Archive | November, 2013

Calling International Rescue

24 Nov

Saturday 23rd November 2013

Nottingham Forest         1.1          Burnley

(Cox)                                                        (Vokes)

It seems like an age since Jamie Mackie sprang up jack-in-the-boxesque to side-foot into the top corner on a patch of green turf somewhere in Leicester. The world is a different place since that moment: rather improbably, a football has been found in the vast expanse of the Arabian dessert bearing an imprint which looks suspiciously like ‘Nugent’, Gonzalo Jara Reyes has been sniggering discreetly to himself…a lot, a mysterious case of knee-ouch, which seems only to affect big, burly defenders in the Nottingham area, has been discovered and Jamaal Lascelles has come of age as a Championship player.

The length of an international break seems to be in direct proportion to how your team fares in the last match before one. Lose this game and the feeling persists that frankly, it’s probably better if your team take as much time as they want before the next game: they might even learn how to trap a ball or make an accurate 5 yard pass or sign Cristiano Ronaldo. However, win this game and the enforced break seems to stretch endlessly into the distance like a Johnny Metgod free-kick.  It’s fair to say that until news of the injury crisis sweeping through our ranks, we would have liked to have played this game sooner rather than later.

No Reid, no Vaughan, a tired Jara Reyes, a very troublesome front two for Burnley ripping it up like young Turks and if Burnley’s bubble was going to burst, it probably would have already done so by now. However, the first half saw us play confidently with Jara Reyes and Lansbury bossing the midfield with the tenacity of a terrier and the class of a corgi. Indeed, Burnley’s most effective tactic was a well-executed long ball from left to right in an effort to exploit any space left behind one of Chris Cohen’s numerous lung-bursting forays forward. Despite not really troubling the Burnley onion bag, we looked sharp and were moving the ball around nicely. And then one of those long diagonal balls saw us back peddling. All was not lost though as Jara Reyes scampered back to stop the cross: and stop it he did; illegally though apparently with his arm. This seemed harsh and the time honoured defence of ‘ball to hand’ was a phrase oft muttered, nay yelled in the Trent End. Was it a penalty? My dad has a philosophically insightful conclusion in cases such as these: it was because the referee gave it. There can be little argument with this. Vokes stepped up and slammed it hard and low into the bottom of the net. This seemed unfair: we were doing well. It was also extremely unnecessary for Vokes to shush us to aid his celebrations: can’t you run away and celebrate with your own fans? We had enough of this from a certain Mr Dobbie a few weeks ago, thank you very much.

Toys, blankets and teddy bears were thrown obstreperously from the proverbial pram. For 5 minutes after this, we lost it a little and seemed to wander around dazed at the downright injustice of it all. However, we hung in there, dusted ourselves down, shook ourselves off and got on with it. Pleasingly, we played some of our best football: patiently probing until Paterson jinked this way and that before standing up a cross at the far post for Cox to chest in. A well-deserved goal.

And then another minor tantrum: for the first 5 minutes of the second half, we were all at sea. But this was short lived as once again, we enjoyed territorial and possession supremacy for the majority of the second half. Occasionally, Ings got himself into a good position by coming in from the right but Cohen had taken a double dose of magical tackling tablets this morning and they were kicking in. It seemed to be one of those days when it just wouldn’t quite fall for us. We ended up playing what looked close to a 4-2-4 towards the end and gave it a right good go. But to be fair, Burnley defended doggedly and skilfully.

Not to be downhearted though as there were so many positives to come from this game: Jara Reyes looked so comfortable on the ball that he wouldn’t look out of place in a World Cup team (what’s that you say? Oh), Darlow’s super quiff looked immaculate, Lansbury looked good, I mean, really good, Chalobah at long last started to look like a player and even Coxy seemed to be showing signs of recovering from his elongated sulk. I do hope super Chrissy Cohen is ok though.  I like him. I really like him a lot. I might even be developing a bit of a man-crush on him. And who honestly could see us taking 4 points from Leicester and Burnley after THAT Yeovil display?

Not perfect but reasons to be cheerful.

 

Karma, cosmos and Cox…in that order

10 Nov

Saturday 9th November 2013

Leicester City    0.2          Nottingham Forest

(Cox, Mackie)

Of course, this result was never in doubt. What with Leicester City’s imperious home form, Forest’s shocking record at this particular stadium and our disappointing and frustrating recent form; including a defeat to the league’s bottom club and more tactical changes than a Michael Gove charm offensive, this fixture was always going to be, shall we say, a little challenging. The time-worn phrases such as ‘would take a draw’, ‘all about the performance’ and ‘hope we can at least manage a goal’ littered the NFFC Twitter timeline with the regularity of an offside decision against Simon Cox.

But football, fortunately, doesn’t work like that, does it?

This trivial game of ours seems to have its own in built karma switch which occasionally gets turned on and rectifies all that seems wrong in the world. City clearly enjoyed their last match, last minute, last gasp victory at our place which enabled them to experience their own play-off heartbreak.  Indeed, I would pay to watch a moan off between both sets of supporters placed on stage and told to regale their  play-off woe in a ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ style: that would be some competition what with ‘Yeovil’, ‘Dobbie’ and ‘Blackpool’ providing strong opposition to Leicester’s ‘Kermogant’ and ‘Deeney’. But these things happen and we move on. Or at least, we try to move on but it is difficult, weighed down as we are by the deep sea diver’s boots that each supporter wears in the form of entrenched heartache.

Yet, we each have our day. After Tottenham Hotspur stole the FA Cup from us in 1991, it seemed that we always came out on top for a good few years after this game, most notably in the shape of an epic League Cup semi-final.  Likewise, our wretched record against Oldham Athletic is clearly the result of cosmic fall-out from our League Cup victory against the Latics in the 1990 final. So, the Foxes will no doubt have to pay for their glorious day in the sun back in May. And today was a big instalment.

And so with all odds stacked against us, we had THAT stuffed in our back pockets; the fact that surely it was our turn to chalk up a win in the fair city of Leicester – something that has to eventually happen sometime. After all, even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day.

How broken were we? Well, reports of our brokenness seem to have been exaggerated. For all the talk of the mythical ‘20goalsaseasonstriker’, our ‘goals for’ column remains healthy. Sure we’ve conceded sloppy last minute goals recently but who doesn’t? And yes, Mr Davies has tinkered with the midfield in an effort to protect the defence but this certainly needed doing. All this caused much consternation with some threads even lining up who Fawaz would turn to when the inevitable happened and Billy eventually decided against a ‘no comment’ in favour of an attack on his ex-chairman to vent his fury at receiving his P45. But we all get a little frustrated at times. In reality, we remain a decent team capable of giving all teams in the league a tough game and likely to reach the play-offs so that we can add to our glorious history of tragic failure; or something like that.

Cox still struggles to understand the off side rule but he did what he does best today; score against Leicester. Foxes fans: believe you me, we are as bewildered by this as any of you lot are. Sure we were under the cosh and sure we only crated 3 decent chances but what good chances they were. Sure we endured lots of pressure but apart from Darlow’s excellent save from Nugent’s header, we looked reasonably comfortable. And when Nugent is denied scoring against us, you know that it’s an unusual day. It was also quite pleasing to see us spring forward in the hope of scoring a third as the game wore on which means that it would be unfair to accuse of simply shutting up shop and defending once we took the lead.

In fact, looking back, the result was such a nailed on certainty that it was almost a surprise that neither Jack Hobbs nor Wes Morgan scored for their respective teams with towering back post headers from corner kicks; clearly the cosmic forces are saving these occurrences for the return fixture.

So for now, at least, the cosmic debt is settled. Until the next time anyway….

Kinky Boots

3 Nov

Saturday 2nd November 2013

Nottingham Forest         0.1          Blackpool

(Dobbie)

As the players lined up for kick-off, there were numerous items to note.  Firstly, Cox, Reid and Majewski were nowhere to be seen. Few would have any quarrel with Cox not making the starting 11: for all his hard work and running of the channels in an effort to create chances for gallivanting midfielders, he looked a broken man at Yeovil after his penalty miss. Reid makes us tick but perhaps it was time that his little body had a bit of a rest. Majewski is essential in maintaining possession in the opposition’s half; even if his shooting is increasingly erratic. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, what’s with all the luminous, Day-Glo, hi-visibility football boots?

Back in the day, only the trequartista (playmaker, for all you non-football hipsters) would dare to be different and wear white boots. The most exotic boots I had were Nike ones which were endorsed by loads of famous players but for me, most notably, Neil Webb. They were the plain black ones with NIKE spelled out around the heel and backed by a quite arty ad campaign:

nike[1]

This is one of several, largely featuring Liverpool, which may or may not depict Aldridge trying to decapitate either the unfortunate Colin Foster or Terry Wilson as Paul Wilkinson looks on and reflects upon how he will only really ever be remembered by Forest fans for that goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter final which paved the way for possibly my favourite Forest goal: Brian Rice through on goal after a glorious pass by Nigel Clough. I digress. John Aldridge: possibly the most hated player by Forest fans of a certain age (ask Brian Laws if you’re not sure why). Incidentally, how shocking was, and remains, our record at Anfield, especially in the 80s? And this was when we were good! I digress again. The boots. Correct me if I’m wrong in recollecting that Roy Race (he of Roy of the Rovers fame) also emulated Neill Webb and got a Nike boot endorsement.

Such footwear extravagance did not bode well.

With the loan signing of David Vaughan and the encouraging performance of Jara Reyes in the shielding role, it struck me on the drive to Nottingham that a 4-2-3-1 formation might well the only way to go today if both payers were to be accommodated. As the teams lined up, I felt like a tactical genius on the same wave –length as King Billy. We differed in personnel though as Abdoun hugged the left wing, thus depriving us of that magical Cohen/Reid interplay. I was surprised: I have stated before how unconvinced I am with Abdoun’s defensive play and doubly surprised that Billy, being how defensively minded he is, felt Abdoun had earned a starting place. Still, at least THAT didn’t impact upon today’s result in ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM, DID IT!!!???

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and to be fair, we looked decent for the first half hour in front of perhaps the quietest crowd I can remember for a while. This might be explained by the fact that deep down, we all knew Blackpool would win anyway; it’s what they do at the City Ground and the next 90 minutes was prolonging the inevitable.

And then Abdoun found himself in the left back position, panicked, grabbed a shirt, conceded a penalty and got a red card. Darlow produced a superb double save but we were up against it. As a footnote, I found it interesting that Abdoun, clearly in genuine distress about his red card, was simply ignored by our multitude of coaching staff as he walked past them; not a consoling pat from any one of them . I think it might be a while until we see him start a game again.

The second half saw a tactical shift and although extremely defensive, it worked for the most part. Blackpool’s attacks continually foundered upon the rocks of Lascelles and Hobbs. They grew frustrated. Ince was getting no joy from Cohen. Admittedly, we never looked like creating a chance of our own, never mind scoring. Even when Henderson held it up, he had no one around him and on the occasion when we broke from defence and a midfielder looked up for an option, there were none. However, with the tangerines struggling to get their thumbs beyond the rind, we made some attacking substitutions: Reid and Paterson on.

Darlow was voted man of the match and he has been magnificent since stepping up to the plate. However, he was again beaten at his near post in extra time at the City Ground. This is not meant to be a criticism; just an observation and although he may have been unsighted with bodies in front of him, he may feel disappointed about this.

And congratulations to Stephen Dobbie: by making a point of confrontationally celebrating directly in front of the Trent End, you have managed to achieve John Aldridge status amongst the younger generation of Forest fans. And as for you, Michael Chopra, what’s with your fist-pumping redemptive celebration? You were after all, only here for 5 games on loan and barely any Forest remember this anyway. In any case, go and share you’re your joy with your own fans and stop bothering us.

After witnessing various away days under Billy Davies, I am not his biggest fan in terms of tactics but I don’t think he got much wrong today: we were a whisker away from a point against a team in excellent form while playing with 10 men for an hour. I also felt that we had a chance of snatching it in the last 10 minutes with our offensive substitutions, just when it looked like Blackpool had run out of puff: Abdoun’s red card changed everything though.

There is no denying that this has been a disappointing run of results and form since beating Derby County and some stats seem to be masking bigger problems: 6th in the table, 6th highest goal scorers in the league, only 3 defeats all season. Try telling a Wednesday fan or Birmingham fan that this is a disappointing season thus far. However, so much money has been spent and Billy is like Charlie Bucket: he’s been given everything that he ever wanted in terms of resources. Still, it’s only Leicester away and then Burnley at home in the next two games. Gulp.

Forget tactical changes, personnel, injury lists: change the boots for simple black Gola ones.