REPORT: Forest 0 City 2

AdkinsN2

This season has served up plenty of surprises.

Granted, they’ve mostly been of the fall-down-a-manhole, open-a-box-and-get-punched-by-a-boxing-glove-on-a-spring or bloody-horse’s-head-in-the-bed type. But surprises galore there have been, as the vindictive Allams continue to vandalise our sorry football club.

Yesterday was a different kind of surprise. For we won a game of league football.

I didn’t see it coming, you didn’t see it coming, no one saw it coming except possibly the irrepressibly cheerful Nigel Adkins, but come it did, and much needed it is too. It was a peculiarly bloodless performance by the home side, as Forest’s players spent most of the game mooching around half-heartedly and the sum total of their attacking was so meagre that they forced Alan McGregor to make precisely no saves at all. They are an appallingly badly run club, and their players appeared yesterday to have caught that mood. We too are an appallingly badly run club, anchored to the spiteful Allams, but in contrast our players spent most of this match looking full of vigour, purpose and confidence. It could hardly have been more different from the dross we’ve viewed across most of the last few months.

Will Keane, willowy physique, loping gait, gets the nod to do the hard yards up front on his own, with Jon Toral handed the brief to supply a link between Keane and the midfield four. So we card:

McGregor
Aina Hector MacDonald Clark
Bowen Irvine Larsson Wilson
Toral
Keane

Off we go, a raw, damp and blustery afternoon by the banks of the River Trent, a collision of two clubs that between them have won the European Cup twice. We have taken bigger supports to the City Ground in the past, and we’ve been given better accommodation too – today we are tucked into the southeastern corner of the ground instead of behind the goal, but the City support is boisterous, and the mood develops positively as it quickly becomes plain there’s little to fear from an anaemic home side.

The first moment of note, seven minutes in, is game-changing. A glorious pass is curved round the back of the Forest defence by Seb Larsson into the path of young Harry Wilson. He is marginally baulked, but, scarcely credibly, the referee, Oliver Langford, points to the penalty spot. Soft as melting snow. Jon Toral takes on the responsibility, but his left-foot shot is placed at comfortable height for any goalkeeper, and Pantillimon blocks it, and Forest shovel the ball away for a corner. Bah. Big chance, wasted. So in comes the corner, Toral is left unmarked at the near post, and he is allowed time to head the ball home from close range.

1-0 to us. Rarely does football permit such instant redemption, so well done Jon Toral, but kudos too to an abysmal piece of defensive inattention by Forest. Aitor Karanka working his magic there.

Ten minutes later Matthew Cash strolls through our midfield and defence with effortless ease – Nigel Adkins working his own magic there, with the assistance of the alarmingly ineffectual Michael Hector – and strikes a low mudskimmer of a shot that seems destined to level the scores, but it cannons back off McGregor’s left hand post and away to safety. Forest will get no closer to scoring before the sun goes down.

Both midfields cancel each other out now, and the game becomes scrappy and disjointed. But we are winning it, and the limited moments of flash and flair belong to us too. On 28 Bowen and Keane combine well, flustered Forest concede a corner. Then a glorious pass from left to right frees Bowen in space to advance into the box, but he is uncharacteristically feeble and imprecise, and the ball spins out for a goal kick.

On 38, a vision of joy, a shimmer of glitter. Ball inside – ping – ball back out wide – ping – ball low and hard across the face of the goal – ping. Beautiful fast slick football by Irvine, then Bowen and then Keane, Forest defence shredded, young Wilson surges into the box and bludgeons the chance into the roof of the net. 2-0, and that is as good a piece of football as we have served up all season.

It could have got better still, as Keane duffed a free shot straight at Pantillimon on 42 and Toral plonked the rebound haplessly wide, but the half time whistle signals a two goal advantage, which is in part certainly down to an astonishingly subdued display by Forest but also recognition of a complete team performance by our own side. There’s not been a hint of the stench of relegation that’s been hanging over this side for weeks now.

Question is, what happens if Forest get back into the game – will our evidently fragile self-belief drift away into the chilly breeze blowing across West Bridgford? Forest want to test that, and, presumably in receipt of some well-chosen Basque curses from Mr Karanka, they come out for the second half looking briefly more purposeful. On 46 they howl for a penalty, a frankly silly claim, but more dangerous is a stramash in our box on 48 during which a whirl of feet fly fearlessly before the ball is finally hoofed to safety by Clark.

On 52, Toral, limping, is replaced by Stewart – like for like, one feckless shadow of a midfielder for another – and by now Forest’s initial gusto has subsided. Even at this early stage of the second half they seem resigned to their fate. Why so meek? They are almost introduced to the risk of a proper hiding. Wilson slides a cute pass to Larsson, who surges past a static back-line to reach the by-line, from where he strikes a superb hard low cross direct to the feet of Will Keane, inside the six yard box, unmarked and with the goal yawning in anticipation in front of him. Keane reacts as if his shoelaces are tied together and misses the ball completely. Bowen is standing behind him and, understandably startled by this fiasco, he collects the ball but shoots wildly over the crossbar from close range.

Will Keane. Needs to do better than that.

Forest enjoy a decent slice of possession, but do nothing at all with it. Zero creativity from the home side, though praise too for our defensive shape, which is secure and rarely stretched even remotely.

MacDonald (a fine cricketer incidentally, known for farming the strike) is on the evidence of two games a solid acquisition. He doesn’t do fancy. He just defends. That will do me. Our bench, by the way, shows sign of either Michael Dawson or Kamil Grosicki. Dawson would be entitled to a brief sulk after being denied a lucrative move ten days ago, but, given the character of the man, I hope and expect it is but brief. Grosicki? I have no faith in his commitment or professionalism. I don’t know if we will see much, or any, more of him (in case you have forgotten what he looks like, here is a picture). Much probably depends on what the manager of his national team is telling him. If it’s ‘You need to get some game time if you’re going to force your way into the World Cup reckoning’, then I expect our Polish wingman will deign to show up a few times come the Spring. If it’s ‘Kamil, you’re in the squad come what may, just don’t get injured’, then not so much. (A similar story likely attaches to Abel Hernàndez, except in Spanish).

Wilson, who played very well, is replaced by Diomande, who did his usual eager running with no end product schtick, and Keane comes off for Campbell. It is a measure of Forest’s feeble lack of menace that Mr Adkins dared to field two (two!) attackers in tandem against them as the clock ticks down. A curio is that we didn’t play Forest at all between 1977 and 2010, as they conquered Europe under the immortal Brian Clough and we plummeted through the Divisions in disgrace and misery under the entirely mortal stewardship of Terry Dolan and that ilk, but today we are making it five wins out of the five visits to the City Ground that have taken place since the broaching of that desert. Remember Paul McShane’s handball, remember a fine strike by the likeable Aaron McLean. But none of the four previous recent wins was as comfortable as this one. Late on Aina boots a shot clear with McGregor flat-footed, but I think the effort was dribbling past the far post anyway, so Forest didn’t spoil their spotless record for the afternoon of zero (0) shots on target.

It’s an error strewn finale to proceedings, charmless football played out against a golden sunset in the West behind the ageing main stand at the City Ground. Forest gave this one up long ago. Three minutes are added, nothing happens, and the game is over, won by us.

After the trinket of a trip to Chelsea, we resume League business at Middlesbrough a week on Tuesday. We play 6 games in the space of 18 days, and four of them are at home. I fully appreciate that on-field activity pales into insignificance when contrasted with the harm inflicted off the pitch by the malicious Allams, but I still would like not to be relegated. Play like we did yesterday, and we won’t be.

Stephen Weatherill (via Tiger Chat)

11 replies
  1. Bosco
    Bosco says:

    Good win, though whilst we are not great shakes, Forest were poor.

    To be fair, most of this division is poor, which is all the more frustrating that had the owners been in it for City, we could and should have bounced back this season rather than be scabblling around with loads of teams beginning with a B.

    Our make bare squad of loanees and casts offs, should be higher up the table.

    Enjoyed the chants for Super Matty Fryatt and the new one for Jackson Irvine du du du….

  2. Ben Burgess
    Ben Burgess says:

    First bit of positivity for ages. I like you don’t want to go down. Whoever the owner I don’t want to be languishing in L1. For God’s sake forget about futile meaningless protests and go to the games and support the lads. They desperately need it and with it have every chance of staying up.

  3. Rod Sheppard
    Rod Sheppard says:

    Sorry that our record of only beating teams beginning with “B” – I.e. in the league – has ended. If we had only beaten teams beginning with “B” would we have stayed up ?

  4. Bond
    Bond says:

    DIOMANDE!!
    How has this bloated oaf, in the first place got signed? Given a squad number and most astonishingly been allowed to pull on a city shirt? HOW?
    As much as there were Adkins positives yesterday it is absolutely beyond comprehension why this buffoon was allowed on the pitch!
    We effectively ended up playing as 10 men once Dio (I will fire us back to the Premier League) mande was brought onto The City Ground pitch!
    If there is a world record for touching the ball and ending up on your arse this bloke is the champion.
    Come on Nigel there is more than one branch of the famous optometrists in our area!!

  5. Bill Carson
    Bill Carson says:

    Spot on Bosco.
    A very poor league and one in which, despite another disastrous summer transfer window, we have still massively underperformed in.
    Having to listen to the Scunny and Grims by managers, who have the combined intellect of a mongoose. Is she hu we simply cannot go back to League 1.
    I’ve heard that there is a potential buyer, but Championship status is crucial.
    So it seems that we have to help the team to safety, to have hope in the summer.

  6. Blackadder
    Blackadder says:

    It’s true that this season’s Championship is a poor one and there for the taking by a decent side, if Huddlestone, Davies and Clucas had not been sold off, the first two for peanuts, we’d have had the nucleus of a side good enough for the top six, instead we’re in a relegation struggle. Let’s hope this win is the start of a climb to safety and not just a flash in the pan, the next few games will be crucial. Having seen Keene, Diomande, Stewart and Hector play it’s obvious that they are duds, Keane is just as bad as he was before being injured, Dio is a useless waste of space, Stewart was bought from Liverpool at about ten times his true value and Hector is the worst central defender I’ve ever seen. I think we’ll need a big slice of luck to stay up but again, given how bereft of quality this league is we certainly have a good chance of avoiding the drop if we can scrape a few more wins.

  7. Jimmy Weekly
    Jimmy Weekly says:

    Top report, great to win, and some interesting comments. Agree with Blackadder’s assessment of several players, except Keane who played well on Saturday, put in a great cross for our second goal, and generally was a useful and reasonably skilful presence up top. Too soon to write him off.

    But disagree very much with “Ben Burgess” who makes no sense with his ‘forget about futile meaningless protests and go to the games and support the lads’ as if it’s either one or the other.

    I’ll be, as I do most matches home and away, going to games and supporting ‘the lads’. And protesting because these owners are, it seems deliberately, dismantling our club and acting with an arrogance and lack of business sense that is astounding.

  8. Blackadder
    Blackadder says:

    Well perhaps I was a little harsh on Keane, Jimmy Weekly and maybe he can justify his place in the team by putting in decent crosses and otherwise making chances but I just can’t see him scoring more than the odd goal, I hope he makes me eat my words. Harry Wilson might be the best signing this season albeit on loan, and his speed and trickery, plus a few goals might pull us out if the mire.

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