RAMBLE | Forest 2 – 1 Wednesday

RAMBLE | Forest 2 – 1 Wednesday

Nottingham, a mythical land of outlaws, fair maidens, men in green tights and an unnaturally large tree known as the “Major Oak”. A tree with a girth and size so gargantuan that, according to ancient legend, it could, on a good day hold the ego of Chris Wilder.

It was a place that loomed large in my teenage years as a leafy Nirvana primarily due to the oft peddled “fact” (no doubt perpetuated by The Nottingham Tourist Board) that the local population was indeed made up of two women for every man. Of course, we were also warned that to get into this land of milk and honey, we would have to somehow bestride their city wall. A construction that was entirely made up of European Cups and the thighs of Stuart Pearce. The European Cup success, to be fair was not a bad thing to bang on about back in the day, but to be honest it’s not the Rumbelow’s Cup though is it?

Anyway, due to the fact that the “Massive” were in fact being just as “Massive” as usual, I could not procure tickets for myself and my Merry Men (see what I did there ? ) in the away end.  However, being a resourceful chap, and luckily knowing a Forest fan or two, I managed to obtain tickets in the Brian Clough stand. From this lofty viewpoint we would hopefully look on smugly whilst sipping on a cup of “Kenny Burns Bovril” as the blue and white wizards dismantle the “Tricky Trees” in our (ahem) unstoppable march into the Play Off positions.

Notwithstanding the vagaries of British Rail, an initial swift one (or two) in the Sheffield Tap would then be followed later with further refreshments in the Trent Bridge Inn, a JD Wetherspoons hostelry which (according to my children), if you’re a young “crazy cat” would refer to it as a “Spoons”

Much, if not all of our hopes would rest on Barry Bannan, a man who is currently gracing the Championship as a footballing smorgasbord seemingly made up of 2 parts Archie Gemill, 3 parts Liam Brady and 1 part Highland Terrier.

Star man

Even Gary Rowett, the Hugo Boss styled and Sandalwood-smelling current manager of “But can you do it on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke FC” (which they have now been legally re-named) has begrudgingly referred to him as a “magician”. In fact, the little man himself is currently playing to such a level that the out of work, serial European Cup collector Zinedine Zidane is now believed to be referring to himself in job interviews as a “poor man’s Barry Bannan”

I’ve heard players in the past being described as a having a “left foot so good it could peel an orange ”, to my mind “wee Bazza” on this seasons form could probably prepare a full fruit salad with his magical peg whilst also opening an accompanying tin of Carnation milk.

Amazingly for once everything went to plan and whilst taking on board food and refreshments in the Trent bridge Inn (ordered to the end of someone else’s table via the magic of a teenager with a Wetherspoons app), the team popped up on Twitter and we began the ancient and mysterious game of “lets guess the line-up”.

Whilst seemingly sticking to Jos’s now favoured 4-3-3, much surprise / excitement was made of the inclusion of new boy Onomah and the exclusion of the previously seemingly perennial starter Pelupessy.  A possible change in formation was suggested together with the fact that, following on from Jos’s comments after the Stoke game, this change may just be a way of taking the pressure of Bannan and give the back four someone else to pass to at times. Onomah had certainly shown something in his cameo against Stoke and may add some more fluidity and drive to the central midfield although we did wonder if Joey’s simple “ tackle, break it up and pass to Barry” style may be missed somewhat in our generally lightweight midfield.

The swopping around of the fullbacks was less of a surprise although the usual eyebrows were raised with the inclusion of “fans favourite”, Morgan Fox.

The hatch got underway with a pretty good atmosphere helped by the positioning of the away fans in the Bridgewater stand, under and between the Forest supporters and also the enclosed nature of that corner, something I feel that Hillsborough is lacking badly.

Wednesday seemed to set up as expected with Onomah taking the “Joey” role in front of the back four with Bannan and Reach initially fanning out in front of him to create a “V” in midfield.

Initially the game set off in a largely uninspiring way with both teams struggling to take any kind of meaningful control. Unsurprisingly Forest were numerically superior in midfield without a great deal of creativity despite the presence of their big money signing Carvalho, and certainly with no great penetration through the middle towards our centre halves. In fact, they seemed keen on trying to overload Ash Baker at right back with long diagonal balls being regularly pinged towards their left-hand side and an overlapping Danny Fox (who was, according to my Forest friend, their previous “whipping boy”). Due to generally poor and overhit passing from Forest this tactic however wasn’t having too much success.

Perhaps more worryingly for us, the general tempo of the team was again looking somewhat pedestrian with a general lethargy and sloppiness in our play.  Our front line looked more like 3 bored men stood in the collection queue at Argos studiously trying not to catch each other’s eye rather than a dynamic and fluid attacking combination.  Lucas Joao had one of those games where nothing came off for him, with his attempts at control and running with the ball resembling more and more a Labrador puppy with a helium balloon. Matias worked up and down the right channel as usual without any great attacking threat (although he did end up having the best chance of the first half) and Atdhe looked isolated and short of options to give the ball to on the odd occasions he got the ball under some kind of control.

First start

Onomah looked sharp and mobile in his movement at the base of the midfield with a pleasing tendency to look forward once he had the ball. Unfortunately, his passing and control had the general sloppiness of the rest of the team meaning that most meaningful passages of play broke down quickly. Although physically more imposing than Pelupessy he didn’t seem to have his defensive discipline and perhaps not a natural fit for this role.

Our now usual way of playing out from the back was picked up on by Forest who attempted to press us high up the pitch (to be fair we coped reasonably well with this even it terrifies me at times due to our defenders and goalkeepers lack of confidence with the ball). Conversely, were happy to let Forest bring it out from the back while we dropped back and condensed behind the ball presumably looking to counter on the break.

A nice passage of play ultimately involved a ball from Bannan (although not quite peeling oranges just yet) slipped in Morgan Fox (yes him) down the left who put in a great cross for Matias to head  over the bar, a chance he really should have put away.

Following a half chance for Forest, Joao won a free kick on the left hand side about 25 yards out when his marker decided to go through the back of him for no apparent reason. Bannan whipped in a great free kick along the back of the defensive line and Adthe following the line of the ball beautifully finished it off with a certain aplomb. Celebrations where short lived however as the linesman ruled it for offside, a marginal decision at best as I had been watching the line of players as the kick was taken and to my mind Nuhiu was onside.

This, unfortunately didn’t give us the impetus we were looking for and another free kick up the other end (a needless one given away by Onamah just before half time) ended up with a vicious strike that got a touch from Lewis Grabban and ended up nestling in the bottom corner beyond the blameless Dawson to give Forest a lead that frankly, neither side deserved.

Half time soon followed with the only excitement being the discovery that Bovril was a bargain £2.30 rather than the princely sum of £2.50 we have to fork out at Hillsborough. Honestly, it felt like they were giving it away! Alas, there was no sign of Garry Birtles Bovril, Peter Shilton Pies or even a commemorative Brian Clough baggy green jumper. I honestly think they’ve missed a trick there…

During half term the general consensus with my Forest compatriot was that there was nothing in it and they were somewhat fortuitous to be leading i.e. both teams were a bit sh**e. I of course warned him of our numerous game changing options on the bench (no he didn’t believe it either..) and we would no doubt be a different proposition in the second half with a team full of vibrancy and commitment (yep, the Trent bridge Ale was working its magic of delusion!)

As expected we came out in the second half without change and I like to think that I could detect some small semblance of determination in team although we still proceeded to win absolutely naff-all second balls and very few tackles first time round, with the exception of Jordan Thorniley who “one on one” was again stunningly good.

An equaliser very nearly came courtesy of a hooked ball over the shoulder (Tom Lees I think) back into the penalty area. This turned both teams around and it fell to Nuhiu who took it on well and was about to pull the trigger when thwarted by a last-ditch tackle which was either a) a brilliant piece of defending or b) “That useless lump is too slow”, depending of course on your point of view.


Forest then took more control of the game, this being due primarily to our awful passing of the ball and the wide open, spread out nature of our formation with no obvious connection between the three areas of the pitch rather than them being any great shakes.

Carvalho started getting on the ball a lot more and dictating things (I was told he always has 10 or 15 minutes of good play then disappears) and we were under pressure down our right for a few attacks with the inevitable feeling of what was about to come. To be fair it was a nice goal with Carvalho exchanging passes coming into the box from the left before cutting back out away from the goal to leave himself roof for a lovely curled finish beyond Dawson.

This felt like far too much to come back from considering the night’s performance up to now and this proved to be the case. Fletcher came on for the increasingly frustrated Joao and we did at least have the surprise consolation of a goal from him via a wicked deflection, this although somewhat lucky did come from a better passing movement involving Morgan Fox (him again) coming forward and slipping the ball inside nicely. A frission of hope and expectation therefore ensued for the last couple of minutes in the hope of salvaging a point where the phrase “daylight robbery” would have been most apt (apart from of the fact of course that it was night time!). Unfortunately we managed to put no real pressure on Forest and they ran out comfortable winners leaving us just the sprint across Trent Bridge for the last train home.

An off night

A despondent journey home and the habitual checking of Twitter revealed the expected and completely over the top (in my opinion) meltdown. Yes, we were poor and shabby but at least Jos seemed to come out and front up to that straight away. Based on his reactions at the end I would expect quite a few changes for Villa.

The sad and unexpected news came through later about the passing of Hayley Kalinans. The oft quoted words of Bill Shankly had never felt to be so wrong or misguided.


Owls Alive

Email: owlsalive@gmail.com

Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @nigellewis11

Images: swfc.co.uk unless stated otherwise


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