Defeat away to Wigan treated us to the first bit of tinkering from Sabri. After a 2 week rest, Lewis Grabban was left out of the team and Rafar Mir fluffed his lines as Forest left it too late to get back into the game. It was followed up by a 2-1 defeat at home to Hull in another forgettable Forest performance. The bubble had been burst to two sides that were there to beaten. It sadly became a feature of what more was to come; with Forest failing to take the game to the opposition when the impetus laid on our shoulders to do so.
Showing a fair degree of character to the setbacks, Forest recovered well in picking up a good wins against Derby and Luton. The local derby had that added bit of extra pice with 28,00 home fans taunting Tom Lawrence over his drink driving escapades. Lewis Grabban had been the difference in both games and he sent The City Ground into delirum against the sheep when he turned home Jayden Bogle’s generous assist. Those wins were backed up with a good away point at Bristol City and an emphatic 4-0 win against Mark Warburton’s QPR. False hope was building again…
My Great, Great Uncle never came back from that war; part of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby regiment). Moving. Fantastic effort @Forza_Garibaldi. You do us very proud 👏👏👏#nffc pic.twitter.com/LqBf2DJp9o
— ScottE (@munich_madrid) November 10, 2019
The biggest disappointment was Forest’s inability to capitalise and build on the platform that had been laid with the mini-revival. Ball retention was an issue and instead of improving; it slowly got worse as the season progressed. Performances became more laboured in the run up to Christmas and it was clear that there was a missing ingredient, particularly at home.
The 1-0 defeat to Cardiff at a bitterly cold City Ground in November seemed to show up our failings. When a team came to frustrate, we couldn’t find the 4th gear to break them down and build up sustained pressure. Joe Lolley had been struggling for form and Sammy Ameobi was still very much hit and miss in terms of his contributions to the team. I remember Joao Carvalho starting that game in his preferred No.10 position after an encouraging cameo at the emphatic 4-0 away win at QPR. I was genuinely excited that this would be it; the missing ingredient to Sabri’s cagey set up.
After a promising start in the Cardiff game, Carvalho drifted badly out of the game. Returning from a serious pre-season injury, we haven’t seen the same player from parts of the previous season. From that point on, Joao wasn’t really fancied in his best position by Sabri; once more being asked to play in a more unaccustomed role on the left side of the attack. Being asked to defend as well as attack; it’s not Joao’s game. Sammy Ameobi was showing much more of a threat in that role and so it’s not difficult to see how that panned out.
December was a month to forget in terms of performances and results. More Sabri tinkering at Millwall got us off to a shocking start at The Den but with Lewis Grabban coming off the bench to bag a brace and put Forest 2-1 up with moments to go, a mistake from Brice Samba let Millwall off the hook to grab a point in the dying moments.
Carvalho started once more in a crushing 4-0 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday which showed the Forest side and Sabri’s set up for warts and all. If you came to The City Ground with ambition and that extra bit of quality; an early goal posed a question that Forest simply wouldn’t have an answer for. It was pretty much the end of Carvalho’s season in a game where he barely got a touch of the ball. My perceived missing ingredient had been thrown well and truly out of the window. At the very least, I made it to 80 minutes of the game, with half the ground walking at out at half time.
‘It truly was a 45 minute horror showing from Forest and the worst thing about it was how surprising it was’
— ScottE (@munich_madrid) December 15, 2019
Another defeat at Huddersfield soon had a section of the fan base clamouring for a change of manager. It’s staggering that was half a season into the campaign and having started the season so well; a stuttering month had fans calling for the manager’s head. It’s a culture that has been well fed at the club of course for many a year. I’d argue it’s the new tradition at the club. We’re no longer remembered for our famous passing football; it’s sacking managers.
— ScottE (@munich_madrid) December 21, 2019
Thankfully the ship turned full course over the Christmas period with Forest going unbeaten, picking up the maximum points with wins against Hull, Wigan and Blackburn. The Wigan game was far from convincing but there were signs that we were returning to form in the Hull and Blackburn performances. Points on the board and certainly raised morale of those on the pitch and quietened down the naysayers.
— ScottE (@munich_madrid) December 27, 2019
A good win against Luton in between the bonkers games with Reading cost us four more points; Ben Watson 96th minute goal wasn’t enough to secure all 3 points at the Majewski and in the return fixture, Forest once again conceded minutes after going in front with 10 only minutes remaining. It certainly stoked up a new found rivalry between the two clubs; Reading fans having the ultimate last laugh on the final day of the season! For me, the chinks in the Forest armoury were beginning to show. Capitulation at Sheffield Wednesday and the last minute drama at Reading were sadly to be repeated at a later date with maximum impact.
The roller coaster continued with a hugely impressive 1-0 win at Brentford with Forest coming out as deserved winners thanks to Joe Lolley’s deflected goal. The xG brigade were furious as Thomas Frank squared up to Sabri at the final whistle bemoaning why this Forest team had not let his side pass the ball around for fun. Forest continued to show that when it mattered, a result could be ground out with enough quality to make the difference.
Another dip was on the horizon however, as a moment of madness proved pivotal against Birmingham at St.Andrews. With Forest already 1-0 up thanks to Tiago Silva’s well taken goal, Lewis Grabban missed a penalty just before the half time break. If the penalty miss was bad enough, Birmingham going straight up the other end really rubbed salt in the wound. We ended up losing 2-1 but game management was beginning to cost us dearly. The warning signs were more than there…
Recovering from that disappointment, the 2-0 win against Leeds United under the lights at a packed City Ground will live long in the memory; talk about putting you through it! Forest were excellent on the night and were well worthy winners against Marco Bielsa’s Leeds side. I came out of the ground with a feeling of hope I had not felt for a very long time in watching Forest; most probably since Billy Davies first stint in charge. Could this be our chance?