1. That wasn’t expected. Before Saturday’s Cup tie, it was easy envisage another morose gathering at the Circle quietly suffering as 4,000 Nottingham Forest fans loudly enjoyed their victory. It required considerable optimism to expect the Midlanders to be the ones suffering as City’s unexpectedly effective display took us to a deserved win. But that’s what happened.
2. Ignore the scoreline. City 2-1 Nottingham Forest was more emphatic than that. Multiple opportunities were missed to score a third goal, and City were all over Forest for pretty much the whole game. It was a terrific performance, coupled with a really spirited attitude. And that’s the most encouraging thing: from the first minute to the last, there was a battling mentality in the side. We’ve wondered aloud if this side is up for a scrap. We know now that they can be. Replicating that in the League is now essential.
3. But let’s enjoy this win a little longer. There were many fine individual performances. Max Clark looked mature and assured at left-back, Aina continued to look a threat on the right, while the way in which Bowen has maintained his fine form throughout the season suggests he is the real deal (and his suitors grow in number). Dicko was tireless up front and a constant nuisance, capping it off with a goal, but the star was arguably Jackson Irvine. He’s taken a little time to really embed himself in the side, but his was a buccaneering midfield performance. Full of energy, he tracked back tenaciously, ran forward determinedly and used possession intelligently. More, please.
4. It was a treat to leave a match feeling uplifted at what had gone before. City’s combative approach – aided by an indulgent refereeing performance that Forest should have mimicked instead of whining about – genuinely elevated the spirits. It’s just nice to see goals and victory again. It’s been a rare feeling for too long.
4a. Rarer still must be the same post being struck five times in one game – twice en route to City goals, then acting to deny Forest twice and City once. Bizarre stuff.
5. We’d like to feel sorry for Nottingham Forest fans, who cannot have enjoyed Saturday’s events. However, the way too many of them acted as though they were the first football team in history to take a large following anywhere and so cockily predicted an easy win means we’ll swerve the pity.
6. So, we’re in the Football Association Challenge Cup Fifth Round. This is nothing to be sniffed at – especially when we consider that repeating the achievement next season may require winning four ties if things don’t improve in the League. The draw is this evening, and there are enough non-elite sides left in the competition for us to think a way to the Sixth Round isn’t out of the question. Whether it brings a tie that City are favourites to win or a mission impossible, it’s exciting to be involved.
7. It goes without saying that this now transferring to the League, where the situation remains grim. One of the major issues in recent fixtures has been starting games so weakly. Well, if Nigel Adkins can’t get his side up for the visit of Leeds tomorrow, three days after a stirring victory that owed much to a fast start and an emboldened approach, we have a problem. It’s perhaps pushing it to describe this game as “must-win”…but then again, we need at least seven wins from just 18 games to have a chance of surviving, and this is a home match against a side in 9th. If not now, then when?
8. We are not remotely surprised that City haven’t done a single thing during the transfer window so far. The approach was easy to deduce in December: sign no-one of note and spend no money, then get someone, anyone, into the squad in desperation on the final day, preferably on loan. Not that Ehab Allam’s mismanagement being predictable needs to stop us despairing at this wilfully damaging approach.
9. With two televised fixtures approaching, home matches against Sheff Utd and Aston Villa in February and March respectively, there’s no doubt that failure from Ehab to act in three major areas will see significant and justified protests. Those areas are easy to identify, and equally easy to rectify: strengthen a paper-thin squad, reintroduce concessions, and start calling Hull City Hull City. Otherwise, the protests will restart, and quite rightly so.
10. A spot of housekeeping: we’ll be podcasting on Wednesday evening this week, recapping the Cup win and tonight’s draw, plus Leeds and whatever City have (or more pertinently, have not) done in the transfer window.