball. The moral of the story is, don’t lose the ball in the middle of your own half.

That and actually play centre midfield if that’s where your asked to play. The number of times Osborn, but Bridcutt especially waddled off wide to hold hands with the full back was detrimental. The hole it left in midfield ultimately meant we were overrun. Whether they chose to do this because Walker kept drifting inside to remove any width I’m not sure, but ultimately it cost us. That and the fact we were too light weight.

Forest’s side only averaged an age of 23 on Saturday and you could tell. Birmingham were physically superior in the first half. Bridcutt, Osborn and Walker all shrugged off the ball with ease. There came a spell in the second half where Forest stepped up the tempo lead by Worrall raising the backline and there was a growing consensus something might evolve. However, things then became disjointed up front.

As fragmented as the away end. Alright, I was stood right on the edge of Forest’s away following and they appeared to be right over the other side. But surely more would have tried to help the guys getting that Kieran Dowell song going. I could only vaguely make out the tune during the game, but I thought within five minutes more people would be singing it and it would become clearer. Obviously not, some people preferred to just stand with their arms folded.

Ben Brereton kept trying to fold the Blues defence with his diagonal runs, but there was the impression it wasn’t something Forest’s midfield were desiring. In particularly, Dowell kept playing it short as Brereton ran by and the two continually struggled to link up. It appeared Forest were still looking for their target man, a Daryl Murphy to hold things up and let the likes of Dowell play off him. It is without doubt that Dowell wasn’t as prolific as he has been in more recent weeks, this, probably is down to the fact he played a tad deeper due to a hole in midfield. That and the fact there was no one to link up with on the edge of the box as Brereton continually made runs off the ball.

Forest did create chances here and there though. There were two five minute spells in the second half where the visitors continually broke away down the left hand side and fed balls in low and hard in the hope Brereton could get on the end of it. Now and then, a shot from the edge of the box was blocked after McKay had weaved his way inside from the left hand side. Worth mentioning, another inspiring performance from Forest’s winger, the Scot continually skimmed inside for ninety minutes without conceding possession in attempt to match the skill and prowess of his opposite number Jota.

Clough came on towards the end and surprisingly contributed more than he has done in all of his previous three appearances. He certainly sustained his balance better than the two behind him as well. Cummings had a short cameo in which he nearly bagged the equaliser – an intuitive run behind the flanks which placed the ball on his weaker right foot. He looked as though he had room to run into but snatched at the shot nervously and chipped the ball softly so it could be valiantly tipped around the post. Probably Forest’s last chance of the game to take anything home.

Warburton came away disappointed having seen so much of the ball in the second half. With the hosts edging proceedings in the first forty five, Forest certainly came out stronger in the second half and dictated the game from then on but failed to put the ball in the back of the net. Frustratingly, Forest seemed to entrench too much time and man power for putting the ball into the box while not enough was in there. However, with such a small side might it have made a difference. Who knows?

One things for sure, Forest lost the game in the first half for being too weak. Too lackadaisical. Roll back to spells in the second half when Birmingham were up against it, and Bridcutt with Osborn were winning tackles and looked up for it. Unfortunately, it was only spells, and to win a football game you have to be at it for ninety minutes. Its seemed to me Bridcutt has been a bit on and off the boil a lot this season within games, there are times he makes a crunching tackle and looks good, but others when he lazily lets his man run past him. Central midfield is a big part of the game and it goes to be said again, Vaughan was a missing link again today.

It might seem I’ve had a go at Bridcutt a lot today, but having seen him trot down the tunnel straight after the final whistle without applauding the 2,800 Forest fans right next to it, he deserves to be criticised a little.

Jack Playle

 

 

Birmingham (A); Player Ratings

After a lengthy fortnight without a game, Forest had more than enough time to dwell on a picturesque performance against Queens Park Rangers and that might have meant expectations were high heading to the West Midlands this Saturday.

A brooding midfield exceling in almost every department, stacked in front of a back four steadily beginning to pick up the odd clean sheet has been reason for optimism around the City Ground. Flourishing performances prior to the break have got supporters excited as the development so dearly desired, is starting to be recognised.

Its for that reason there’s no surprise the only changes to Warburton’s starting line were forced. After a week of heavy duty for the Republic of Ireland, Daryl Murphy was left out the squad that travelled to Birmingham in a straight swap for Ben Brereton. At the same time, yet another niggle for Traore meant was left out the matchday squad too.

It’s always, you see him with a slight hobble at seventy minutes and so think to yourself, bring him off – he remains on the pitch for the whole ninety and so you forget about it, until come next week and he’s not even on the bench.

Anyway, that meant there was a switch around at the back as Lichaj moved over to defend the left hand side, while a return to the first eleven for Darikwa meant he slotted in at right back in attempt to sure thing up.

Here’s how we thought they got on;

Jordan Smith (6) – Perhaps could have done better in preventing the Blues goal, it was a tight angle Adams had to aim at but by no means was he to blame for conceding it. Forest’s goalkeeper was well protected on the whole by his defence and wasn’t forced into many saves.

Tendayi Darikwa (7) – The Reds right back has been heavily criticised for sloppy defending in the past, however on Saturday he stood resolute for the most part. Darikwa tended to mange the game well on the right side, the full back latched onto interceptions and slide tackles rather well, while making a couple of last ditch blocks to aid Keeper Jordan Smith. Although regularly sloppy passing forward and gifting possession away in antagonizing fashion, defensively, Darikwa did his job.

Joe Worrall (7) – One at fault for the goal having never really closed down his man, the Reds centre half got his angles all wrong when it came to preventing a shot or cross, he did neither. Having said that, Worrall was mostly solid besides the opening five minutes. Once again, Forest’s centre back seemed calm and collected on the ball, whilst in the air he mostly won everything. Possessing a taste of urgency in the last five minutes, Worrall seemed to instigate Forest’s final few throws at the dice in commanding fashion – perhaps the most anyone’s looked like a leader so far this season.

Michael Mancienne (7) – Another tidy afternoon on the whole for Mancienne. One or two sheering blocks, but other than that, Forest’s centre half never really put himself in any bother.

Eric Lichaj (6) – Definitely drew the short straw. Assigned to mark arguably the best player on the pitch; Jota. Lichaj had a tough task in keeping the Blues winger out of harms way. At times however, the full back did so in wrestling well to somehow dig a ball out the path of City’s talisman, but there were other moments where Forest’s makeshift left back was beaten, and with assistance. Going forward, Lichaj managed to cut clear on the bye-line time and time again, but his final product was begging as he continually hit the front man.

Liam Bridcutt (5) – Dipped in and out of spells where he looked hungry. Along with Osborn, the pair were overpowered in the first half, physically inferior to Davis, Gleeson and Kieftenbeld. Sadly, the Reds centre midfielder was sloppy and stretched beside Osborn and it handicapped Forest too much.

Ben Osborn (5) – Never really hit rhythm and evidently at fault for the only goal of the game. Like his partner, Osborn gave the ball away too much and that was too costly when it came to providing Birmingham with space to counter attack. For some reason, the Reds central pair seemed to retract from each other as they became stretched and smothered by a hungrier home side.

Kieran Dowell (6) – Showed glimpses, in particularly with his left foot from a far. But it seemed Forest’s in form Toffee was disintegrating in such low altitude on half way. The Reds attacking midfielder looked impaired from being ten or so yards deeper and it paid it’s dividends as by no means was he the threat he is on the edge of the box.

Barrie McKay (8) – Skimmed his way inside like a salmon wriggling it’s way upstream. By far Forest’s most likely source of getting a goal, but perhaps could have done with a little more conviction at the end of such trickery.

Tyler Walker (6) – Certainly a quieter afternoon than last time out. Forest’s newly found right winger was outmuscled when the ball eventually reached him out wide and in all earnest, that pretty much cancelled him out of the game. Often tucked himself inside way too often which left Forest too narrow in the final third. A bit of a shame because width was his virtue against QPR last time out.

Ben Brereton (6) – Had what looked the best chance of the game for the visitors. Managed to break away but saw what looked a goal bound finish deflect over the bar. The Reds youngster huffed and puffed for large periods and made one or two good looking runs. But it was obvious Forest missed their target man Murphy both in and out of the box as Dowell struggled to link up with the centre forward. Brereton’s darting runs in behind the flanks weren’t really what Forest’s midfield were looking for, it appeared the likes of Dowell wanted him to come for the ball so they could play off him and in that way, Forest’s midfield seemed rather disjointed from it’s striking asset this week.

Substitutes;

Zach Clough (7)

Jamie Ward (6)

Jason Cummings (6)

Nottingham Forest (6) – Perhaps, unfortunate to have lost the game. Warburton’s side were evidently let down in central midfield and especially so in the first half. Whether Forest’s defence deserved to be on the losing side, I would think probably not, but once again, it’s a game tilted by fine margins in the favour of a Forest mistake. This is a side that is developing and looked exactly like that against a fully mature Birmingham City side. A bit of bulking in the centre of the park might have done Forest a lot of favours. Having said that, there’s no doubt there was lack conviction in the final third, for the positions we found ourselves in, a lot more should have materialised.

Jack Playle

 

Bravo

‘schluck’ – the classroom door is softly pulled open. The rowdy noise level from before is muted immediately to a deathly silence, one or two scuffle back to their place as though they’re under fire from enemy infantry. Sir strolls in with that ungodly scour upon his face that stares demons into the front row. As tepidly as possible, I gradually lean forward and discretely park my chair back onto four legs praying all attention is diverted elsewhere. All of a sudden there’s that sense someone’s going to have hell rain down on them…

The visitors Queens Park Rangers hit the ground hard at the beginning of Saturday’s encounter with Forest at the City Ground. In fact, Holloway’s blue and white hoops could quite easily have contested with Sheffield United for the quickest goal scored at the Trent End this season. They had the ball spinning by the Reds goal line from the moment “Mull of Kintyre” coiled off the tongues of Forest fans.

Bridcutt and Osborn paired up in the middle of the park to begin proceedings and themselves were folding each other in half when it came to defending for the opening five minutes of the game. Forest’s central midfield looked like a pair of hand coughed marathon runners tripping over the finish line at the start of the day. Scowen and Luongo were gliding through the midline of Forest’s sculpture to release Freeman out wide who continually chipped balls across the face of goal.

The couplet of Mancienne and Worrall amply dealt with the danger to repetitively rise superior and head clear at Forest’s vail. Even so, I feel as though I see that ball cruise across the goal mouth way too often at the start of the game, it’s the one thing I hate about watching Forest. When your pulse rate predicts a goal and the ball breaks wide right for a driven cross that from the other end of the ground looks destined to bulge the back of the net in a typical Trent End manner – one where the ball emerges from a cluster of bodies, the keeper is left stranded on two feet, and it floats horrifyingly right into the corner of the goal. Never the middle of it, always the corner.

So when Freeman fed balls deftly into the danger zone straight from the whistle, I couldn’t help but think back to when Mr Kelly stomped his way past my place in the isle having just walked in on a class singing ‘lets all have a disco’. Just the snuffle of his sniff gave me a twitch. My cheeks blew up as I tried to stop my myself from throwing up a heart that propelled the sort of beat which made my face look like a puffer fish. But, by the time he’d gone by, and that felt as long as the first five minutes of Saturday, in the same manner a ball hangs in the air and drifts past the far post, I was pretty confident I’d got away with it.

The fact Forest rode the early storm having come away with a barely a scar to show for it as Smith was hardly forced into action, proposed a good omen for when Warburton’s side finally found their feet in the game. When I say men, what I really mean is Bridcutt and Osborn, once they were able to tie themselves loose and work in a tandem that wasn’t random, Forest were able to get the ball down and play.

In response, it was the Reds first real attempt at an attack that saw them break the deadlock. On this occasion, it was a swift break from the core of midfield which forged space for Walker to run free and get himself into a one on one position so he could despatch a side footed finish that was never in doubt. A spot of class is something Forest have always lacked in counter attacking football for as long as I’ve supported them – it’s usually a case of Osborn gets it wide left and Cruyff turns to play the ball backwards. But yesterday, Forest exemplified just how to do it, consecutive give and goes constructed from the bustling Ben Osborn who occupied a more central role saw a single tip to the left from Murphy put Dowell and Walker in on goal with one man to beat. In his form, he could probably have done it alone, but why bother when Walker never looked like missing himself.

The first goal most definitely seemed to settle things from a Forest point of view as the visitors became a bit more conservative, sitting back and providing space for Forest to come forward. Mancienne and Worrall then dictated from a higher vantage point which allowed them to collect the scraps with a little vibrancy to then play a more authentic ball to either McKay or Walker out wide. And width played a big part for the rest of the afternoon, the fact Forest held a line on the pitch that felt comfortable meant the Reds could maintain a structure sturdy enough to provoke space both inside, and outside with wingers that knew exactly how to make the most of it.

Forest’s second of the afternoon was in my opinion the prettiest. It was an astute ball from Osborn which once more carved open the R’s back four and teed the glamorous manoeuvre around the keeper which allowed Dowell to continue his fine form with another classy finish. Even so, it was the build up you don’t see on the highlights that made it what it was. Forest must have hung onto the ball for a good two minutes in midfield before making inroads. I mean, Osborn was trotting around like Pirlo and his ball was almost as slick as saying ‘bellissimo’. There wasn’t a moment in the build up where the support muttered an urge to hurry it up and get forward, there was a hush of appreciation for the patience and craft which inevitably was broke when the ball hit back of the net. It was so good, I almost felt like the only way you could celebrate it was with a posh golfers hand clap, a tip of the cap (that which I didn’t have), and a cry of Bravo!

Forest finished the first half with an exuberance that offered a fresh feel of optimism in the stands. Walker found himself through on goal at the end of another sweeping move, but dragged his shot wide. McKay kept curving his way on to his right foot while linking up with Murphy to produce some more seductive displays as Forest went in at the break to a standing ovation. They deserved it.

Warburton’s side came out the blocks with a flurry of confidence running through their veins as they tried to begin where they left off. But, when Dowell misplaced a pass mid way inside of the visitors half, Jamie Mackie soon found himself unmarked at the back post. With Traore back pedalling on half way having been caught a little too far forward, the former Forest man had a great opportunity to head his side back into the game but sliced his header wide.

That proved to be the last chance QPR had of taking anything from the game as Forest recovered well in mirroring their first half display and improving throughout the second. Inevitably, Barrie McKay eventually chipped in to put Forest three goals to the good. The Scott sweetly volleyed home at the end of another illustrious attacking move involving Dowell’s dribbling and Osborn’s crossing to seal the three points and cue another “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”. One that seemed to rattle a couple in the away end.

When Walker shot home his second of the afternoon the away end vacated as Alex Baptiste probably wished he could follow their footsteps. The local lad was tormented all afternoon by McKay, but when this time the winger simply knocked the ball past him and ran after it, the R’s right back was left spinning as though he’d just come off a ride at Alton Towers. He was bamboozled from ball one as the Scott was simply too good for him. A sight I enjoyed seeing, particularly because I distinctly re call the same right back gloating in front of A Block having scored for Blackburn two or so years ago. We weren’t even giving him any stick.

Mind you, Walker posed nicely for the Trent End after putting the ball into the roof of the net and they responded fittingly; “Tyler Walker, He’s One Of Our Own”.

There aren’t many better chants to sing in football about a player. We’re lucky. The one thing I felt Walker lacked two years ago was an outstanding attribute. He didn’t really have the pace, was easily shrugged off the ball, and didn’t really have the skill to beat a man. He was mediocre at everything. Having said that, on the basis of yesterday’s performance, all be it just ninety minutes, he already looks a much better all rounded asset.

Most pleasing about Walker was his ability to instinctively adapt to become a winger. We saw Ben Brereton begin the season out there and although its clear the striker has many talents, they were not put to use out there. The difference between the two was Walker’s positioning and this may be down to the fact Forest as a side played much higher up the pitch than usual, but Walker hung himself out wide, drifted in and out, but maintained his position just off the left back. Where as Brereton continually ran the line like a linesman as he went looking for the ball, as a winger, to do your job you have be on the wing, you have to be out wide and on the full back. Walker was continually presented with an opening that put him one on one with Bidwell, and encouragingly he obliged to take it on. To utilise the space he made more for those off him and ultimately created so much more than anyone else has in that role this season.

By all means, Walker probably wasn’t as prolific as his partner in crime Barrie McKay. Forest’s left winger was exceptional yesterday and all for the same reasons. He was wide. I personally think in recent weeks he’s gathered a tendency to come inside to early and therefore remove the opportunity to take a one on one with his man. However, on Saturday McKay appeared hug his side of the touchline for a little longer and it paid dividends in forming more space to run into. That which he is an expert at doing.

Finally, probably the biggest sign of Forest’s progression in recent weeks. Jordan Smith. The Reds number one has been heavily criticised ever since the opening day of the season and mainly because of his distribution. There’s been times where keeper has opted to pass the ball out of play rather than attempt to hoof it clear because his confidence is so low. However, on Saturday his footwork was at another level as he constantly found Daryl Murphy or Tyler Walker who weren’t five foot six. Equally, the inexperienced goalie seemed to use more of his initiative in throwing the ball out, a skill he is naturally good at and so affective for starting counter attacks.

It is basics, but they weren’t being done just two weeks ago and it is a sign of improvement. How much of a difference it made I believe was huge. The fact Mancienne or Worrall weren’t toying around with it at the edge of the box for starters, released a lot of pressure. But more because neither centre half and Bridcutt had to stand on the edge of the box anticipating the pass. Forest actually had their structure at a goal kick. The centre half’s were just off half way, the wingers beyond half way, and Dowell up with Murphy on the toes of their back line. This allowed the wingers to stay out wide and Forest to play their pretty stuff where it counts. If you need an example; think of Murphy. The Reds playmaker was doing the exact same job Cummings did away at Hull. The difference was Murphy knocked it about on the edge of the box, while Cummings did exactly the same thing fifteen yards further from goal. Ultimately, it gave us a considerable amount more of conviction, and the score line showed that.

Tidier all round displays from Worrall, Smith, Osborn, Dowell, Walker and McKay are all examples of where Forest are going. The youngsters are developing and Forest with them. If there’s any stat to sum up where Forest are now then it’s Colin Fray’s…

In the same game last year Forest played QPR at home, they drew with a gate of 20,000 to go to sixteenth place in the Championship, a year on and Forest come away with three points and a gate of 24,000 to go eighth. If that’s not progression, I don’t know what is.

Jack Playle