Well, well, well, I didn’t see that coming – did anybody?!! Sabri Lamouchi isn’t just a football manager; he must be an intergalactic detective by night. It’s like those players who couldn’t string a pass together in midweek were imposters in Forest shirts. Some of it was so bad that the game of football looked completely alien to some of them. Could they actually have been beings from another planet? It was sterling work from Detective Lamouchi to solve those player mysteries and still get his side prepared for Saturday’s game against the seasons promotion favourites.Touché.
The manager’s match day attire spoke volumes about his focus for the afternoon. He would have been forgiven for dressing appropriately on the sun drenched bank of the Thames but no – this was not a time for an Alan Partridge esq – sports casual ensemble – Sabri turned up in full suit and jacket! He was in London on a strictly business basis. What is Love? Sabri Lamouchi, Lamouchi; J’Adore!
In parallel to Charlton and up against better individual players, Forest made a cracking start to the game. You could just tell from the kick off with the whole demeanour of the team that we were right up for the challenge. I bemoaned our ball retention on Wednesday but we showed how good we can be with Lewis Grabban rounding off an excellent team move to put us in front after 4 minutes. 15 passes I think it was; involving every member of the team. You won’t see a better team goal all weekend let alone the season. It’s so frustrating because you know the potential of the players we have. Consistency is the key for us.
Samba Sow makes a huge difference in our midfield and showed once more that he is willing to go into battle for the team. He wins balls that he’s not even favourite to make. It’s an invaluable trait for any aspiring midfielder. I don’t want to get too carried away with Samba as previous unknown signings have started well but then can’t hack the pace of The Championship. Potentially though, Sow could literally be huge for us this season if he can keep these early performances up.
I was surprised to see some changes in our line up before the game, notably Brice Samba in goal in place of Aro Muric. The goalkeeping area has been a bit of a strange conundrum over the summer; adding to the fact that Costel Pantillimon had arguably enjoyed the best spell of his Forest career under Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane. Who knows what’s happening behind the scenes but Brice Samba was impressive on his Forest league debut yesterday. His distribution was decent and as a big strong lad; coming from crosses wasn’t an issue. He made an impressive one handed punch from a cross in the first half. Boom! You wouldn’t fancy being on the end of one of those; Know what I mean Harry?
My limited knowledge of Brice is from the Carabao Cup win against Fleetwood and his YouTube video montage. With reference to the montage, he’s looks to be a very agile keeper. He showed that in the 2nd half with two outstanding saves to preserve Forest’s two goal advantage. His first save kept out a Mitrovic header which was destined to be a goal, clawing the ball away at full length. His 2nd save was even better. A hit from the edge of our box look to be troubling enough before a big deflection took it towards the opposite post. Showing cat like reflexes, Samba produced a stunning save to tip the ball around the post. It feels like we’ve got a good one here.
The referee was fussy and didn’t seem to want to give Forest much in the way of decisions. Given how quickly he was to issue yellow cards for innocuous looking fouls, there was a second half tackle on Samba Sow that could have easily warranted a red card. He issued Sammi Ameobi a yellow card for dissent in the 2nd half but didn’t produce one when Harry Arter had a full on tantrum at him in the 1st period for not awarding a penalty for a soft handball shout. Same old, same old I’m afraid.
With regards to ex-Leicester player Anthony Knockaert, I was quite fearful pre-match of what he can do to teams in The Championship. His complaining to the officials’ early doors meant that this was going to be some test for Jack Robinson. Skill and gamesmanship is a difficult combination to contend with. Thankfully Jack was up to the task. This was his best game of the season to date. The Fulham wingers interchanged to try and get something out of our full backs but they struggled. Carl Jenkinson had a good game for Forest too on the right.
Our 1st half performance was almost perfect in executing the manager’s plan. Ball retention was much better and we had a couple of opportunities which may have led to more goals. Our midfield trio and defence were particularly outstanding it has to be said. Fulham were expected to have the lion’s share of the ball but they were reduced to half chances. Getting frustrated with their own performance, they were putting pressure on the referee with some debatable shouts for decisions. Forest had them rattled, particularly Harry Arter and Anthony Knockeart.
Lewis Grabban seemingly put us out of sight with his well taken goal on the hour. He’s got the hunger back and when he pounced on the ball, you could sense his confidence. It was a cracking finish. Amazing what goals can do for strikers and that’s 4 in 5 for Lewis now. It took him a little while to get in the groove last season but it’s only taken 2 games this. It has to be an encouraging sign for Forest if we are to muster a promotion charge. Grabban’s on fire; Kenny Burns is terrified!
Special mention has to go out to Sammi Ameobi too. He made a crucial tackle on Steven Sessegnon which led to Lewis being able to bear down on goal. Many would have missed it but he also made a crucial touch in the initial build up to Forest’s opening goal. Dealing with a long kick from Samba Brice out on the left, it wasn’t an easy piece of work to control and retain the ball. It proved to be relatively significant as we went on to score from the passage of play. Sammi is proving to be much more than I thought.
⚽️ Sabri ball
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) August 25, 2019
The injury to Carl Jenkinson proved to be the chink in Forest’s armour that Fulham needed to exploit. Kamara looked another genuine threat when he came on to influence in the game and he took full advantage of the change at right back. I thought the cross should have been shut down as Mitrovic got on the end of Kamara’s cross to pull a goal back.
As a Forest fan, my heart sank for the remaining 10 minutes. We’ve been here before right? When the 8 minutes of injury time were shown by the 4th official, I had a horrible flashback to last Boxing Day at Carrow Road. Please no, we don’t deserve this. A quick assessment of the team was to identify a potential Gil Dias. Matty Cash had not long been on the pitch and Fulham has already scored. Not Matty, please not Matty.
With regards to the injury time, I fully accepted that Forest had been slowing down the play and were at times, blatantly time wasting. However, where the 8 minutes injury time came from I don’t know. It certainly felt like the officials were doing their upmost to help Fulham out.
Despite my inevitable panic given the scenario, Forest coped reasonably well with the added time. I think it’s fair to say we’d caught Fulham on an off day. They were going to have to produce something special to breakdown our defence and luckily for us, they’d perhaps ran out of steam after such a dominant performance in the week. The Championship requires levels of consistency and I have to say that Fulham weren’t good enough on the day. Knockeart had a poor game in terms of his final delivery in the box. Caveliero and Mitrovic had been well marshalled. Tom Cairney wasn’t the influence on the game that I know he can be.
This was all testament to Forest of course. Fulham will no doubt have more better days than average ones this season. Michael Dawson and Joe Worrall were outstanding once more at the back. They’ll be disappointed with not keeping a clean sheet. They’d deserved it.
Alfa Semedo has a great chance to finish the game off in the final minute but hesitated and then tried an audacious scoop pass which to Adomah at the back post which was a complete waste. I bet Semedo has posters of Paul Pogba in his bedroom! It was that type of nonchalance you’d expect from Man United’s Captain Ego.
All in all, it was a well-earned win and the players and supporters were euphoric at the end. I take my hat off to the Forest fans that travel week in and week out to support thes team. After the dismal display on Wednesday and a 2am arrival back home for some, trekking back to London for a bit more on a Bank Holiday weekend is admirable. That’s not even considering the expense. I can only describe these folk as thrill seekers! They got a thrill and a bit more yesterday, with the 4th official chucked in a bit in 8 minutes on the white knuckle ride at the end. Scream if you wanna go faster?!
In complete honesty, I hadn’t held out much hope going into the game. Prior to kick off, I’d accepted that seeing a Forest goal would’ve been a satisfactory outcome for the day. It was incredible that we got much more. 3 points in the Bank Holiday sunshine was a marvellous end. Viva the Lamouchi revolution! Can we dare to dream?
Team performance – 8 – we kept Fulham at arms-length for the majority of the game with a huge effort. To a man it was very good. If I were to be ultra-critical, we were still frustrating with the ball at times and made the last 20 more difficult than it had to be. A wining mentality will develop confidence on the ball, I’m sure.
Samba – 8 – excellent debut. He’s going to become a cult hero if he can replicate this performance.
Jenkinson – 7 – didn’t look intimidated one bit by Cavaliero. He had a really good game and stood up to the Fulham wingers. Don’t think it was a coincidence that we conceded minutes after he had gone off. Shame.
Robinson – 7 – solid consistent performance. Great ball in for the goal. Dealt with Knockeart and Cavaliero when Fulham were looking to get change out of our full backs.
Worrall – 8 – excellent once more in all that he did. Made a cracking block from what looked a goal bound volley from Harry Arter in the 2nd half.
Dawson – 8 – tremendous performance at the back alongside Worrall. His positional sense was superb in heading away Fulham crosses into the box.
Sow – 8 – very good once again. We look a different team with him in it. He’s here, he’s there, he’s every flippin’ where!
Watson – 7 – worked hard in midfield. Did some useful tidying up and trebled up on Mitrovic at times to makes sure he couldn’t link play up in dangerous areas.
Watson – 7 – another good outing from Ben. Played a huge part in stifling Mitrovic; snapping at him from the front whilst Dawson and Worrall marshalled from the back. Carried out managers tactics spot on.
Silva – 7 – much improved from midweek. Does the simple things well and played a lovely return pass to Joe Lolly in the build-up to our opening goal.
Lolley – 7 – a little carless with the ball at times but he’s such a huge difference in the team. Massive contribution to the first goal. There ain’t nobody like Joe Lolley.
Ameobi – 7 – another good performance from Sammi. There’s a lot more to his game than the luxury player I thought he was. Key involvement in both goals doing the uglier side of things. He picked up another yellow card. He’s looking an astute signing from Martin O’Neill’s tenure.
Grabban – 8 – took his goals very well indeed and was looking to seal his hat-trick. I said at the start of the season he could be our most influential player. If he’s scoring goals then it’s a huge indicator that the team are playing well.
Semedo – 6- came on to sure things up and did ok. Wasted opportunity at the end.
Adomah – 7 – carried a threat when he came on which was much needed as we were camped in our own half.
Cash – 6- came on at a difficult time but did ok after failing to close Kamara down for the goal.
On a side note, I had decided to visit Craven Cottage predominantly just to tick the ground off from ones I’d not visited before. I must say it was worth the wait. It’s a top place with fans being able to mingle. A couple of Fulham fans had approached me in the concourse with a welcome and chat about the game. It’s how football should be really. Keep the needle of the game separate. It’s a good place to take the kids. Fair play to Fulham FC.