I’ll admit, there was a fair bit of trepidation in the Eley household before kick-off on Sunday. A long walk in the Lincolnshire countryside had just about calmed my nerves; defeat against Huddersfield was potentially going to set up a nightmare week. With Wayne Rooney’s Derby County ready and waiting for the following weekend; defeat was not an option yesterday.
As far as the behind closed doors experience; I’m not sure who was in charge of the crowd noise. I’ll put it down to Sky because there’s no way the home crowd sing ‘Mull of Kintyre’ 30 times in the opening 20 minutes. It was honestly making me nauseous and so I abandoned the Sky coverage at half time for Colin Fray’s commentary on ifollow. I didn’t hear ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ after the first goal. It couldn’t have been a Forest man pressing the chant buttons…
The Cardboard Cutouts faired a lot better. There were a few Forest legends knocking about in Peter Shilton, Stan Collymore and err….Des Lyttle. Des was good but not that good. It was nice to see Harry and Meghan seemingly enjoying their afternoon in the sunshine and the feel-good factor got even better when I spotted Roy Keane holding an ice cream in The Brian Clough Lower Tier. Whoever took that photograph had earned their money with that reputation crushing image. Mr angry Roy Keane eating ice cream. Brilliant!
Roy Keane with a Mr Whippy in the stands at The City Ground is everything 😂 pic.twitter.com/Ud46SfngAl
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) June 28, 2020
The feel-good factor almost continued moments after kick-off; Sammi Ameobi hitting the inside of the post when he really should have scored after a good run from Joe Lolley down the Forest right. Another chance came his way later in the half with a skewed header following a well-worked short corner from Tiago Silva. With a bit more ambition from his teammates, the ball could have easily been diverted in at the far post but nobody in a red shirt had gambled.
Whilst Huddersfield have had a shocking return to action; I thought they looked a half-decent side in the first period. Their left-back Harry Toffolo was getting forward at every opportunity and Alex Pritchard was being allowed to pull the strings in Town’s midfield. With Ben Watson off the pace and then struggling with a knock, Huddersfield were starting to get on top. They very nearly got rewards for their endeavours; Forest being incredibly fortunate not to concede a penalty when a clumsy tackle from Ben Watson upended Pritchard in the Forest box. Thankfully the ref didn’t see it and it was a huge let-off.
The opening half had been more conservative than dynamic and I’m pretty certain, that an expectant crowd would have been converting their thoughts to those on the pitch. Playing without that pressure may well help Forest and I think that was evident yesterday.
A goal before half time proved to be a huge lift that the players needed. Joe Worrall retrieved a cleared corner on the left-wing and on first glance; he looked to have over hit his return ball into the box. Knocked deep toward the far post; Lewis Grabban peeled off in true expert fashion and was emphatic with his first time volleyed finish. Only Joe will know if he meant to pick out Lewis but it was a good knockback into ‘the mixer’ regardless.
I initially thought Lewis had volleyed the ball into the ground before it hit the net but the replay did it complete justice. it was a hell of a finish. Top drawer. Considering his last (superb) goal at Middlesbrough before lockdown, Lewis is starting to mature into a very good all-round striker.
The goal couldn’t have come at a better time and Forest went into the tunnel with their tails up. After a promising start, the goal had crushed Huddersfield’s confidence. Forest landed their next significant blow minutes into the second half.
Although it was a very different goal; Lewis showed another striker master class with his and Forest’s second goal of the afternoon. Lewis was alert to a ball into him on the halfway line and laid off a great headed pass into Sammi Ameobi. As soon as the ball had left his head; Lewis was off and running; anticipating the return 1-2 pass. Arching his run at a sprint; Lewis’ timing was to perfection as Sammi’s sublime pass put him through on goal. With plenty of time to think about where he was going to put the ball, Lewis remained calm to cooly slot home into the bottom corner. It was the type of movement I watched as a kid; Ian Rush (in his heyday) at Liverpool was a master of holding his run to spring an offside trap.
— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) June 28, 2020
From that moment on, Forest looked pretty comfortable and to a man; there were some good performances. The back five looked excellent and continued to nullify Huddersfield’s approaches. Whilst it is frustrating that we don’t have more of the ball in a match, we looked a massive threat any time we broke on the counter. The front three of Joe Lolley, Lewis Grabban and Sammi Ameobi sent out a message to the rest of The Championship watching at home. Whilst it can be untidy at times; we look very good when it all comes together. Nuno Da Costa also impressed when he came on and showed for the first time what he is about with some swift running on the counter.
Ryan Yates came on for the 2nd period and had his best game in a red shirt for some time and was rewarded with our final goal of the afternoon, prodding home at the near post from Joe Lolley’s viciously whipped-in corner. That’s three for the season for Ryan and you have to say that since coming into the team last year, he has a knack of getting in advanced positions in the opposing box. It’s a precious commodity at Forest. Long may it continue and it won’t do Ryan’s confidence any harm at all. He’s certainly one player that will benefit from the absence of his critics at The City Ground.
In the end, it was fairly comfortable for Forest with Bacuna getting himself sent off as Huddersfield pressed for a lifeline in the remaining ten minutes. Conceding a very soft penalty in the dying moments took the gloss off an otherwise excellent defensive performance which was a little disappointing. There were still a few concerns about the performance and I lost count of how many silly free-kicks and corners we conceded. Thankfully we were on our mettle and dealt with pretty much everything that fell our way. I thought Brice Samba was superb in goal and looked calmness personified all afternoon.
3-1 perhaps flattered Forest a little in terms of general play as Huddersfield looked a fairly useful side for much of the game. With some of the players they have at their disposal; they seem to have made a real mess of their season and are currently dropping like a stone.
Whilst you’d always expect your side to have the lions share of possession at home, I’m begrudgingly accepting that this Forest team will continue to encourage the opposition on at their own peril; one false move and you’re a goal down. It was good yesterday and there’s not many times I’ve said that about a home performance this season. I’m not sure anybody will relish facing us in the remaining games on that form.
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 7 – Solid from top to bottom. A professional job with some emphatic finishing.
SAMBA: 8 – Excellent in between the sticks.
CASH: 7 – Had his work cut out with O’Brien but saw him out.
RIBEIRO: 8 – Goes quietly unnoticed. Another excellent display.
FIGUEIREDO: 8 – Very good at the back.
WORRALL: 8 – Strong performance.
WATSON: 7 – Finding his legs but did very well to weather the storm and last the majority of the game.
SILVA: 7 – Got himself into the game when pushed further up the pitch in 2nd period.
JOHNSON: 6 – Couldn’t get into amidst Huddersfield’s phyicality.
LOLLEY: 7 – A threat all afternoon and worked tirelessly for his team mates. We have new and improved Lolley.
AMEOBI: 7 – Cracking assist and really should have got himself a goal with 3 good chances coming his way.
GRABBAN: 8 – MAN OF THE MATCH – Masterclass from Lewis.
YATES: 7 – Helped the shape of the team with encouraging performance.
DA COSTA: 7 – Sprightly and made a decent contribution.
CARVALHO – 6 – Nice to see him and almost got himself a goal.
MIGHTEN – 6 – Nearly on the score sheet.
BOSTOCK – 5 – Came on for dying moments.