Despite the wheels coming off last Tuesday night at The City Ground; I’d already had my West Brom tickets through the post and was very much looking forward to a first visit to The Hawthorns on Saturday. Yes, the defeat at Charlton had knocked us back but for the first time in a number of years, we have a team that we can be extremely proud of. Regardless of the meltdown after such a disappointing result, I was still pretty optimistic that we would come away with something at West Brom, no matter what team played. You might think a 12 noon kick off in the pouring rain would dampen the spirits but on arrival before kick off, the Forest fans were in fine voice. For me, it was on a par with the effort against Leeds. Even though there were a number of setbacks in the game, the fans buoyed the players on until the death. As a collective once more, it was a massive push from all that travelled up from Nottingham.
I don’t really want to go into a witch hunt about Keith Stroud’s performance but he really does struggle with refereeing Forest games. It’s been well documented that he got a number of key decisions wrong. They all looked pretty blatant from where I was stood, over 150 yards away! After he missed the Ameobi foul and played on where West Brom scored their second; I honestly thought Stroud might even things up if he got the opportunity to. How wrong I was. Joe Lolley was fouled near the box after a jinking run and had a greater shout for a penalty after that but Stroud didn’t move a muscle. He seemed determined to not give us a thing. The Forest bench, players and fans were going crackers with frustration. The chants of not being fit to referee echoed around The Hawthorns. The West Brom fans were loving it until Matty shut them up with his goal at the end.
In fairness to Stroud, I thought he did get the last debatable call in the game correct. Whilst Callum Robinson’s shot was clearly over the line, from watching it back a few times, Kyle Bartley is clearly offside and interfering with play as the first header into the box goes towards Robinson. Tobi Figuerido was technically off the pitch behind the line but Bartley was not. He was lying down in front of Brice Samba and I thought the linesman got the call right. Well done to Stroud for going with it. I can’t believe I’ve just written that but hey-ho. Credit where its due. Maybe that was the even-ing up call….
Aside from the debatable shouts in the game, I thought Forest were pretty good value for a point on the whole. I felt that we were robbed of momentum and denied the chance of going onto the win the game due to the Stroud’s decisions. Whilst West Brom had the lions share of the play, I thought we looked a threat and looked relatively comfortable throughout.
The stats always tell a different story this season and by now teams should really know what to expect from Sabri’s Nottingham Forest team. Robust and enthusiastic with a splattering of quality. This Forest team aren’t where they are without quality. A team simply doesn’t last that long at the top end of the league. You can ride your luck sure but we are getting stronger by the game (when our best XI is on the pitch). Sabri wasn’t messing about for this one and it wasn’t really a surprise to see the 5 regulars back in. Whilst Ameobi and Grabban didn’t show many signs of injury, Samba Sow wasn’t quite his usual self and didn’t look completely fit, getting caught in possession on a couple of occasions, one of which led to Albion’s opener. It seemed a tad unfair on Forest that once again we were architects of our own downfall. It was a great bit of play from Pereirra to nick it and a cracking finish from Robinson that gave Samba no chance.
What I love about this Forest team however is that we don’t give up. In years gone by where a game has been beyond us if we conceded the first goal; this lot just keep coming back for more. Just my luck that I had to go down and queue for the half time pints as Forest got an equalizer before the break. It was quite hilarious watching people go mental in the concourse, not having an idea of what was really going on! There was even a pause to see if the goal had really stood but the second wave of eruption went up when somebody confirmed it was an own goal!
Cramming round a guys phone in the queue to watch a replay, Sammi Ameobi was once again the architect with a superb cross into the box that Lewis was going to tap home anyways. Or was he? A bad miss earlier in the game added to his recent (minor) woes so I was slightly relieved that Bartley got his toe on the end of it. Lewis will be back, I have no doubts.
Forest continued to look a threat on the break in the second half and I really fancied us to go on and nick it. To a man, there were some big performances all round. Ben Watson was having the type of game in midfield that has been instrumental in our away successes this season. The keeper and back four all held their own against premier league quality players. West Brom looked a very good outfit at times with their one touch passing. Forest did very well to not only stay in the game but keep West Brom well and truly on their toes. It was a massive shame that we conceded in the circumstances and it felt like time and the referee were not going to be on our side.
However, just when you think we’re out of it, we conjure something up from nothing. It was an unbelievable strike from Matty that would grace any ground in the world. It was a top notch touch to get the ball out of his feet and even better one to fire it into the far corner. Those types of goals were a bit of a trademark for him back in the academy a few season ago now and West Brom fans will be sick of the sight of him.
It was no surprise to see Matty go 3/4 full Adebayor to run the length of the pitch to celebrate his equalizer with the travelling Reds. It was greeted with absolute pandemonium in the Forest end and although it wasn’t sliding knees in front of the home fans, it was proper passion. Anybody that can bat Tobi Figuerido’s stranglehold away has to be on some serious adrenalin rush. I think it was fair to say Matty enjoyed that one. On a day where Keith Stroud was his usual unpredictable self, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Matty sent off for his over exuberance either. Thankfully there was to be no second yellow on top of a soft booking in the first half.
In all of my years following Forest since the late 1980’s, I can’t think of many better right backs on this seasons form. Brian Laws? Des Lyttle? Thierry Bonalaair? He’d of course have to go and match their achievements at Forest to give a true comparison but Matty is in the form of his life and looking a class act. Whilst Matty deserves every bit of his success, it really is inspirational stuff from Sabri to convert him to full back.
Although we had the scare at the end, it felt a cracking point and a deserved one too. Forest just don’t seem to be able to do it any other way but if you look at this season and last, Forest always tend to perform against better opposition. Our biggest problem is how we cope with the so-called lesser teams that pose an even greater threat to our promotion chances.
Sabri had his fair share of criticism over Tuesday night’s team selection so it was interesting to see Fulham get spanked 0-3 at home by a relegation threatened team in Barnsley. Proper coupon buster that one. In the boozer afterwards, we had a good natter with a group of Baggies fans over a pint and they weren’t too impressed with Perriera’s antics although they said most weeks, he gets kicked and the refs give nothing. They were most impressed with Brice Samba however. Regardless, it was quite nice to have a sensible conversation with home supporters in a local boozer. There are some decent folk out there.
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 8 – Tremendous effort to stay in the game and I thought we deserved the equalizer.
SAMBA: 8 – Played very well in goal.
CASH: 8 – Great performance from Matty. Sublime goal.
RIBIERO: 8 – Thought he had a very good game.
WORRALL: 7 – Big performance from Joe. However, should have stopped cross for 2nd goal.
FIGUIERIDO: 7 – Unlucky with equalizer. Had a good game.
SILVA: 7 – Had a better game in midfield and didn’t stop working.
SOW: 6 – Didn’t look 100% fit and uncharacteristically got caught in possession a couple of times, one leading to the goal.
WATSON: 8 – MAN OF THE MATCH – Good positioning all game to intercept the play and get us moving. Could’ve done better for their second goal.
AMEOBI: 7 – Another assist for super Sammi.
LOLLEY: 7 – Was his menacing self and offered plenty of threat.
GRABBAN: 6 – Not quite Lewis’ day.
SEMEDO: 6 – Didn’t make an impact.
DIAKHABY: 6 – Tried but couldn’t really get into it.
WALKER: 6 – Last throw of the dice. Didn’t have long.